Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member raises this as he is fighting for French researchers to be recognized in this country, which is bilingual. It was also mentioned that anglophones in the House should take interest in the subject matter, and I am stating that I am very interested in protecting French in this country and in making sure that our French researchers and scientists get the funding and the credit they do deserve. I hope they do not feel this pressure, which I know is growing globally and internationally, to submit their funding requests in English, or even then after to publish their work in English, which we are seeing increasingly done.
I have a great respect for the French language, and I am working on my French, but that still does not stop me or hold me back from taking an interest in this matter.
What the committee found and saw was that, according to census data in 2016, 21% of university professors and teaching assistants at the post-secondary level across Canada are francophones, and I think that is good. However, these scientists face a series of obstacles when they decide to conduct research and to publish their findings in French, which is not so good.
Work published in French is not as well indexed in the international databases used to measure the number of times an article is cited in scientific literature. French language publications are seen as less prestigious than English language publications, which can affect a scientist's career and progression. In addition, there is a perception that funding applications are less likely to be approved if they are submitted to the granting agencies in French.
Of course, this is quite concerning, and as some members have pointed out, there was different evidence brought forward to the committee, which was not made quite clear at times, as to whether researchers are finding that funding requests cannot be made in English. However, the committee took the study very seriously, and based on all the evidence it heard, it came to 17 different recommendations.
Those 17 different recommendations have been looked at by our Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and he has also written a public response to the committee and to the House as to what the government's commitments are in order to enhance the vitality of the French language in Canada's francophone communities, both in Quebec and in French-speaking official language minority communities across Canada.
The minister has pointed out that the government is committed to supporting science and research that creates new knowledge and that generates impact for Canadians and the world, and it recognizes the important roles French-speaking researchers and institutions play in science and research in the ecosystem in Canada. It is important for the government to continue to work hard in this area so that we can foster potential and global collaborations to address common challenges, including many researchers who are doing excellent work in the area of climate change.
Research needs are increasingly complex: collaborative, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and international. The government knows that Canada's federal research supports must continue to evolve in order to maintain Canada's research strength. That is why the government has launched the advisory panel on the federal research support system to provide independent expert advice on enhancing the federal systems supporting research and talent.
As reaffirmed in budget 2023, the government remains committed to carefully considering the panel's recommendations, including its calls to improve support for francophone research and to ensure the equitable treatment of research funding applications submitted in French within the federal research support system. The government is acknowledging this. The panel has also advised this, and the committee has made recommendations.
The minister has read through all of those recommendations and is working on implementing all of the 17 recommendations that have been mentioned.
The government extends its gratitude to the members of the committee, as do I, for the work they have put into improving our assistance.
The response to the committee's report and recommendations is the product of a collaboration between Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and of course Canadian Heritage Canada, Health Canada, Global Affairs Canada, the Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The committee's report affects all those different departments and agencies in collaborating and doing the work that is needed to make sure that francophone researchers can flourish within Canada and make a name for themselves on the global stage.
One of the areas that has been highlighted is the contributions to research. I think the contributions are great, especially in the area of climate change, where a lot of innovative work has been done. We value, as a government, the role that francophone researchers play, that institutions and communities play, and their important contributions to Canada's research and science ecosystem. Canada is a world leader in science and research and it is critical that the federal programs acknowledge the contributions of francophone researchers and institutions in knowledge creation.
The government acknowledges the committee's recommendations to review the criteria and procedures used by Canada's federal granting agencies to assess research excellence in the context of allocating funding, including by discontinuing the use of bibliometrics, such as the impact factor, and introducing weighing mechanisms to better recognize research conducted and published in French. The procedures and criteria used to assess research contributions are critical to the success of the federal research support system. That is why, aligned with global best practices, Canada's federal research granting agencies, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, are working to assess the use of bibliometrics, such as the impact factor and research funding assessment criteria. They are each introducing new approaches to better reflect and recognize the diverse contributions of Canada's research community to knowledge creation and mobilization, including by researchers in Quebec and French-speaking official language minority communities across Canada.
