Although late in arriving, the spring has nevertheless brought its share of good news to the scientific community. After long years of inaction, the federal government has announced a major reinvestment in research. Similarly, the provincial budget tabled in March 2018 confirmed the increase of $160 million in the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) budget envelope for the next four years. It should be emphasized that these science-friendly budgets were largely supported by two female science ministers who are themselves personally engaged in science. We would like to express our gratitude to them.
Despite this science-friendly environment, the latest report produced by the Council of Canadian Academies, entitled "Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada", indicates that, while Canada and Québec continue to be leading contributors to global scientific output, their international standing is at risk due to the decline in R&D investment experienced in recent years. Moreover, the report concludes: "Canadian research is comparatively less specialized and less esteemed in the core fields of the natural sciences and engineering." The FRQNT cannot remain indifferent in the face of such remarks.
Québec, like the rest of Canada, has experienced a decline in graduate enrolment in the natural sciences and engineering (NSE) in recent years. At the FRQNT, we have attempted to address this situation in a variety of ways. We have established research internships in these areas at the college level and, following representations by our board of directors, have supplemented NSERC undergraduate scholarships to make them more attractive and to encourage the new generation of researchers to pursue graduate studies. We have increased our graduate scholarships and relaxed our eligibility requirements to make them accessible to foreign students already enrolled in Québec institutions. We have also developed measures to attract and retain more women in NSE. However, although their success rate is identical to that of their male counterparts, women are responsible for only 23% of funding applications. The FRQNT board of directors has approved a set of new initiatives aimed at increasing the presence of women in NSE, including the creation of awards for women research scholars in fields in which women are underrepresented in our institutions of higher learning. This program should be launched later this year.
In the same context and following recommendations coming out of the Gender Summit held in Montréal last November, the FRQ have appointed an equity, diversity and inclusion advisor, Fanny Eugène, PhD, to oversee the implementation of the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). These principles will be applied and evaluated within our staff and our committees as well as in our programs, beginning with the Strategic Clusters program. As a result, during visits to clusters funded by this year's competition, the latter will have to demonstrate the application of EDI principles in the composition of their steering committee, in their student representation and in the development plans of their partner institutions.
Finally, in response to requests from our government partners, we are partially lifting the moratorium on the Support for Innovation Networks program. This program, which fosters significant knowledge transfer to research user communities, has certainly paid off. For example, the last research team funded by the program, Notre Golfe, produced the excellent book entitled Les hydrocarbures dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent : enjeux sociaux, économiques et environnementaux, in which the contribution of the FRQNT is mentioned.
I wish to remind you how important and necessary it is to mention the funding received from the FRQNT in all your publications. The visibility of all our achievements will help us maintain or even increase our budgets and to renew our vision, which is to produce "diversified and inclusive research to drive socioeconomic progress."
In closing, I invite you all to join us for our annual Research Day on May 16 in Québec City. This year's theme is Digital research: Working together to innovate.