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Important projects in the works for 2023

Happy New Year 2023! I hope that it will live up to your expectations, both professional and personal.

2022 was a year filled with developments and impacts of all kinds, both positive and negative. Here is a brief look at some of them.

Rolling out the SQRI2 and our strategic plans

Let us first note the finalization of the Québec research and innovation investment strategy 2022-2027 (SQRI2), launched by our Minister last May, which includes a significant 13% increase in the budgets of the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ). This increase has allowed us to enhance several of our programs, including those to support strategic clusters and research centres and institutes. We have also managed to maintain, and in some cases even increase, the number of merit scholarships, as well as adding a fourth year of funding for all doctoral award recipients. I would like to thank the three scientific directors of the FRQ, our three boards of directors, and the entire scientific community who have been very active in the development of this new SQRI2. In collaboration with each and every one of you, as well as our colleagues at the Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie (MÉIÉ) and the Conseil de l’innovation, the year ahead will focus on achieving the major objectives of this new government strategy. I hope we can continue to count on you!

In recent months, the FRQ and its three boards of directors have finalized their 2022-2025 strategic plans, which are an essential component of the SQRI2. Supporting the training and excellence of the next generation of researchers is once again at the heart of our concerns. Our objective is to at least maintain the number of awards we offer, while significantly increasing the amount offered for each one. Indeed, we wish to double the individual value of all our training awards. This is a very ambitious goal, and we will need your support to achieve it. We are convinced that increasing the number of young people who complete graduate studies (master’s and doctorates) is essential if we want to ensure that the Québec of tomorrow is more innovative, more creative, and more socially just and inclusive.

The Academic Freedom Act (Bill 32) was adopted by the government last June. It is an important milestone for the academic world, but freedom also means responsibility towards our fellow citizens. We should not forget that a researcher is not an expert in everything!

The last few months have been somewhat challenging: several researchers have questioned the FRQ’s approach, particularly in its award programs, with respect to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and the importance given to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Although we had the support of a large majority of participants in the various consultation processes (SQRI2 and strategic plans, and the unanimous support the three boards of directors), we may have moved too fast in integrating EDI and the SDG in our programs. We have decided to adjust and will adopt more of a promotional approach in the coming years. As always, we are open to your suggestions and comments.

Finally, my office, in collaboration with the management teams of Ouranos and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change, has just been tasked by the Government of Québec with developing training programs for elected officials on the multiple impacts of climate change in Québec and around the world. We are also working on a major project linking climate change, biodiversity and health. To be continued…

A focus on science in French, open access, and science advice in 2023

An important area of work in 2023 is that of open science and open access to scientific publications. The FRQ are signatories to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and have been members of Coalition S for two years. The FRQ directorate of ethical and legal affairs will be touring colleges and universities to discuss with you and hear comments and suggestions in relation to our Open Access Dissemination Policy, which was revised in 2022. We are also in discussion with our Ministry (MÉIÉ) and the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur (MES) to ensure that our approach is equitable for our entire community.

French-language science will be another important area of focus in 2023. Following a call for proposals issued last spring, in November 2022 we launched the very first international francophone network on science advice, which is based at Université Laval and brings together teams from across Québec, France and Africa, in partnership with the International Network for Governmental Science Advice (INGSA), the Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Francophonie Parliamentary Assembly, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF).

In addition, on April 26 and 27, 2023, in partnership with several ministries (MÉIÉ, MES, Ministère de la Langue française, Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie, among others), we will hold a forum in Montréal on French-language science, which will be followed in May by the annual ACFAS Congress, the largest French-language scientific conference in the world, and in October by the AUF Assises de la Francophonie scientifique. We are aware that the vast majority of research results are and will continue to be published in English. But it is also essential to better recognize and promote research and scientific publications in French. It is a matter of fairness, in addition to being a niche of excellence for Québec and its science diplomacy, as science in French is driven by a French-speaking community of some 320 million people on five continents. We look forward to welcoming you to the activities mentioned above.

A new and exciting component of the SQRI2 concerns science and its links with society. In this context, we will continue and enhance our Audace, Engage and Dialogue programs, and will set up training programs in science advice for the Government of Québec and interested municipalities. Our aim is to promote research-informed and evidence-based decision making, as well as opening up new career opportunities for our graduates. These activities will eventually be combined with those already underway in Africa, Latin America and Asia under the leadership of INGSA, of which I have the honour of being President.

Of course, my office and the FRQ will continue to be closely involved in the process of designating and creating innovation zones, one of the priorities of the SQRI2 and the government. In addition, there are plans for numerous activities with the Conseil de l’Innovation and collaborations with the Chief Innovator. We are also involved in the work of the MES to develop a new funding model for our universities, expected in 2025. Finally, access to government data continues to be a major concern for us, and has been for over 10 years! Will there be progress in 2023? I sincerely hope so. Québec has fallen far behind in this area, in which it excelled a few decades ago.

I look forward to talking with you in person or in the virtual realm, and wish you success and good health in 2023.

Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist of Québec