I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to the 21st meeting of the Standing Committee on Science and Research.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(i) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, June 16, 2022, we are meeting on the study of research and scientific publication in French.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules for the witnesses and members. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on the videoconference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. Please mute your mic when you are not speaking. For interpretation, those participating through Zoom have the choice, at the bottom of their screen, between three channels: floor, English or French. Members attending in person in the room can use their headset after selecting the channel desired. A reminder that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair.
Members in the room, if you wish to speak, please raise your hand. Members on Zoom, please use the “raise hand” function. The clerk and I will manage the speaking order as best we can. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard.
I would now like to welcome our witnesses.
Colleagues, it's my honour to announce our witnesses today. We're very glad they have joined us, especially tonight.
Many of you will have children, and it's a busy night. Happy Halloween, all.
From Consortium Érudit we welcome Tanja Niemann, Executive Director. From Université du Québec en Outaouais, we welcome Dr. Adel El Zaïm, Vice-President of Research, Creation, Partnership and Internationalisation.
You will have five minutes for your opening statement. At the four and a half minute mark, I will hold up this card. It will let you know that you have 30 seconds left. We aim to be fair, so you'll have 30 seconds.
With that, I would like to welcome Madame Niemann.
The floor is yours. Welcome. We're looking forward to hearing from you.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Good evening, members of the committee. Thank you for having me. The team and the members of Consortium Érudit join me in saying that we are honoured to testify as part of this important study on research and publication in French. From the outset I would like to point out three things to the committee.
First, know that Canada has in Érudit a jewel in the digital delivery of knowledge in human and social sciences in French, as well as in English. The founding members, Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal and Université Laval, have been investing in Consortium Érudit for nearly 25 years. Other major investments come from the Government of Quebec and then the Government of Canada through two agencies, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines. Through this public funding and a capacity to bring together players from the research community, including university libraries in Canada and abroad, Érudit has become a great ship with wind in its sails. It is a success story that needs to be acknowledged. The project was born in Quebec and today it is a great Canadian success.
If you are looking for a digital library, erudit.org has an exceptional offering, disseminating more than 140,000 articles and collaborating with more than 200 Canadian scientific journals in disciplines as diverse as criminology, geography, visual arts, history or health sciences. Erudit.org is a digital infrastructure combining cutting edge technology and human knowledge. In the vast majority of cases, the content is distributed at no cost to the reader and is therefore accessible to everyone: the universities, but also, and especially, the general public. We work on the discoverability of science in French and are committed to open source knowledge sharing. The Érudit platform is well used. Nearly 34 million documents are downloaded annually by 5.6 million users. Nearly two thirds of these consultations come from abroad, clearly demonstrating that the knowledge produced in Canada is researched internationally.
I am very grateful to all those who believe in Érudit, those who support us financially and as partner-collaborators. I am also thankful to the thousands of researchers who use Érudit's services daily.
Second, I would say that on the high seas, where Érudit navigates, there are immense challenges, waves and storms to negotiate. The biggest challenge right now is the ability to compete with titans, international corporate giants. The oligopoly of large publishers, an issue that has come before this committee, disseminates very little science in French because it is not profitable enough. In that context, without players like Érudit, science in French simply would not be disseminated or would be for only a small group willing to pay for it. With Érudit, Canada conserves scientific heritage in human and social sciences, maintains control over the results of research done within institutions and keeps this knowledge and data on local servers to use them independently without any commercial considerations. With Érudit, we also support a central function of so-called national and international journals, which is to provide a place of publication for the results of research into specifically Canadian problems, likely to directly affect our society.
Third, and by way of conclusion, I would say that on the high seas, where Érudit is currently navigating with those who lead these Canadian academic journals, the sea is quite agitated. We are living in a time of turbulence and change. There are both great opportunities and great risks. I would say that we need to reclaim scholarly publishing and that requires stable and predictable funding, as well as funding programs that favour the non-commercial model, open science, valorization and the recognition of researchers who ensure leadership for journals and the supervision, writing, evaluation and review of articles. Enhancing knowledge generation in French to its rightful place as a public good is of national interest to us. We need a concerted effort by all players to get through this storm.
Recent political announcements on open science and open access, such as Plan S or the new White House policy, are encouraging to me.
Will we finally take these opportunities to build the most open and diverse system there can be?
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Members of the committee, let me thank your for your excellent work, which will have an impact on the Canada of the future. On behalf of the Université du Québec en Outaouais, I assure you of our full collaboration for the future of science and research in Canada.
As you know, for decades we have been questioning the place of language and the place of French in scientific research and publications. Colleagues who spoke before me provided you with excellent ideas and shared a lot of data with you.
As for me, I would invite you to think more about what motivates a francophone researcher to conduct and disseminate their research in English. I will also make some recommendations.
To understand the problems, I would like to make the distinction between the following two steps: conceptualizing and conducting the research, then disseminating the results of the research.
In the first step, the researcher outlines their plan and drafts research questions, hypotheses and methodology. They also have to read their grant applications and submit them for review in order to receive funding before undertaking the work. This is the step where the language of education and the language of the discipline come into play, as well as the language of the collaborators and the language in which proposals and research reports are drafted.
A discipline developed in English cannot be required and expanded in French if it is not completely translated, taught and disseminated in that language. Canada has been a pioneer when it comes to new terminology and disseminating science and discovery in both languages.
My first recommendation is that Canada commit to translating new science and the results of research done here in the country's two official languages.
My second recommendation is that these translations and terminologies be disseminated globally free of charge, especially within the francophonie in Canada and abroad.
In a country like ours, we expect academics to be bilingual, even multi-lingual, but that is not always the case. During his appearance at the committee, the vice-president of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada assured members that project proposals in French are treated appropriately, suggesting that jury members are able to read and evaluate applications in French. I tend to believe him. It is more a question of the definition of bilingualism and the degree of mastery of the French language required for reading, understanding and debating in French.
When it comes to language, economy of effort is well established. People switch languages to communicate more easily and to make others more comfortable. This applies in developing and evaluating research projects.
At this stage, I would like to make two other recommendations.
The first is that project proposal evaluators master the language the proposal is drafted in and be able to publicly debate it.
The second is that Canada, through research councils, develop measures to help anglophone scientists master French.
