First, I would like to wish you health and success in 2020! I hope you had the chance to relax during the holiday break and that the new year will be very, very exciting for you and your loved ones. 

This year is already promising to be a busy one for the office of the chief scientist and the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ). Among our main objectives is our active participation in the creation and development of innovation areas, one of the government of Québec’s key undertakings led by our minister. We welcome your suggestions and feedback on this important project that will certainly generate concrete benefits across the province. The strategic plan of the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation is expected to be released in a few months and will contain important information on the subject. 

Another central objective for this year is to increase, or at least maintain, the FRQ’s budgets. Under the Stratégie québécoise de la recherche et de l’innovation 2017-2022, they were significantly enhanced ($40M/year on a budget of $240M). However, the amounts were not meant to be sustained, and this creates a difficult situation for the organizations that fund multi-year training awards and projects. The circumstances will also complicate the development and continuation of innovating programs including AUDACE, ENGAGEMENT and DIALOGUE, which were launched in recent months and are especially popular. The same goes for our intersectoral research projects on major societal challenges (aging and demography, sustainable development and climate change, artificial intelligence and digital technologies and creativity and entrepreneurship), enhanced training awards (colleges, masters, PhDs and post-doctorates), internships in practice settings and strategic groups, networks, centres and institutes. We have spent the past months working with representatives to determine a solution that is acceptable for everyone.

Open access to research publications and access to data

There is no doubt that open access to research publications and research data governance will constitute two broad projects in 2020. In April 2019, we launched the open access policy for the dissemination of research and intend to expand it by collaborating with key federal and international (Europe, France, England) stakeholders, as well as all of you. It is critical that our policy remain in line with those implemented by national and foreign funding agencies. In this respect, a meeting of the boards of directors of the three FRQ will be held with Plan S (Europe) leaders in the coming weeks. In addition, we are considering signing the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), on which we welcome your comments. As set out in our policy, we will ensure all the members of our scientific review committees are familiar with our guidelines and implement them by properly recognizing research publications in open access. The assessment reports have already been amended to reflect these changes. This important and essential culture shift is one that must be set in motion.

Access to government data will also be a major challenge this year. It is certainly one of the most complex issues I have had to tackle since my appointment. I hope we will find a viable and acceptable solution to foster the development of large government databases by our researchers and facilitate informed policy decision-making through the analysis of comprehensive databases. The recent initiatives by the current government (e.g. research data access point) allow us to be optimistic, though there is still much work to be done.

University of tomorrow

In 2020, we will also be focused on the university of tomorrow. At the request of the Minister of Education and Higher Education, I am chairing a working group of some 15 experts that will table a series of recommendations structured around three major themes—university in society, intersectoral training and the learning society, and the inclusive student community—this fall. A public consultation will be held in spring to foster the participation of all stakeholders, since it is essential that the committee’s recommendations have the support of a majority of actors. The university of tomorrow may depend on it!

2020: year of scientific diplomacy

There will be a lot of talk about scientific diplomacy in 2020. The most recent international vision statement by the Québec government mentions the issue for the very first time. As the vice-chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), I am organizing the 4th annual conference with colleagues from Canada and New Zealand. We are expecting over 600 participants from around the world, including several representatives from French-speaking and Francophile nations. The event will be a unique opportunity to consolidate Québec’s leadership in scientific diplomacy.

In closing, I would like to reiterate the importance of public funding for research and the role that researchers and students must play to better communicate your science to our fellow citizens. In your communications, be sure to mention the research support you receive from the Fonds and your work’s contribution to the research and innovation system. Many of you who received an award or grant in the past three years have taken the time to respond to our survey on the topic. Thank you very much for sharing your views. The findings of the survey, as well as those of the recent surveys of users and citizens, will help us better target our actions to promote public research.

To follow the progress of our initiatives, I encourage you to follow our social networks, and do not hesitate to contact me if necessary!

Rémi Quirion, O.C., C.Q., Ph. D., m.s.r.c.