I'd like to begin by thanking the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, the committee chair, and all members of the committee for having given us the opportunity to discuss and formulate recommendations on research and publication in French in Canada.
This subject is central to our research community and our work at the Federation for the Humanities, which I have the pleasure of representing today as vice-chair of its board of directors.
As the national voice for the humanities, the federation supports a diverse community of 91,000 researchers. We actively support research in French in all of our activities, including the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Canada’s largest gathering of academics, which has contributed to the publication of 288 books in French since 2010.
During the cross-Canada official languages consultations held a little earlier this year, we emphasized that the government should address the specific challenges being faced by francophone researchers.
Access to studies in French at the master's and doctoral levels is essential if francophones are to be able to continue their studies in their language to the highest levels.
Having francophone graduate students and postdoctoral fellows is also indispensable for teams wishing to conduct their research work in French at universities in all parts of Canada. The government must support future generations of students conducting research in French, because we need their contributions to ensure a better understanding of the issues being faced by francophone communities, and to lead Canada towards a brighter future.
According to the Acfas report entitled "Portrait et défis de la recherche en français en contexte minoritaire au Canada", research in French is declining. The report gives extremely instructive examples, including the fact that French-language periodicals account for only 8% of scholarly journals created since the 1960s in Canada, and that the percentage of publications in French is steadily declining. The report also points out that researchers in francophone minority communities receive very little support from master's and PhD students in conducting their research in French, given the limited availability of graduate programs in French in their institutions.
The fact is that many francophone students who live outside Quebec are required to make the choice of either moving to continue their education in French at major universities with a broader range of graduate programs, or switching to English to continue their studies closer to home. This has been accentuating the dominance of English as their careers in science progress, and lowering the likelihood of their research objectives meeting the needs of francophone communities.
Enhanced funding would attenuate these inequalities and further support research in French in Canada, particularly in contexts where the vitality of the French language has become more vulnerable.
That being the case, we have two recommendations to make. The first is to increase financial support for graduate studies and and postdoctoral fellowships. The second is to invest in open access publishing in French.
We applaud the Standing Committee on Science and Research for recommending an increase in the number of scholarships for graduate studies and postdoctoral fellowships, and increasing their value by 25%, in addition to indexing them to the consumer price index. However, based on our calculations, a considerable increase in the size of these scholarships is required if they are to retain their value, given the inflation rate over the past two decades.
Generally speaking, we also need to think about equity issues in terms of education for the next generation of francophone researchers. As Acfas recommended, we need to ensure that success rates for funding applications are equivalent for francophone and anglophone researchers. Where inequalities persist, additional funds or programs, such as research programs for francophone communities, or support for students who have to move to study in French, might help restore the balance.
Our second recommendation is to encourage the federal government to support open access publishing in French so that research papers can be found, read and disseminated by anyone with Internet access around the world. At the moment, open access research dissemination channels are limited, leading to significant barriers to pursuing a research career, particularly for francophones. For example, the scope and outreach of their knowledge is limited, and their achievements are undervalued by research assessment systems and by their universities' promotion committees.
We therefore propose that a fund be established for open access, in order to lower the costs of publishing open access books and papers, and to broaden their scope.
The fund would include financing for simultaneous publication in both official languages of open access research to attract a wider readership. This would support a dynamic community of francophone researchers and enhance the dissemination of research in French, while allowing for interaction with a broader English-speaking public.
Investment in open access publication would contribute to the dissemination of research in French in Canada and around the world, and also contribute to the vitality of the francophone research community in the digital era. As a bilingual country, Canada should be setting an example.
To conclude, I'd like to point out that humanities researchers publish essential research in French. Investing in talent development and open science will help make them more influential and broaden the scope of their work on behalf of our community.