The publication and dissemination of results comes with its own linguistic mechanisms and requirements. The questions we should be asking are the following: is the publication geared to students, collaborators, the community or policymakers? Which publisher, platform or journal is publishing the results and what is the degree of their influence? What are the roles of indexing and the influence of indicators such as the impact of journals?
Unfortunately, most international journals and databases give little importance to languages other than English. Researchers wanting to increase their influence and the number of times they are cited will use English, thereby fuelling the vicious circle.
I have two more recommendations.
The first is that Canada ally with other countries to increase the number of journals and books in French and to ensure they are disseminated and suitably indexed on platforms such as Érudit, for example.
The second is that Canada influence producers of major databases and give an equal place to French publications, where they exist.
Scientific research is increasingly international thanks to globalization and the resurgence of global problems confronting researchers and decision makers. However, these same problems have local specificities that are imperative to study and disseminate in the local language.
Many countries learned that the hard way since the research published in English or a foreign language was not understood by their own citizens and decision makers.
We are not there in Canada. However, we need involvement and a serious commitment from our institutions to ensure that all Canadians can develop—
Can you hear me? I'm sorry to interrupt.
I know that our committee will be very glad to hear from you. Thank you for being here to testify.
With that, we will now go to our members, who are keen to ask you questions. Tonight we will begin with Mr. Tochor.
Before I turn the floor over, I want to welcome member of Parliament Arya to our committee. Also, I would like to take a moment to thank our clerk, our analysts, our interpreters and everyone who supports this committee. We're very grateful to you.
With that, I will turn it over to Mr. Tochor for six minutes, please.
We are a platform and a disseminator. We are not a publisher. We work with more than 200 journals that are independent editorial entities and have a production and dissemination contract with Érudit.
We bring together content produced independently on our campuses by researchers who are directors at these journals. For example, we have some in criminology, sociology and history, from campuses at the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta, the University of Manitoba, Simon Fraser University, Dalhousie University and here and there across the country.
We intervene at the end of the editorial process, when all the editorial work is done and the article is ready. We receive these articles and we structure the content to make it legible by machine. We index all this in databases. We take care of a preservation strategy and send all this data on the Web, in databases of catalogues and libraries around the world to increase the chance that these articles are discovered, read, and found when searched with a key word.
What is more, we also ensure that everything is found on Google and is discoverable by Google.
Thank you for the question.
We work in human and social sciences.
Érudit was founded in Quebec with a view to preserving a place of publication for French journals in order to prevent commercial publishers from buying them up and ultimately not publishing them because they deal with topics that are more local, regional or Canadian and the company publishes international journals only. The idea was to preserve this publication capacity for journals that deal with local topics.
What is more, Érudit does not limit itself to French; many journals of this kind come from English Canada. At its core, Érudit hosts francophone content because its members are Quebec universities that founded it, but now it is a national platform that hosts content in both languages. For now, the content is mostly in French, but a lot of English content has been added over the past few years through very productive and fruitful collaborations with university libraries and other anglophone journals.
The thing that is preventing us from growing more quickly is our limited capacity. This project is funded by research funding and often we even have to press for the creation of funding programs to which we are eligible. It is a complicated financial arrangement based on different sources of funding. We are a non-profit organization so we depend on support from the universities. We develop many partnerships and that is very demanding. For now, we maximize the resources we have and the funding we get from contributors.
Thank you for the question.
There is a heavy tendency of publishing in English for, I think, everybody working in universities and the academic sector because there's this predominance of English as the lingua franca in science.
Nonetheless, we have a lot of colleagues in Europe, for instance, who are working at the same not-for-profit publishing endeavours as us. More and more there is the wish to continue to have these venues where we can publish in multilingual ways and publish about national, regional and local topics in the language where we live and where we experienced these questions we have about society.
There is a tendency around the world where, more and more, we try to preserve these publishing venues where we can publish in different languages. Still, it's mainly in the humanities and social sciences because the STEM sector is so dominantly English.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Let me begin by welcoming the witnesses who are joining us this evening and thanking them for being here.
Dr. El Zaïm, as always, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the committee. I remember very clearly the comments you made during your last appearance. You said that French was fundamental, including in the area of research.
In your speech you made some recommendations. You talked about the possibility of translating all the research and publications in both official languages.
Several witnesses who appeared before the committee have told us that this could be part of the solution, but some people had doubts and concerns about getting scientific publications, including in certain human or social sciences, translated. According to those people, when scientific research is done, language is more than just words, it is a way of thinking about and seeing things. It would not necessarily be possible to translate every scientific publication.
What do you think?
In fact, many countries are already making a tremendous effort to get the sum total of knowledge available translated into their national language because those countries understand that these translations are needed for their citizens, their students and their researchers. Countries are even translating old books, such as books of German, Russian or Chinese philosophy, into national languages. I am thinking about Arabic, for example, which is my mother tongue. Countries are devoting a tremendous amount to the publication of translated works.
Professional translation is feasible. It takes an effort to create the necessary infrastructure such as the development and publication of terminologies, for example. I know that Canada and Quebec are very strong in developing terminologies. We have offered solutions to the entire world in French and in English and we can continue that effort. This takes a lot of investment, and obviously some concepts are different, but when we translate the work of a German philosopher into French, there is an art to the translation. We know how to translate them and how to transfer the terminology into the target language.
I dare say it is feasible.
Yes, indeed, it is very important. These are directives, policies and policy movements that governments currently adhere to, that are in favour of open science and open access.
In Europe, Plan S, developed by cOAlition S, requires governments to subscribe to this movement to make full open access to research a reality. It is accompanied by measures and technical requirements that publishers must comply with. It is truly a political movement, a political framework that prescribes open access and open science with a view to augmenting the discoverability, development and dissemination of science, as well as respond to the problems we are facing with commercial publishers.
For the second part of your question, in the United States, the White House published a directive to every federal agency to implement programs over the next few years prescribing and dictating open access to research funded by the government
I'd like to turn now to Dr. El Zaïm just to get some clarification. I think Monsieur Blanchette-Joncas was talking about these things. You mentioned your first two recommendations were that Canada must commit to translation of some research documents, and that the translations should be disseminated freely. I'm just wondering if you could comment on the practicality of that with copyright issues and with costs, if it's done freely.
Is this going to be restricted to materials that are coming from open access journals, or will it also include the standard journals of science, for instance, where there's going to be a copyright cost, but there's also going to be, I think, a considerable cost to translate? Maybe you could comment and, say, give a guesstimate on how much it would cost to translate a standard research paper.
