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A great start to the new academic year!

A new academic year is upon us! I hope you had a wonderful summer. As for me, I took part in a number of activities over the past months, and the same should be true after the elections on October 1. Changes are surely coming.

Appointment of the new CSE president and activities in conjunction with the G7

The appointment of my colleague Maryse Lassonde as president of the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation (CSE) on June 6 was a landmark event for the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ). I would like to sincerely thank her for the tremendous work she accomplished as the scientific director of the Fonds Nature et technologies and within the FRQ. We will certainly miss her energy and wish her the best of luck. As a matter of fact, we are currently looking for a new scientific director—a position I will fill until he or she is appointed.

In May, we were very actively involved in a number of activities held as part of the G7 Summit. We organized our own research summit on arctic research and the sustainability of northern communities in the face of ocean system change in partnership with the Royal Society of Canada and a number of northern communities (see videos), as well as a workshop on the provision of scientific advisory services to governments in collaboration with the International Network of Government Science Advisors (INGSA), of which I am a founding member. A number of activities and programs should arise from the events, including the creation of a North American chapter of INGSA, which will include Canadian Indigenous communities.  My office is already very active within the French-speaking African chapter and recently held workshops on the scientific council of Rwanda. With regard to scientific diplomacy, the FRQ made the commitment to support two members of the new generation of scientists who just started a one-year scientific internship within the Québec delegations in London and Munich. This project is conducted in partnership with the ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation, the ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie, and the Offices jeunesse internationaux du Québec (see video).

Also in conjunction with the G7 Summit, I took part in discussions with Canada and France on the societal impacts of artificial intelligence. One of the objectives is to create joint research projects in this rapidly evolving sector. Additional information will be available soon.

Two new research entities and the Audace program

In recent months, the scientific community and FRQ staff have put a great deal of energy into the development of two new entities for research and reflection in Québec: the Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’intelligence artificielle and the Réseau intersectoriel sur la gestion des risques liés aux inondations dans un contexte de changements climatiques. Community members submitted their proposals this summer. I hope to share the results of the competitions by the end of the year. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your interest and commitment to these initiatives.

The Audace program has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm. The first 22 awardees will meet on September 13 in Montréal to discuss the next steps and avenues to enhance the program, which the FRQ will offer annually (join the event live on FRQ's Facebook page). The second competition was launched on July 19, and all letters of intent must be submitted by September 19. We also expect to launch an intersectoral research program on successful ageing by the start of next year. Further details will follow.

Strategic planning and the new government

We have been focused on the FRQ’s 2018–2022 strategic planning for the past several months. The plans were completed and adopted by our three boards of directors, the Minister and the office of the Ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation. However, Cabinet did not adopt them in time. They will therefore only be approved after the elections and the appointment of the new Cabinet. I hope that the process will be finalized by the end of the year. I would like to thank all the individuals who took part in the vast consultations held as part of the development of these new plans, which are focused on supporting the new generation and our gains, as well as boldness and intersectoral research to tackle major social challenges.

This fall will be busy with briefing sessions for elected officials and the government: an important task as the new mandate begins. It is therefore very likely that we will have to make a few slight changes to our strategic plans and contribute to the development of government strategies. We’re ready!

Over the next few months, we will pursue a series of initiatives to facilitate access to government data within the context of an open government and continue to promote research in artificial intelligence and digital technologies. Finally, we will step up our efforts in the science and society sector by expanding our programs to foster awareness building and the participation of citizens of all ages in scientific matters. Indeed, the future of our society depends on it.

In closing, I would like to wish you a most successful academic year!

Rémi Quirion