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Summer and fall: busy seasons for science outreach in Québec

October, already! It’s actually been five months since my last message—five months that have been eventful on a number of fronts. Of course, the budgets of the three Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) remain our priority. Given the difficult state of our public finances, I hope that we will retain our gains and increase the Fonds’ sustained 2015–2016 budgets by working together and relying on the support of higher education, research and science minister Yves Bolduc. Your backing is essential, since each of you has the power to demonstrate the impacts of research investments in terms of knowledge advancement, discoveries and benefits to our society and communities. Let elected officials and members of the general public know about the impacts of your research. All too often, they remain well-kept secrets!

The scientific community has expressed concerns regarding the new government structure that separates Québec’s research mission from its innovative one, but, owing to the expertise of the teams in the departments of higher education, research and science and economic development, innovation and export, the situation has stabilized. But there is still work to be done, and we must clarify the scope of the mandates of each department. I remain confident in the future, since we are all focused on Québec’s competitiveness in research and innovation. Your support is crucial to respond to this challenge.

 

Promoting Québec abroad

In June, I had the pleasure of travelling to the annual BIO International Convention in San Diego with Mr. Bolduc and economic development, innovation and export minister Jacques Daoust. As always, the delegation from Québec was quite impressive and included several leaders from the biopharmaceutical industry, academia and the hospital sector. Some 2,500 senior officials from every US state and 70 nations were in attendance. The meetings held in San Diego helped strengthen ties between teams from Québec and global partners. At the conference, we also had the opportunity to speak with the international ministers who oversee research and innovation and get to know them better. The tangible benefits of our week at the BIO conference will be announced very soon, particularly in the field of early clinical testing.

In late August, I was asked to present Québec’s chief scientist model at an international conference organized by New Zealand’s chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, following a preparatory meeting we had at the Conference of Montréal in June. My discussions with colleagues from around the world enabled me to create ties that will lead to the development of new programs to enhance relations between elected officials, public service employees and researchers. In fact, the British model, which is of great interest, allows for practicums for scientists, officials and civil servants. An international network of chief scientists and their equivalents is also under development in an effort to foster the sharing of best practices in governance and counsel to governments and other entities.

 

The FRQ

Also held this fall were the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), the Journées de la relève in collaboration with the Acfas, the fall board of directors meetings of the three Fonds de recherche, the finalisation of the organizations’ strategic plans and the launch of a policy on the responsible conduct of research. The events surrounding the 50th anniversary were especially successful, with several scientific exchange activities, a neuroscience symposium in partnership with the Inserm on September 15th and a seminar entitled La recherche intersectorielle pour la santé de demain, de l’infiniment petit à l’infiniment grand on September 17th. All the former chairpersons of the FRQS, including the Fonds’ founder Dr. Jacques Genest, gathered at a gala on September 16th. In attendance were representatives of the senior executives of the Inserm—the FRQS’s equivalent in France, which is also celebrating 50 years—and the Bavarian health research agency. In fact, at a workshop earlier that day, the FRQS, the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies and the German organization concluded a collaboration agreement.

The launch of the policy on the responsible conduct of research, the Politique sur la conduite responsable en recherche, was also among the highlights of the fall. The policy will take effect in September 2015, and Me Mylène Deschênes, the director of the FRQ’s ethical and legal affairs office, will take part in a series of meetings and workshops to explain and promote the new strategy. If you have any questions or comments on the policy or its deployment, contact Me Deschênes.

Next, the office will tackle the important issue of access.

 

Upcoming

Other major topics will also be front and centre in the months to come. The secretariat of Future Earth, a new global organization focused on sustainable development and climate change research, will open offices in five cities around the world: Paris, Tokyo, Stockholm, Boulder (Colorado) and Montréal. Montréal universities, Montréal International and the FRQ played pivotal roles in the creation of the secretariat, which is expected to help our researchers be more visible and more competitive at the international level in this priority sector for Québec.

The FRQ are also very involved in the development of the maritime strategy, in collaboration with different government departments, the Conseil executive and Québec universities. A day of discussions on strategy research priorities hosted by the FRQ and Université du Québec à Rimouski will be held on November 7th.

Also, in late October, I will be taking part in Premier Couillard’s mission to China to renew ties with representatives from Chinese research agencies and finalize partnership agreements for the FRQ. Further details will be released at the end of the mission.

On November 6th, I will speak at a lunchtime conference at the Montréal Summit on Innovation on health and the creative industries organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal. On November 17th, Je vois Montréal will hold a meeting to present projects to relaunch the metropolis, including initiatives focused on research, research training and scientific culture.

Several important and highly stimulating activities in which the FRQ are involved will also be held over the next few months, including a day of strategic discussions on entrepreneurship, SMEs and creativity organized by Université de Sherbrooke in early 2015.

Finally, along with the members of the FRQ’s executive teams, I will be following the discussions on Bill 10 to amend the organization and governance of the health and social services network, in particular by abolishing the regional agencies, and the evolution of Bill 15 on workforce management and control in government departments, public sector organizations and networks and government corporations.

Your suggestions and comments are always welcome, so please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

signature Rémi Quirion

Rémi Quirion, O.C., C.Q., PhD, FRSC


 

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