Thank you for your question.
I do not have a business plan for a national project like that. I am working from the experience in other countries and other organizations that publish. In Canada, the Translation Bureau could possibly do a feasibility study like that. We know that the efforts are there.
Of course, we are talking about publishing most articles, but especially based on need and in the directions we want. As such, do we need to publish in French more articles on artificial intelligence that were originally written in English? Should they be translated into French or vice-versa?
I am not talking about a $100,000 project or a one-year project. This is a lifelong project, a national project that a country should engage in. It is an ongoing process.
Canadian leadership needs to be reaffirmed and strengthened. International communities, francophone and non-francophone alike, are watching us closely and asking for our collaboration. I would even say that Canada has a role to play in order to help save French in some francophone countries. There is some international competition in that regard.
Some francophone countries are becoming anglicized. I was in Tunisia and Morocco recently, and I visited more anglophone universities than francophone ones. The people I met addressed me in English more than in French. I have nothing against English, on the contrary. I want everyone to speak more than one language. That being said, it pains me to see French regress or even disappear.
Canada, Quebec and every other province must be leaders in the international Francophonie. We need to regain our place.
Thank you, Dr. El Zaïm.
To add to what you just said, the Agence universitaire de la francophonie, which has more than 80 member countries, is headquartered in Quebec.
Ms. Niemann, it is good to see you in person.
We know that there has been a global trend of publishing scientific papers in English for decades. As I said earlier, only 8% of learned publications created in Canada since 1960 are in French, and 17% are bilingual. In that difficult context, how can a platform like Érudit find success?
Thank you very much for that question.
Érudit is a platform that is almost 25 years old and growing every year. With its current capacity, 20 to 25 new titles can be added each year, sometimes 30. Very few of them are in French. They are mostly bilingual or come from English-only publications.
I do not think the platform is overloaded yet. Year in and year out, our services to the research community are in high demand. New publications are created, and others want to pick up a subject that was abandoned to get in touch with international colleagues and build networks. Indeed, vibrant research communities often form around specific publications.
Instead of working in silos, we obviously keep developing French content, in parallel with English content, and integrating it into international networks.
Let us not forget the importance of international collaboration with platforms that share content in languages other than English. We have to keep working with colleagues in France and Latin and South America, where there is a strong tendency—a tradition, even—to publish in non-commercial publications.
Érudit has an annual budget of about $4.3 million, approximately 18% of which comes from founding universities. Their contribution includes, for instance, financing the space that my team of 40 Érudit employees uses at the University of Montreal. Sometimes, the financing comes as in-kind contributions.
Starting this year, the Government of Quebec provides $500,000, an amount that was recently increased. Revenues from university libraries amount to $1.4 million. The rest of our $4.3 million budget comes from the federal government, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Thank you for the question.
I think it's really important to have a national plan for open science and open access.
Such a plan must be linked to research funding and grants programs. What is going on right now in university libraries must be taken into account as well, because they want to contribute to open science and open access to cast off the burden of having to pay the big commercial publishers. We also need to work with universities and reclaim the editorial and learned publishing process to fully support it, both horizontally and vertically, so that we are no longer left to the whims of big commercial publishers.
I think that support for learned publications has to be based on public funding and a strong national plan for open science. Other countries have already taken these steps. We need to think about how digital infrastructure is set up. Everything we do relates to technology. Our open technology and digital infrastructure are based on human data and know-how, which has to be protected for longer than what two-year research grants allow. We need to retain and invest in the workforce to see long-term results and achieve greater capacity in the future.
Making sure that policies and programs are in line is also important. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult from an operational standpoint to take the next steps in development and innovation to compete with the major players, who are still commercial in nature at this point.
Very quickly, then, Professor El Zaïm, we've heard from multiple witnesses that all stakeholders need to play a role in encouraging and increasing the number of French research publications in Canada.
In your recommendations to us, in your opening statement, you mentioned, quite clearly, what you expect from the federal government. What role do post-secondary institutions in the province play in the recommendations you provided to us earlier this evening?
I'll take that in written form, if I could, Madam Chair, because I think I'm out of time at this point.
Thank you for the question.
I fully support it. Every day, my work at Érudit aims to promote open access and outreach. We consider ourselves lucky to have the support we already have from the governments of Quebec and Canada.
However, in order to grow, have a greater reach and have more influence—an aspect on which we have to work on, as has been made abundantly clear here—even more concerted efforts are needed to advance open science and open access.
We need concrete action for publications and better grants to allow them to transition to the open access model and break free from the current economic framework. People are struggling with that right now. No one is against open access, but we have to find ways to finance the transition to open access and implement tools and services needed to support this publishing model. We have to find ways to do it and to invest in this.
Yes. I already shared it with my colleagues who are here in person. I will read it. The clerk can then forward it to members who are participating virtually. I move:
That the committee again invite the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, to testify as part of the study on research and scientific publication in French during one of the meetings of the committee to be held during the month of November.
I will give a bit of context, colleagues. I have made previous requests for the to appear before our committee. The clerk made the arrangements, but the minister refused, unfortunately. We do not know why. He probably has a pretty busy schedule. Nevertheless, I want to give him the opportunity to appear.
This study matters a lot to me. Moreover, since we are examining the modernization of the Official Languages Act and the government has recognized the decline of French, the circumstances seem appropriate.
I really want the minister to join us for this study, explain what his policy direction is and tell us what this committee can do to help him implement measures to increase the presence of French in scientific research and publication in Canada.
I ask for your support to allow the minister to appear before this committee.
Dear colleagues, I'm going to call us back to order.
Welcome back to the committee.
We are on our second panel tonight. I'd like to welcome and thank our witnesses for being so gracious.
This panel goes until 8:30 tonight.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of the new witnesses.
Before speaking, please wait for me to say your name. If you are participating by videoconference, click on the microphone icon to activate your microphone. Please put yourself on mute when you are not speaking.
For the interpretation, if you are participating in the meeting via Zoom, you have a choice of channels, at the bottom of your screen, between floor, English and French. If you are in the room, you can use the headset and select the channel you want.
I would remind you that all comments by members and witnesses must be addressed to the chair.
I would now like to welcome our witnesses, who are appearing as individuals.
