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Coming this fall

Already the end of summer! I hope that you made the most of the warm weather and are ready to get the new academic year off to a flying start. My schedule is very full since I’ll be working on several issues of importance to the government and the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ). Here are the news and updates since my last message in March.

Appointment of the new scientific director of the FRQSC

I would first like to highlight the recent appointment of Louise Poissant as the scientific director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC). She will take office on October 1st, 2015 (read the press release, in French). The board of directors, staff members and executive team are all looking forward to working with her towards the future development of the FRQSC and the FRQ. Louise Poissant gained extensive experience in research and management as the dean of the Faculty of Arts of Université du Québec à Montréal since 2006 and the director of several research groups. I would like to thank those who applied for the position. They were all candidates of very high calibre.

I would be remiss if I did not reiterate the exceptional contribution of the FRQSC’s very first scientific director, Normand Labrie. His receptiveness, openness and enthusiasm greatly served the researchers and student researchers in the fields covered by the FRQSC and by the Fonds de recherche as a whole. My wishes go with him as he returns to Ontario.

Québec researchers make headway

I would like to congratulate the teams at Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke that received major grants as part of the very first competition of the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund. Université Laval was awarded close to $100M for its Sentinelle Nord venture and Université de Sherbrooke was granted over $33M for a project to develop quantum technologies. I am convinced that these two large-scale initiatives will generate benefits for Québec, Sherbrooke and the entire province. As part of the inaugural edition of the competition, Québec universities earned two of the five program awards: 38% of the $350M earmarked for the first round. We are very proud. The Fund will award $1.5B in total over the course of several competitions. The second edition is currently underway. We wish all of our institutions the best of luck!

Québec researchers were also very successful in the most recent competitions held by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and other federal programs, including those of the Canada Excellence Research Chairs, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Genome Canada.  I congratulate them all.

The FRQ and the government

As far as our government relations, François Blais, Minister of Education, Higher Education and Research, and his team are in high gear. We are in contact with the office on a weekly - if not daily - basis. Good news: the FRQ’s strategic plans were approved by the Cabinet and will be tabled in the National Assembly in late September. They will then be available online on the website of the FRQ. Your comments and suggestions on our major directions are welcome.

I also had the pleasure of meeting with Deputy Minister Sylvie Barcelo. She is seeking to further develop the department’s mission to support research, which is very important to the programs and budgets of the FRQ.

On the financial side, 2015–2016 is not an easy fiscal year, even though the base budgets of the three Fonds were maintained. Without the new credits expected under the national research and innovation policy (PNRI), earlier commitments put significant pressure on the current and upcoming budgets, especially for the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT).

We also continue to play an active role in the development and implementation of the research components of the government’s key strategies, from the Plan Nord to the maritime strategy and anti-radicalization plan. Several programs, including those set out by the Québec maritime research network and France-Québec institute (major partnership with UQAR) and a concerted action on radicalization (in collaboration with the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion), are expected to launch in the next few months. In addition, I will be very involved in a series of initiatives in the life sciences that were outlined in the last provincial budget.

FRQ activities

This fall, the office of the chief scientist and the FRQ will support several activities, including a seminar on university education (consultation workshop organized by the intersectoral FRQ student committee and the Acfas Journées de la relève) in September, a symposium on the outreach of Québec science at major international conventions (in collaboration with Palais des congrès de Montréal) in November, a scientific event at the National Assembly in November and a forum to discuss the place and role of science and research in our society in December. With regards to the topic of science and society, a special event organized by the FRQ’s three boards of directors will be held in Québec on September 23, leading into a broader forum that will include members of the media and the general public. The comments I received and the meetings I had with stakeholders in a range of sectors (academia, media, education, general public) following my last message in March were taken into consideration in the organization of these initiatives. Ultimately, our aim is to determine future avenues for action for the FRQ. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Enjoy the fall season!

signature Rémi Quirion

Rémi Quirion, O.C., C.Q., PhD, FRSC


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