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From consultation to action!

First, I would like to wish each of you health and success. I hope that 2017 will be rewarding in every respect.

For most of us, 2016 was a year of consultation. Hopefully, 2017 will be a year of action!

In the past 12 months, many of you were called upon to share your views on federal and provincial matters and I would like to personally thank you for doing so. My team and the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) were also very active in this regard. We presented briefs to the Canadian government on investments in fundamental science and to the Québec government on the Stratégie québécoise de la recherche et de l’innovation (SQRI), as well as on a range of other strategies, including those pertaining to life sciences, digital technologies, education, the creation of the council of universities and the council of colleges, oceans and the upcoming international policy. And the consultations on Québec’s agri-food strategy recently got underway.

Research and innovation strategies

In 2016, I was a member of the panel chaired by Dr. David Naylor, past president of the University of Toronto, to review federal support of fundamental science. We received numerous recommendations and met with hundreds of Canadian researchers—from student investigators to leading experts—in different fields. Our work is essentially done and our report should soon be submitted to the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science. Of course, we all hope that the initiative will lead to major investments in basic research through budget enhancement measures for the federal granting councils.

In Québec, the efforts to develop the upcoming SQRI are ongoing. Dominique Anglade, Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation, is expected to launch the strategy by late spring. As a member of the internal government committee and the advisory council, I am very involved in the initiative. Researchers, student-researchers and innovators from the public and private sectors took part in the consultation sessions organized by the department. In addition, Minister Anglade met with the members of the three boards of directors of the FRQ at a day of reflection I hosted this fall. Higher Education Minister Hélène David was also in attendance. Three additional meetings with the directors of the FRQ’s strategic clusters and research centres, institutes and networks were also organized. They provided Minister Anglade with the opportunity to better recognize the excellence and diversity of the research conducted in Québec, which, for the most part, is funded by the FRQ. We hope that the SQRI will lead the government to announce major investments in research and innovation and especially in the FRQ.

The life sciences strategy, which is highly anticipated by all stakeholders in this key socioeconomic area, is also expected this spring. Integrating innovation into the health system and providing access to government databases for research purposes are two of the sector’s repeated demands, and my team was very focused on these issues this year. Furthermore, the creation of the council of universities and the council of colleges should facilitate discussions and reduce the unduly high number of silos between stakeholders in higher education and research as early as the next academic year. Finally, Québec’s upcoming policy on international relations will set out broad guidelines for the next few years and research should be front and centre. My team’s participation in the consultation process led us to reflect on the topic of scientific diplomacy. We will be organizing a seminar on the issue at the congress of the Association francophone pour le savoir – Acfas in May.

Looking ahead to our strategic planning

For the three FRQ, 2017 will be a year of strategic planning since they must present their respective plans for approval by the government every three years. The boards of directors, scientific offices and all of our staff members will work throughout the year to submit the 2018–2020 plans in December. As in the past, you will be invited to share your ideas and recommendations on the future development of the FRQ and topics such as the programs and initiatives we should lead. We will also host a consultation meeting for citizens. We are currently in discussions with groups that specialize in this new type of approach and the exercise should be interesting and promising. We will fill you in on all the details once we finalize them.

We welcome your comments and suggestions through social media (@SciChefQC) and more traditional channels!

Read the chief scientist’s 2015–2016 report.


Signature Rémi Quirion

Rémi Quirion, O.C., C.Q., PhD, FRSC

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