We have Janice Bailey, scientific director, nature et technologies, Fonds de recherche du Québec. We also have Yves Gingras, professor of history and sociology of science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Each will have five minutes to present. At the four and a half minute mark, I will hold up this card to let you know that you have 30 seconds left. We aim to be fair.
Once again, a warm welcome to our witnesses.
We'll begin with Janice Bailey, please, for five minutes.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I've chosen to speak in English. I thought I was going to be speaking in French, but when I did my homework, I realized that most of the members of the committee have a preference for English. I'm certainly functional in both languages, however.
My name is Janice Bailey, and as mentioned, I am the scientific director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec, nature et technologies, or the FRQNT, which is one of three government organizations supporting and promoting research in Quebec.
Before taking this position in 2019, I was a professor-researcher at Université Laval for 25 years, specializing in the field of reproduction. I worked on animals, humans and the effects of the environment on the health of future generations. I speak today in this consultation on my own behalf.
I'm from Brandon, Manitoba. I am anglophone. I started my research career in English at the University of Manitoba and continued through the University of Guelph and the Perelman school of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
I developed my expertise, my reputation as an expert and my network of contacts in an English-speaking world, but I was offered a position as a professor at Université Laval in 1994. Thus, my husband, who is also a researcher and an anglophone from southern Ontario, and I decided to continue our adventure in the scientific community in French, and we headed for Quebec. It was difficult because neither I nor my husband spoke French very well at the time, but it paid off in the end. Actually, this ability to speak French has provided us with tremendous access to rich scientific communities and networks, which has considerably broadened our professional opportunities. I would not be in this chair today if I did not speak French.
We have conducted research projects in both languages, disseminated our knowledge in both languages and established valuable collaborations in Quebec, Canada, and elsewhere in the world in English and in French. Although we speak English at home, our days are in French, and our son, who is now an adult, studied in French in high school, CEGEP and university. We really believe in the importance of French.
This openness to French has also allowed me to see that research knowledge is partly invisible if it's only in English. The English language is certainly the first language of science in the world, but it is essential to have access to scientific knowledge produced in other languages. In Canada, we have French, of course, but we also have indigenous languages.
We must not or cannot really fight science in English, and that's not my point, but we need to promote it better in French, including research and publications in French. Science is conducted for the well-being and progress of society. Science in French, or any other language, is just as important as science in English. Restricting science to a single language drastically limits its accessibility. As a professor, for those 25 years, I taught in French and regularly conducted public outreach activities in French, often with my graduate students.
Access to knowledge produced in different languages is particularly important in areas such as the natural sciences. I emphasize that access to indigenous vocabulary and traditional knowledge should enhance our understanding of, for example, biodiversity sciences. The future of the planet is at stake, and languages participate in this knowledge and circulation of knowledge.
The circulation of knowledge in a variety of languages also strengthens public confidence in science and research. The phenomenon of misinformation, however, has grown over the past decade, particularly with the emergence of social media.
Scientific information is one of the victims of this misinformation, and disinformation hinders the link between science and society. It undermines the credibility of scientific information and has consequences for individual and collective decision-making and policies on important issues. Access to quality knowledge in a variety of languages based on robust data developed by science and research should be a societal priority. Personally, I don't really like social media, but I pay attention to it. The FRQNT is very active in promoting research in French.
Canada is a rich country—among the richest in the world. We complain, but we are very privileged. Our wealth comes with an obligation to share, especially with less-privileged countries. Scientific knowledge is part of our wealth and must circulate freely. It must be accessible to as many people as possible. This is access that passes through language. The French-speaking scientific communities of Canada and Quebec can be and should be very proactive and build bridges with French-speaking scientific communities where the needs are very great. For example, I have worked—
Thank you for this invitation. I imagine that I have been invited here because I have been working on the issue of the transformation of science for nearly 40 years. In 1984, I published the first article offering a sociological explanation for what is called the value of a language in a scientific field. In 1991, I participated in a study commissioned by the Government of Quebec on the presence of French in scientific publications. I have also worked with Camille Limoges, who for a long time held the position of deputy minister in Quebec, on a study on the use of manuals in science courses. What strikes me is the reason why we are back here, 40 years later, discussing the same problem: it is because we use general, conflated categories that are not sufficiently precise.
I am therefore going to use the three minutes I have left to at least untangle the problems. I want to make sure that the action the government takes is rational and effective. I am going to show you that it is very easy to have visions that are generous but are inapplicable and do not correspond with the reality and dynamics of science.
The first of these is that we have to stop talking about science in general terms. It doesn't mean anything. We have to separate the natural sciences, on one hand, from the social sciences and humanities, on the other, for one very simple reason: the dynamics in the scientific community of researchers is totally different.
Since the early 1980s, in the natural sciences, for example physics, chemistry or biology, the universal language of academic journals has been English. That must not be confused with the teaching of science in francophone universities, which is done in French, and the language of manuals or course notes, which also have to be in French. On the one hand, we have the market for scientific publishing; on the other, life in the laboratory. In my opinion, in a laboratory at the Université de Montréal, for example, things have to be done in French; the teaching has to be in French and the manuals have to be accessible in that language. So we must not talk about science in general terms.
When an electron is discovered, for example, that is very specialized. We have this generous idea that the public must have access to the knowledge because it is the public who are paying, but that is absurd. With all due respect, I have to say that probably no one among you here would understand an article about artificial intelligence. That is not a big deal, since the function of francophone science journalists and popular science journals in French, like Québec Science, is to make very technical knowledge accessible in French, for example regarding quantum computers, knowledge that is generally published in very specialized academic journals. Québec Science is in French. Knowledge is being made accessible in French by Quebec researchers like Yoshua Bengio who publish their fundamental work in the language of computing, which is English.
We therefore have to stop mixing everything together and thinking that translating all scientific publications into both languages will have an effect. A bit later, if we have time, I will tell you about France, where that exact experiment was done, and I predicted its failure. Ten years later, in fact, a stop was put to the experiment, which consisted of systematically translating sociology and political science journals that were completely in English, as if there was a pre-existing market, when there was no demand. Millions of euros were wasted because physics, sociology, history and mathematics were mixed together. The dynamics of the scientific communities are different and that has to be taken into account.
