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Priorities for 2018

I would like to wish you all the best in the new year! May 2018 be filled with happiness, health and unexpected and exciting research results. Blaze a trail for boldness and new collaborations that will help you progress further than you would have ever imagined in your research and training projects.

First, I want to mark the passing of Jacques Genest on January 5. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his entire family. Dr. Genest is a pillar of the medical research communities in Québec and across the world. He was among the international leaders in the field of hypertension, penning papers and books that remain references today. In the 1960s, with government support, he created the Conseil de recherches médicales du Québec, which would become the FRQS. He also founded the Montréal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. Dr. Genest always had a particular interest in young researcher training, especially in clinical research in French-speaking settings. The Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) want to ensure long-term recognition for his many contributions and welcomes your comments and suggestions on the best ways to do so.

Strategic planning and mission to China

The past year was a significant one for the FRQ as the Québec government launched the province’s research and innovation strategy, the Stratégie québécoise de la recherche et de l’innovation (SQRI). We were granted substantial (and welcome!) budget increases for the next five years. In June, our three boards of directors pledged a large part of the commitments to enhance our training award programs (sums granted, funding period, more flexible eligibility criteria, etc.). The funds were also dedicated to the AUDACE program and helped to cover shortfalls for certain programs, including the strategic clusters and centres and institutes. In 2018, we intend to consolidate our programs and augment our funding offer to tackle key social challenges (demographic change and population aging, sustainable development and climate change and creativity and entrepreneurship) and intersectoral research (see the SQRI for more details).

We are currently working to finalize our 2018–2022 strategic plans, which should be submitted to the government of Québec for approval by late April. Many members of the research community provided their feedback as part of the consultations held over the past six months, along with representatives from government departments and, for the very first time, members of civil society. Your comments and suggestions fueled a number of discussions at the last three meetings of our boards of directors. The final drafts of the plans will include much of this feedback and we will ensure that our leading programs to support training, research infrastructures in centres and institutes and clusters and networks will be maintained and possibly expanded. We will also focus on interinstitutional and interlevel collaborations and partnerships and our national and international cooperative efforts. We will implement measures to ensure equity and diversity in our programs, and are developing new training programs on ethics and the responsible conduct of research as we pursue our activities to provide open access to research results and major databases. Finally, we seek to raise even greater awareness of research among citizens. Digital tools and social networks will certainly facilitate the development of innovative approaches to this end.

On another note, I will be taking part in a number of government missions this year. The first will be the mission to China led by the Premier of Québec, which gets underway in just a few days. We will take this opportunity to sign a new collaborative agreement between the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the three Fonds as part of a partnership with the NSFC that, in the case of the FRQS, dates back to the mid 1990s. Recent missions to Boston, New York and Rome should lead to tangible results for the three Fonds very soon. Stay tuned!

On the federal scene

I would like to note the recent appointments of Profs. Mona Nemer and Molly Shoichet as the chief science advisors of the governments of Canada and Ontario, respectively. While their mandates are quite different from mine, I have known both researchers for many years and I will be very pleased to collaborate with them to develop and promote Canadian research and science. The three of us will share the stage at an event organized by the University of Ottawa at the end of the month. Finally, my hope is that the federal government will significantly increase the amounts allocated to the three funding agencies and the CFI in its upcoming budget. The government of Québec made great progress with the adoption of the SQRI, and it is imperative that the federal government make at least the same commitments.

In closing, in connection with a letter signed by over one hundred humanities and social science researchers that appeared in La Presse (January 15, 2018), I can only deplore the hate speech directed toward members of the scientific community, whatever their research area, who express themselves in the public sphere. Research enables us to better understand our world, find solutions to real problems and address the challenges facing our society. With this in mind, the FRQ encourage members of the scientific community to communicate with the public and share and interact with their fellow citizens. As a society, it is in our common interest to do so.

Rémi Quirion