Madam Chair, Vice-Chairs, and members of the committee, I would like to thank you for the invitation to participate in this first meeting in connection with your study on research and scientific publication in French. I congratulate you on your choice of this particular subject.
Protecting and promoting research and scientific publication in French is important, not only for disseminating and mobilizing knowledge, but also for the French language to continue to be promoted and flourish. In the words of author-composer-performer Daniel Lavoie, French is a language that thinks, a beautiful and proud language.
Much ink has been spilled in the last 40 years and more about research and scientific publication in French. The work of colleagues like Vincent Larivière, at the Université de Montréal, and Richard Marcoux, at Laval University, show the urgency of the need to examine this question now.
Like Quebec's chief scientist, Rémi Quirion, I believe we need to do more to promote research in French, learned publications and popular publications for the general public, not only among the scientific committee, but also among the communities affected by research, and francophone communities in general. In so doing, we will raise Canada's profile in the francophone world and beyond.
I was delighted when the Quebec Research Funds launched the Publication en français award. I was even envious, since we have nothing like it in Ontario. It is a wonderful incentive to encourage and promote publication in French.
I am grateful for the various supports offered for Canadian francophone and bilingual journals in the social sciences and humanities and in the fine arts and literature, a majority of which are available in the open access collection on the Érudit platform. The reality, however, is that scientific publications in French and promotion of scientific knowledge in French are declining. The work done by Vincent Larivière confirms a significant drop in the creation of new scientific journals in French in the world in general, but particularly in Canada.
Creation of the Érudit platform has certainly been of crucial importance to the recognition of scientific publication in French in Canada and internationally. However, Prof. Richard Marcoux at Laval University has demonstrated the precariousness of the very existence of Canadian scholarly journals, in particular those in French or in both official languages, because of their limited readership. While they do not represent a business opportunity for foreign publishing houses or for the organizations that might fund them, these publications meet a need for information about important Canadian issues that are of interest not just for Canada, but also for the rest of the world.
The work done by Prof. Marcoux on scientific publication in the humanities in Canada shows that francophone researchers draw heavily on research in English, while their anglophone counterparts do not return the favour. This is a genuine problem, since a language is more than words: it is a culture and a way of thinking and seeing the world. If we ignore it, we are putting blinkers on.
My experience as a leader at the University of Ottawa has confirmed that some young researchers are worried about the negative effects of publishing in French when the time comes to evaluate their application for tenure or promotion.
Journals in French are generally not indexed. Choosing to publish in French means choosing to be cited less often. Some people consider that choice negatively instead of recognizing the importance of promoting our language and ensuring dissemination of scientific knowledge in our language.
How, then, are we to promote research and publication in French among Canada's emerging researchers, the young and the not so young?
The lack of publications in French presents challenges for me when I am designing university courses in French. I have no choice but to use publications in English in a course given in French, which is particularly problematic for a master's course on language policy and planning in Canada, for example. How can this situation be justified to francophone students coming from outside Canada, or students who expect that all, or at least most, of their lectures will be in French?
My research does not deal directly with this subject, but it does highlight a secondary, not to say perverse, effect of the linguistic homogenization of research: the low number of master's and doctoral theses written in French. That reinforces the stereotype that in order to do science, you have to do it in English.
That creates a vicious circle when it comes time to move from elementary school to secondary school, or choose a field of postsecondary study. At university, some people believe that to succeed and be published, they have to study in English, since that is the language that science is published in.
That is what I feel personally when I do my research, when I hear young people tell me why they left French-language secondary school, why they enrolled in a program in English, or why they chose to do their thesis in English even though they are enrolled in a program in French.
In Ontario, French-language secondary schools first came into being in about 1969...