In the case of French, the most important thing for us is to make sure that the practices followed in the natural sciences are not applied to the social sciences and humanities. That is what is being done in the universities by evaluating so-called international journals. A little earlier in the meeting, the term "impact factor" was used. Impact factor is an obsession in the natural sciences that has been transposed to the social sciences. I have written an entire book on that subject. I showed how widespread the confusion was between the impact factor, which measures the impact of an academic journal's impact, and the article itself. They are not the same thing. There is a huge amount of confusion.
In a spirit of generosity, it is thought that translating scientific articles is suddenly going to make the science more visible. I hope I will have time during the question period that follows to show you in detail that if we want to solve problems, we have to explain what we are talking about every time. Are we talking about research in physics or in sociology? Are we talking about the Érudit platform or open access? Are we talking about Plan S open access in Europe? These are all different things, and when they are all mixed together, it creates confusion and ineffectiveness.
Honestly, I believe some of the comments that might occur could be anecdotal.
Certainly, writing scientifically in a language that is not your mother tongue.... Even now, after 30 years, it's harder for me to write in French than in English, but I do it all the time. It is hard to write. I think you need some extra help to write in a different language. Certainly, for anglophones writing in French, it's a lot harder. You need some help to be concise. Scientific writing is ultraconcise. Our grant applications are very small, so you're always asked to keep things trim. You need help.
I'm not sure if I answered appropriately, but, yes, it's hard. From one language to the other, it's hard. It's hard for me to write science applications in English and, probably, hard in French for people with French.
Yes. In practice, when we're talking about science in English, we're talking about the natural sciences.
You just gave the example of grant applications. That's, again, a different question. When you apply to SSHRC, NSERC or CIHR, there are, in fact, statistical data by SSHRC that follow up the rate of success for francophones and anglophones to be sure there is no bias.
They follow that up because that's a real question for a very simple reason. If you apply in French at SSHRC and they want Canadians to evaluate this, in practice, although most francophone university professors are bilingual, you cannot say the same of anglophone university professors, who are not bilingual. In being bilingual, you should again distinguish between reading French and English, speaking French, and writing French or English. I do all three of them, but some can read but don't talk. We have to be precise.
For your question, SSHRC will give you the exact number of the rate of success. The reason it's different, and this is my point of view.... The tendency of the three organizations to think that SSHRC should be with NSERC and the three councils should be all together is very nice, but there is a perverse effect to applying the same criteria to social sciences and humanities because social sciences are what I call in sociology “indexical”. They are local.
When I work on Brother Marie-Victorin about Quebec science, it would be absurd to publish that in English in Australia. First, they wouldn't be interested. Second, the Quebec people won't read about Marie-Victorin. If I talk about galaxies, there are no Quebec galaxies and there are no Canadian galaxies. Galaxies are universal.
The history of the language used in social sciences and humanities is different from the history of the use of language and English. The problem we now have—and I could give examples in French—is that they think that being international in social sciences means writing in English.
I wrote a paper explaining that the statistical analysis is false. For 10 years, they translated the Revue française de sociologie to English. It had no more citations for a simple reason. If you are an American working on France, you already read French. If you don't read French, it's because you're not working on France.
Even if I translate the paper for you, you would not read it. It's not because it's not good; it's because it's not your field. There's a total confusion about all those things.
Thank you to both of our witnesses for being with us tonight. It's fascinating.
I agree with MP Soroka. It's quite fascinating, Ms. Bailey, that you did all your study and everything in English. You were from Manitoba, yet you've made your career in French. That's really quite remarkable and commendable.
Anyway, I was interested in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, or DORA. It sets out recommendations to improve the ways in which scientific research is evaluated, including moving away from journal-based metrics as a measure of research quality.
The Fonds de recherche du Québec announced in 2020 that they're signatories of DORA. The committee here has heard testimony to date that an overreliance on journal publications as an indicator of research quality can penalize researchers publishing in French due to the relatively small number of francophone journals and a relatively limited audience in comparison to English.
What has the implementation of DORA principles looked like at Fonds de recherche du Québec?
That's a wonderful question.
When we talk about DORA, we tend to talk quite a lot about the impact factor. Professor Gingras mentioned the historical importance of impact factor, particularly to my field in natural sciences, where people will look at different journals and they have different impact factors. We've tended to use that, historically, as a sign of research quality. If you publish a paper in Cell, we tend to say it's a good paper, even if we haven't read it. If you publish it in the journal of growing carrots, we think it can't be that interesting because it's only growing carrots.
That's terrible because the important thing is that it's publicly funded research. It's important to get that information out to the scientific community anyway and I think that impact comes with time.
We signed the declaration of San Francisco in 2020, so it's still a culture change that I am personally trying to help our research community adapt to. The FRQNT is small, but we have a large force. I think we could nudge scientific culture a little bit, along with others.
Forgive me, Ms. Bradford, if I'm not answering your question perfectly well.
Right now I think the important message is that the research is published in peer-reviewed journals and that this information is accessible as widely as possible. That's what's important. It's not necessarily in which journal you publish.
I think there could be a positive change because, for instance, I still have a couple of students who are hanging around, and I would really like to see and encourage them to publish in French. Sometimes francophone students in francophone universities might be slow to publish in English. It's very daunting for them sometimes to send out that last article in English, but if I could say, “Publish it in French. Write it in French, and you'll have it for your thesis”, then I think that students and their professors might be a lot more open to submitting and publishing in French and sharing their information in French.
I really appreciate what Professor Gingras said about how perhaps just translating everything that's already published in English and French is maybe not useful, but that doesn't mean that a fundamental piece of research that would be published in French wouldn't be useful. I think that would be very interesting. I think especially review articles, which are a phenomenon in natural sciences, are very useful, and I think there's a huge space.
In fact, I would love it if in Quebec we could have journals with review articles that we could write collectively with others around the world. These kinds of journals would be so helpful to francophone nations. I visited Mali. They don't speak English. They don't have access to English literature anyway, so it doesn't matter. They don't have very much access to anything, and I think that if we could have these reviews or journals in French, they would be such a great resource. Those articles are maybe easier for the general public or the highly educated public to read, as opposed to fundamental research papers, which can be very difficult, as Professor Gingras rightly said.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to welcome the witnesses who are joining us for the second hour of our meeting.
My questions will be for Professor Gingras.
Thank you for being here, Professor Gingras, and thank you for helping to untangle the question and make the distinction between the social sciences and humanities and the natural sciences.
I want to make sure I have correctly understood the distinction that you say we have to make. On the one hand, there is scientific publishing in English; on the other hand, there are teaching and making knowledge accessible, which have to be done in French, particularly in Quebec, but also in francophone communities outside Quebec.
