Research centres threatened
October 31, 2014
To: Minister Yves Bolduc
Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports; Minister of Higher Education, Research and Science; Minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region
Dear Minister Bolduc,
At this time, when your government is preparing its economic update, we wanted to share our serious concerns about the future and sustainability of 28 research centres, groups, and networks that are funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQ-SC). The considerable reduction in funds granted to the FRQ-SC in June has already compromised the functioning of some centres, and will have direct consequences on their mandates and research programs in future, and on the students and the new generations of scientists whom they have been mandated to educate. Although we are fully aware that the entire university sector must make sacrifices, it is nevertheless regrettable that the FRQ-SC—which we should be reminded finances a potential workforce constituting 50% of Québec’s researchers and 54% of its students, while drawing on slightly more than a quarter of the research budget of the Fonds de recherche du Québec—would be so hard hit by the government’s austerity measures, and by the same token, forced to weaken its funding programs, particularly those addressing the essential “infrastructures” for research teams and centres.
The Strategic Clusters Program was intended to play a crucial role in creating synergy, not only to advance research efforts in Québec but also to train the new researchers and highly qualified personnel who will be critical for Québec’s future. Notably, it has enabled forging large-scale multidisciplinary and interuniversity alliances between researchers, resulting in considerable contributions to fundamental and applied research in strategic areas; it has enabled Québec’s researchers to establish themselves as leaders in their fields, both nationally and internationally; it has fostered indispensable knowledge transfer and the creation of advantageous partnerships; it has contributed to make our research centres stimulating and dynamic sites, where upcoming research professors and researchers can realize their full potential; and finally, this program and the centres that it supports provide a substantial leverage that acts to maximize Québec’s research investment.
Minister Bolduc, at a time when Québec is coping with numerous challenges and is seeking to mark its place on the global scientific map, it is difficult to understand why Québec’s government would effectively stifle the competitiveness of Québec researchers in Canada and abroad, along with our capacity to train future researchers. The research centres addressing Society and Culture have reached a critical threshold in terms of funding, jeopardizing the development of their scientific mission. How many students will lose their grants over the coming year? How many highly qualified professionals and research assistants will see their hopes diminish and their job prospects shrink? What will become of these outstanding international showcases? Does the government imagine that it can build a knowledge society by saving on humanities and social sciences research?
If Québec’s financial status does not allow reinvesting in FRQ-SQ funding, we ask the government, at the very least, to repeal the cutbacks that have already threatened this year’s research missions.