I am both honoured and humbled to serve the Québec research community as the new Scientific Director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT). Prior to my appointment in March 2019, I was Professor of Animal Sciences at Université Laval for nearly 25 years, serving also as Research Associate Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences since 2011. During this time, my research career was very much supported by the FRQ, as I obtained financing through the Nouveau Chercheur FCAR program, as principal and co-investigator of several research teams, and as member of the FRQNT strategic network, the Réseau Québécois en reproduction. Many graduate students with whom I have worked have been supported by FRQNT scholarships. I understand first-hand the socio-economic value of the FRQNT, since most of these highly trained individuals now enjoy careers in industry or education, thereby contributing to the well-being of the public.
Thanks to the dedication by my predecessor, Prof. Maryse Lassonde, the Chief Scientist, Prof. Rémi Quirion, and the talented personnel, the FRQNT is doing well. There are some challenges, however, that need to be addressed.
First, although there is excellent gender balance among FRQNT research award and scholarship recipients, there remains a large discrepancy between the numbers of women and men applicants. Similarly, very few strategic networks are led by women. The FRQNT will continue its efforts to increase the number of women in "NT", as well as towards improved equity, diversity, and inclusion at all levels.
Second, although the FRQNT contributes to many programs, including the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, international collaborative opportunities, prizes, and scholarships in partnership with MITACS and NSERC, it lacks visibility. We are initiating an awareness campaign to demonstrate how the FRQNT is a key player at all levels of research in Québec, as well as internationally.
One of my main objectives is to continue the FRQNT's trajectory to increase its budget and ensure its perennity. Both fundamental and applied research are essential to ensure socio-economic advancement and I will strive for a healthy balance. Along with members of the FRQNT team, I am visiting all of the Québec universities as well as many colleges and CCTTs. We look forward to exchanging with the community how the FRQNT can move forward in a manner that will best serve researchers, trainees, and the public.