If I understand your position correctly, systematic translation is not a good solution and is not something that is done in certain natural sciences. Is that accurate?
Not just that it is not done, but if it were done, as the experiment was tried in France, it would be a failure.
In the case of the natural sciences, we have a natural experiment. In sociology, it is not always possible to experiment, because that is not ethical, but there is experimentation nonetheless.
France spent millions of dollars at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique to translate the entire Revue française de sociologie because they thought it was not international enough. That was false, but it is what they believed. They said that if they translated the entire journal into English, it would become international. That is ridiculous. I measured the citations effects, from a bibliometrics perspective, over ten years, and found that the effect was virtually nil. Why? For the reasons I explained: the work in that journal relates to France.
Similarly, the American Journal of Sociology is not an international journal; it is an American sociology journal. In fact, 90 per cent of its authors are Americans.
The social sciences and humanities field is not the same field as the natural sciences. Why? Because it is indexical. Quebec society relies on Quebec sociology journals like Recherches sociographiques or Sociologie et sociétés. Similarly, there are The British Journal of Sociology, the American Journal of Sociology or the Revue française de sociologie elsewhere.
Are there physics journals specific to each country? No. I am also a physicist and, as such, I am a member of the American Physical Society. Why? Because the work done by Americans in physics is important. When we talk about electrons, for example, we often speak in English.
So the social sciences have to be put in a separate category.
In addition, we have to invest where it is necessary. For example, if the Polity Press asks to have the book I have written in French translated into English, then it is worth subsidizing the translation. However, if it is to be translated simply because it falls within a generalized request for translation, that is absurd, it is money wasted.
What happened in France? In 2017 or 2018, the French stopped translating everything, after finally understanding what I was trying to get them to understand. The empirical data that I collected actually showed it; translating everything is irrational in economic and scientific terms. Deciding to translate everything means conflating what my father is going to read and what the scientific community is going to read; my father is going to read Québec Science, but he will not read an article about artificial intelligence written by Yoshua Bengio, who won the Turing prize. That is absurd.
It is important to separate things properly and invest in the right place.
In the natural sciences, French has an important presence when it comes to teaching. However, a situation may arise in which a francophone university hires someone who has an excellent reputation but is unable to speak a word in French, in the name of international competition.
A few years ago, Le Devoir published a letter from a student enrolled in physics at the Université de Montréal. She had arrived at her master's seminar class and realized that the class was in English, when in fact, as she said, she had not enrolled at McGill University, she had enrolled at the Université de Montréal.
That is why I say that a distinction has to be made between teaching and publishing. If a person enrols in a master's program at the Université de Montréal and the professor does not speak French, they would have done better to enrol at McGill or Concordia University.
The chancellors have to stop saying that they want their universities to be competitive at the international level and at the same time that they offer programs in French. Often, you just can't eat your cake and have it too. So there are priorities other than what gets said. On that point, I'm being a bit blunt, since we have very little time. If we are serious, does international competition necessarily mean hiring a unilingual English-speaking person? Is that person really the best one? Thinking it's better because it's in English is a kind of colonialism; it is often false.
Thank you to the witnesses. This has been very interesting.
I'll start with Professor Bailey to maybe clarify something that Mr. Soroka mentioned about the success of applications in French.
I flipped back in my notes to Professor Fortin from NSERC, who mentioned that 26% of NSERC applicants are francophones, but only 10% of applications are submitted in French. He also said that the French applications from bilingual universities such as McGill and the University of Ottawa had more success than those submitted in English. It's not as Mr. Soroka was saying, or at least in that case. I couldn't find anything in general, but it seems that the French applications were as successful—or more successful, in those cases.
I'm wondering if you could comment on when you are submitting an application or working in a bilingual environment like the University of Ottawa or McGill and you have that community around you that can help you edit in French and things like that. We've heard this from some....
Very simply, it's the fact that once you have acquired a certain visibility, you will be given more quality than in fact you have. I think it's the case for English. I'll be very frank.
We talk about “rent”. You can have rent on petroleum, like Alberta, and you can just sit on the rent. There is a linguistic rent that we never talk about. In Quebec, McGill and Concordia have a linguistic rent. We think they are better in the world classification of universities. I know very well those rankings. I wrote a lot of stuff on them. It's a linguistic rent, because if you are only a francophone in the world they won't see you as much as they will see an anglophone: “Yes, we know very well McGill and Concordia. What is this Université du Québec à Montréal? What is that?”
There is a linguistic rent, and the Matthew effect is the same thing. For example, if I write a paper with my student, he signs his name beside mine. Since I am quite known, to some extent, they will say, “Gingras wrote this paper.” I can tell them, no, I wrote it with my student, but they won't care. I will get the credit for that. That's the Matthew effect.
The Matthew effect also has an effect on the impact factor. That's a very important paper that we did. We were able to prove that the impact factor in itself has a Matthew effect. This is why we should forbid the impact factor at NSERC. I've asked that for many years, but NSERC doesn't want to do that. It should be forbidden on the committee for a member to say, “The impact factor of this journal is higher.” It should be forbidden. That's easy to do. It's a criteria that they should do at CIHR and SSHRC. In fact, SSHRC doesn't use it, but NSERC has this mania in biomedical sciences. Mathematicians don't use it much, because they know it's garbage.
No. Personally, I don't believe in that. Science is based on excellence and on peer review. We just have to make sure that the peers have the tools to do the review properly.
The choice of the language of publication is up to the researcher, based on their publishing strategy. When I work on Brother Marie-Victorin, I write in French in Quebec. When I work on Albert Einstein, I write in English in an international journal, because my audience is not the same. When I write about electrons, my audience includes all electron experts, including the Chinese and Japanese. So I can't start burying my text and creating artificial journals.
The idea was mentioned earlier of creating synopsis journals. I would remind you that in the 1980s, a journal called médecine/sciences was created. It too was a failure, because the dynamics of science were misunderstood. Science is a sociological community that has its rules, and you have to know what they are before trying to transform them.
Thank you, everybody. I apologize for the delay.
I call this meeting back to order.
We are on our last panel of the evening.
I would like to thank our witnesses. It is very gracious of you to share your expertise and to come on Halloween.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of the new witnesses.
