As part of their 2018-2022 strategic planning, the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) are committed to strengthening the integration of the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in scientific assessment. The following statements reflect the vision of the FRQ with regard to these principles. Although the acronym « EDI » is frequently used, it is important to distinguish between its three components, each one being essential for research to reach its full potential. For the FRQ :
Equity refers to fair treatment, including the elimination of systemic barriers that disadvantage particular groups. Fair treatment is not necessarily the same for everyone, but takes into account different personal realities, both present and historical, to provide all individuals with access to the same opportunities for the promotion and support of research.
Diversity refers to the presence, within the research ecosystem and society, of people from different groups, which promotes the expression of diverse perspectives, approaches and experiences, including those of underrepresented groups. The FRQ value the contribution of this diversity to research.
Inclusion refers to the establishment of practices that allow all members of society to be and to feel valued, supported and respected, paying particular attention to underrepresented groups within the research community and in research itself.
Unconscious bias in scientific assessment
Whether we like it or not, we all have biases. These can influence our judgement, often without our knowledge. When the scientific evaluation of an application is influenced by unconscious biases based, for example, on the applicant’s gender, ethno-cultural origins or disability, the evaluation is no longer based on excellence.
To mitigate the influence of unconscious bias in the scientific assessment process, individuals taking part in the Fonds de recherche du Québec’s peer review process will henceforth be encouraged to take a short online training course. In the interest of avoiding duplication for the scientific community, we have chosen to use the Bias in Peer Review training module developed by the federal funding agencies.
While this training course is not mandatory, we hope that a critical mass of reviewers will choose to take it to help enhance the fairness of the assessment process. Please note that all Fonds staff responsible for evaluation committees will be required to complete the online training module as well as additional training.
Considering sex and gender in research
Given that public research should benefit the greatest possible number of people, the Fonds de recherche du Québec, in line with research ethics standards, believe that the projects they support should take human diversity into account, where relevant. Furthermore, Health Canada recommends that comparative analyses based on sex or gender be included in research on therapeutic products (medical devices, genetic therapies and natural health products, pharmaceuticals, biologics or radiopharmaceuticals). Funding applicants must declare on the application form whether such analyses are planned as part of their research project.
This information will not be transmitted to the reviewers and will not affect the scientific assessment of the projects. This addition to the application forms is intended to allow the FRQ to document the consideration of sex and gender in proposed and funded research projects. Please refer to Section 5.5 of the Fonds’ Common General Rules for further details.
Candidates and reviewers using the FRQnet platform must now complete a short self-identification questionnaire linked to the My Profile section of their FRQnet portfolio.
In accordance with the Politique sur la collecte de données sociodémographiques visant à planifier des mesures en matière d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion, adopted by the boards of directors of the three Fonds in April 2021, the data collected will allow the FRQ to detect potentially inequitable situations and to plan and monitor the impact of any improvement measures. The information provided will remain confidential and will have no impact on funding decisions, eligibility or evaluation of applications.
For more information on the self-identification questionnaire, please refer to the FAQ sheet.
EDI in research funded by the FRQ
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For more information on EDI at the Fonds de recherche du Québec, please contact Fanny Eugène, Strategic Advisor on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.