Message from the scientific director



July 19th, 2018

This is my last message as the scientific director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec — Nature et technologies (FRQNT). After six and a half years, I have agreed to take on a new challenge. Still, I will remain part of the research and education community as president of the Conseil supérieur de l'éducation.

Over six years ago, along with the chief scientist, I had the opportunity to contribute to the development of the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ), which had been restructured and brought together in 2011. It was a tremendous undertaking since the three Fonds had been operating in almost complete autonomy up until then. The new organization brought about major changes, especially with regard to the sharing of joint services. But thanks to the chief scientist's steadfast commitment and the support of the scientific directors, the structure has since grown strong roots. The three Fonds have gained exceptional recognition from our government, as well as from federal and international entities.

All these changes were always in keeping with each Fonds' specific mission. For the FRQNT, it quickly became apparent to me that the quality of our researchers should be recognized the world over. I therefore developed a number of international collaborations within networks including ERA-NET and the Belmont Forum, as well as with nations and territories whose research themes were in line with ours. Some of these initiatives were remarkable successes. For example, the partnership with the Inria Associate Teams program led to the awarding of an Inria research chair to Marcelo Wanderley at McGill University, whose work is funded through the collaboration. I truly believe that the pursuit and development of international agreements must remain a priority for the FRQNT.

The FRQNT is different from the two other Fonds since women are underrepresented in its various programs. This is a troubling situation that I worked to correct in collaboration with government departments, including the Ministère de l'Économie, de la Science et de l'Innovation and federal agencies. These efforts led to the Gender Summit, an international meeting on the issue, that was held in Montréal this past November, and to Québec's participation in the UNESCO SAGA (STEM and gender advancement) project, which is expected to publish its report very shortly. These events mark the start of a series of initiatives that, I hope, will continue in the years to come.

Thanks to the efforts invested by the chief scientist and the support of the Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation, the FRQ were granted a significant budget increase. After many fluctuations in the past six years, the agency now has a stable budget that is higher than when I first arrived. Still, despite this positive note, the current budget does not enable us to lift the moratorium on some of our programs or open the team research program—the FRQNT's flagship program—on an annual basis. I am convinced that the next scientific director will pursue the work to recognize the extraordinary achievements by the members of our research community and ensure the sustainability and expansion of the Fonds.

In closing, I would like to thank the college and university community for its ongoing support throughout my mandate. I would also like to thank my colleagues at the FRQ and especially the staff of the FRQNT and its program directors, whose actions are constantly driven by their devotion and professionalism. Advancements within the Fonds would not have been possible without their support, and I am certain that these fundamental qualities will serve the next scientific director of the FRQNT.

I wish you all a science-filled summer and, above all, much sun and rest!

Maryse Lassonde