Wait for me to call your name before speaking. If you are participating by videoconference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mic, and please put yourself on mute when you are not speaking.
Regarding the interpretation, those who are participating in the meeting via Zoom may choose, at the bottom of the screen, between Floor, English and French; those who are in the room may use the headset and select the desired channel.
I would remind you that all remarks by members and witnesses must be addressed to the chair.
I'd now like to welcome our witnesses.
We are very fortunate tonight to have, from the Department of Industry, ISED—Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada—Nipun Vats, the assistant deputy minister, science and research sector; and from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, we have Valérie La Traverse, vice-president, corporate affairs.
We'd like to welcome you both. You will each have five minutes to present. At the four and a half minute mark, I will hold up this pink card so that you know you have 30 seconds. We aim to be fair to everyone.
With that, Dr. Vats, we look forward to your—
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the committee members for the invitation. I am pleased to be here with you today to testify.
I will take this opportunity to introduce, virtually, my colleague Valérie La Traverse, vice-president, corporate affairs, at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. I know the committee has already heard testimony from representatives of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council on this subject. I hope the Committee will find it useful to get an overview of the issue, because we work in collaboration with the other funding council on this subject as we do on a number of others.
I would like to start by giving you an overview of science and research in Canada and then discuss research and scientific publication in French.
As the global economy changes, Canada has all the ingredients needed to thrive. To support and protect Canadian research and science, the government has made total investments since 2016 of more than $14 billion. These investments are helping to cement Canada's position as a world leader in research and innovation and are building a global brand that will attract talent and capital for years to come.
Our workforce is one of the most educated in the world. We have world-class research institutions from which half a million students graduate each year. That places us as having the highest share of university or college graduates among OECD countries. We should also be proud of our scientific community. Despite representing just half a per cent of the global population, Canada generates more than 4% of global knowledge.
World-class research is made possible through domestic and international partnerships, including collaborations between researchers, companies and research institutions. We are committed to preserving a collaborative and open approach to science and discovery, while at the same time protecting Canadian research and intellectual property against foreign interference, espionage and theft.
To help ensure that investments in innovation, science and research maximize benefits to Canadians, the government's 2022 budget also provided funding for the implementation of the national security guidelines for research partnerships.
In sum, there is a range of building blocks necessary to build a strong economy and a secure, collaborative research system.
On the subject of this meeting, research and scientific publication in French, it is essential that we treat our two official languages equitably in order to allow the entire extent of the excellence in research at Canadian postsecondary institutions to be known. At Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the research funding agencies in the portfolio, that is, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research council, we ensure that our programs are harmonized with the government's objectives in key areas, including promoting equity, diversity and inclusion, and aligning with the policies and laws governing the official languages and scientific publications.
While the department does not fund or directly coordinate scientific publications and journals, it provides funds through contribution agreements with independent third party agencies that are engaged in funding and carrying out research and training and in promoting the sciences.
In order to promote the official languages, these contribution agreements require that the recipient body deliver its communications and services in both official languages and contribute to guaranteeing harmonization with the policies and obligations of the Government of Canada under the Official Languages Act.
For example, the Council of Canadian Academies, which is funded in part by the department, publishes its project summaries and full reports in both official languages on its website, making this research accessible to everyone.
Within ISED itself, the communications research centre, CRC, regularly publishes its research findings in online academic journals such as IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Springer. The CRC website provides a link to these journal articles found on a third party website, along with abstracts. Along with this, the CRC ensures that the abstracts on the CRC website are available in both English and French. In addition to research publications, the CRC also has research-related stories and videos in both English and French on its website.
As the principle funders of research and associated training, the granting councils adhere to the relevant policies and laws that govern official languages and publishing. They have the systems, processes, personnel and capacity they need to thoroughly evaluate the scientific merit of an application, whether it is written in French or in English.
Maybe I'll just note here that you've already heard from my colleague Marc Fortin, from NSERC, about the success of French applications for NSERC competitions, and I think Valérie will speak a bit to you on SSHRC's core programs, which have success rates similar to or better than applications submitted in English for the talent grants, insight grants and partnership grants.
In the interest of time, Madam Chair, I'm wondering how much time is left.
Good evening, everyone.
I am Valérie La Traverse, vice-president, corporate affairs, at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, or SSHRC. I am responsible for policy, strategy, performance, evaluation, audit and international relations at SSHRC
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about SSHRC's efforts to support French-language research and publishing. Thank you as well for your leadership on research and science in Canada.
As many of you know, SSHRC is the federal research funding agency that promotes and supports research and research training in the social sciences and humanities in Canada. SSHRC also administers interagency programs on behalf of the three federal research funding agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC. These interagency programs include amongst others the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and the New Frontiers in Research Fund.
Canadian social sciences and humanities research is helping address some of the most critical challenges we face as a society, domestically and globally, be it pandemic recovery, economic growth, environmental sustainability, affordable housing or reconciliation.
Fundamentally, it's about building a sustainable, just and prosperous society.
SSHRC has a genuine interest in supporting Canadian research in both official languages. As a federal entity, SSHRC must, of course, comply with Canada's official languages legislation. But it is more than an obligation, as SSHRC is committed to increasing the impact of Canadian social sciences and humanities research conducted and published in French.
It is indeed essential to connect with and capitalize on the wealth of ideas and knowledge produced in French, to increase the pool of solutions to pressing global issues that concern us all.
As you know, research and scholarship are increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative, both here and abroad. That is why it is so important that the researchers we fund be able to participate fully in international collaborations in both English and French.
Looking broadly at Canada in the global context, linguistic duality is an asset for Canada and the Canadian research system. It allows SSHRC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, to assess and fund research and research training in both official languages, strengthening the research enterprise, opening larger horizons and increasing solutions that contribute to building the Canada and world we want for today and tomorrow.
Looking more regionally within Canada, we see how important it is for official-language minority communities to have access to a local, regional post-secondary institution operating in the minority language. We realize that, for francophone communities outside Quebec, these institutions—often small in size—have a huge impact on the vitality of the community as an employer, for education and skills development, for local innovation and as a community hub.
SSHRC is pleased to support these communities through both institutional and individual grants for research, research training and knowledge mobilization.
I have been working in the public service for over 20 years, and I am truly impressed by the strength of SSHRC's workforce, which is very bilingual, and by the organizational culture, which is also very bilingual. Thanks to this, our activities are thought out in both languages and take into account linguistic duality.
In conclusion, at SSHRC we are always looking for international best practices and challenges facing the Francophone research community in Canada, to ensure greater equity in the funding and dissemination of research in French.
Thank you for the question.
I guess, at a very basic level, the publication costs for those journals that actually require you to pay for publication costs are an eligible expense under grants from the granting council, so there is that level of support.
The other thing is that, when it comes to peer-review processes for grant awards, I think there isn't a really strong attempt to ensure there is a level playing field between the two languages, and that's borne out by some of the statistics around the success rates, although, granted, a smaller proportion generally of francophone researchers actually submit their applications in French than would be the case if you were going by population share. There may be something to look at in that.
Outside the province of Quebec, there are institutions that are either bilingual or francophone in nature, and they provide supports to their researchers. Beyond that, there are other opportunities for publication, like open access types of publications that allow for publications to be provided in either official language. They also are an effective way of disseminating materials.
There are a range of supports. I don't think there's a single magic solution to the problem, but I think when it comes to the actual financial support that's provided through federal government programming, the efforts are to try to ensure that merit does not discount one language versus the other.
As a supplemental to that, first I'll go to what you submitted earlier. You talked about requiring organizations to conform with the policies under the Official Languages Act, you talked about a level playing field just now, and you've used other language that talks about ensuring equitable treatment of both languages. I think some of the witnesses we've heard today have talked about the challenges and barriers they face when submitting grant applications. In the context of those constructive criticisms that the committee has heard, what changes have been made over the last number of years to create the environment that you opened with, as it relates to creating that level playing field?
There seems to be some disagreement from those who are submitting grants that it may not be level today, as we speak and as we undertake this study. What would you argue in defence, in terms of the changes that have been made over the years that try to create the environment that you've presented here this evening?
If I may, I am going to answer in English, because it will be easier for me. I apologize. Sometimes, it is a bit difficult for me to manage in French on certain subjects, like this one.
The language of publication or language of application is somewhat reflective of the language of work in a discipline as well. I would like to hope, although I don't have evidence to this effect, that applicants who are francophone, if they choose to apply in English, it's reflective of the fact that their work environment, when it comes to communication of scientific knowledge, is more in English than in French. This may be the nature of certain disciplines of research.
To be honest, I don't have enough detailed data to be able to validate that. I can certainly say that when it comes to the natural sciences and engineering disciplines, the vast majority of research communication is done in English. It may be the case that this influences the choice of language of the application itself. Again, that is not based on analysis.
Thank you, Mr. Vats. Im going to try to ask you more precise questions. You can share your data with us then.
I want to come back to funding applications received by the granting agencies. I am trying to learn whether there is an imbalance when it comes to the proportions in French and English, not for the success rate, but for the amounts awarded for each official language. Can you provide us with the relevant data covering the last 20 years?
I also want to talk about the share of research funding that is allocated to francophone and anglophone universities, not just in Quebec, but also in francophone minority communities. Have you noticed a trend develop in the last 20 years? I would like an answer from your department on that subject.
I want to come back to the example of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The fact is that 50 per cent of francophones in Canada decide to submit an application in English. Has your department observed this? What measures and mechanisms have been put in place by your department to encourage francophones by enabling them to submit their applications in their language and do research and publish in the official language of their choice?
Thank you to both witnesses.
I want to follow up on some of the questions Monsieur Blanchette-Joncas was asking, perhaps with Ms. La Traverse of SSHRC.
We've heard from NSERC. Monsieur Fortin gave us an example. I think it was that 26% of applicants were francophone, but only 10% of the applications were in French. He gave some data, which I think was restricted to McGill and the University of Ottawa, that the French applications there for NSERC had greater success than the English applications.
I'm wondering if SSHRC has similar data. Maybe you're not aware of the exact numbers today, but perhaps we could get a written answer in the near future from SSHRC for those data. What is the proportion of applications to SSHRC from francophones, how many are presented in French and how many are in English proportionately, and what is the success rate of those different applications, French versus English? Is that something we could get for the committee?
Yes, absolutely. I could tell you that for the last 10 years the application rates in French for all our programs range from 15% to 19%, and it really depends on the particular program or financing opportunity. Those numbers have been quite steady over the last 10 years.
In terms of the award rate for applications in French, again we've seen that they've been quite steady. It ranges from 14% to 26%, again, depending on the funding opportunity. We tend to have a higher award rate for our partnership programs, but that could be due to a number of factors. All that is to say that it's been quite steady over the last 10 years. We haven't really seen a lot of dips or any free-falling, as was referred to earlier.
I would also say that in the year 2021-22, and I'd invite.... I'm happy to provide you with our report on competitions, but we actually saw a higher success rate in the aggregate among French applicants last year. Again, we do an evaluation, a review and a report every year on all our competitions, broken down by funding opportunity, programs, language and French language, so I think you'd find that quite interesting.
As I mentioned, we have institutional grants for universities. We have supplements for smaller universities, which tend to be the francophone universities you're speaking about. We also, through our research support fund—as I mentioned earlier—have a calculation in which we provide, potentially, a higher proportion of indirect costs to those institutions.
I might add that those institutional grants can be used to support research activities in those universities. The university could choose to use that institutional grant—the funds—to promote French-language research in their institution.
I would also say that we're very active in terms of outreach. Our president visits these universities frequently—obviously, not during COVID. However, we are there. We go and listen. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, SSHRC, as an organization, believes in the bilingual character of our country. We make it a point to visit those institutions in order to understand what their concerns might be.
Dr. Vats referred to this earlier, and I didn't have an opportunity to say it: I would also add that 25% of our reviewers correspond in French in our merit review committees. That's quite an important figure. We also ask that all merit reviewers have bilingual capacity.
I hope that answers your question in terms of the support we provide for those minority-language institutions outside Quebec.
There are a number of layers to that.
At one level, a lot of what we're doing, in addition to supporting investigator-led, inquiry-based research, is also on the other end of it, trying to better connect the outputs of research to society and to the economy. That's done through some of the programs that have been developed through the councils. It's also done through some of the programs through ISED that try to promote innovations moving from the lab to the marketplace. Those sorts of business supports are provided in both official languages.
There's an effort to try to connect researchers across the country to companies across the country wherever the strengths may be, and a lot of our programs try to take that national platform approach.
I see that the chair has signalled time. I don't know if I have time to finish the answer.