This is really important, as making sure that we recognize the work that is done by all language communities, both French- and English-language communities in our country, only helps to continue to keep Canada as a leader on the world stage when it comes to science and research. I know that it is so important in order to be able to drive innovation and creation, and create jobs here, and globally, in so many areas.
I learned the other day that, in brain research, Canada is third in the world globally. These things matter. I know they often matter to Canadians when they are helping a sick loved one find a cure for so many ailments that have become more rare these days. It is this funding in research that is going to get us to a point where we can have success and live longer and healthier lives.
The government also recognizes, and what has been brought up here today, the concerns that have been mentioned when it comes to the grant funding applications, that Canadians have a right to access federal programs and services in their first official language, including when researchers engage with the federal research support system. The government acknowledges the committee's recommendation that Canada's granting agencies should work to encourage researchers to submit funding applications in French.
Researchers can access programs and services of the federal research support system in the official language of their choice, and the granting agencies offer all submission, evaluation and administrative service to applicants in both French and English. The granting agencies encourage applicants to submit their applications in their preferred official language. Researchers are free to choose their preferred official language for communication and accessing granting agency programs, including funding applications.
In keeping with its commitment to DORA, some NSERC programs will begin using narrative format applications, allowing researchers to describe their contribution to research, training and mentoring in writing. NSERC expects that this change will benefit French language researchers whose research contributions may not be well captured by bibliometrics alone, encouraging the greater use of French in funding applications.
That is one of the ways that has been outlined by the government in acknowledging the recommendations that have been made and making a commitment to address the concerns that have been raised by members in the House.
I would also like to point out that the government acknowledges the committee's recommendations that the granting agencies publicly report on the proportion of funding applications submitted in French and ensure that the success rate of these applications is fair. The granting agencies are working to understand how best to collect and share information about applications and funding awards. For example, SSHRC publishes data on application and award rates for French and English applications in its annual report on competitions. This data allows for monitoring of trends, which may indicate the challenges in the wider research ecosystem, and analysis of this data are regularly examined by SSHRC's governing council. This is a good step in the right direction.
Official languages is also considered in the context of program evaluations, including a research umbrella evaluation of granting agency talent programs, which examined official languages as a variable within the population of graduate students accessing funding. Data from SSHRC shows that across its programs, the share of funding awards given to applications submitted in French is comparable with the share of all applications submitted in French, indicating that the agency is working towards a fairer, more equitable merit review process. That is another way that we are trying to address this concern.
One of the other key areas that is important is support for French-language researchers, institutions and communities themselves. The government recognizes the importance of programs that support French language researchers, their institutions and their communities, and we are investing to advance linguistic equity and duality in research and science.
The government is committed to taking action to improve access to resources that help make research and scientific knowledge in French more accessible, including examining the committee’s recommendation that it continue funding for SARF. Established by Acfas in 2022 to establish a national service providing post-secondary researchers with assistance in French to support the development and vitality of research in French in Canada.
Another area is scientific publications in French. The communication and mobilization of knowledge are a critical part of the work of researchers and research institutions. The government acknowledges the committee’s recommendations calling for financial support for scientific publication in French and for French-language and bilingual scholarly journals, and for the development of measures to encourage the bilingual scholarly journals that they fund to increase the percentage of articles they publish in French. This is a good step toward having access to more French scientific articles in Canada, and the access would go around the world as well.
The granting agencies support scholarly publications and journals in both French and English. For example, SSHRC funds scholarly publications through the aid to scholarly journals grant, which supports Canadian scholarly communication by helping journals to offset the costs associated with publishing scholarly articles, digital publishing and journal distribution on Canadian not-for-profit platforms. These grants will help increase the dissemination, discoverability and readership of original research results in the social sciences and humanities through Canadian scholarly journals, encouraging the transition of journals to open access models for publishing. This is also a good step in the right direction.
In conclusion, there has been a willingness, and much has already been done in the area, to make sure that we can continue to support our academic institutions, our researchers and our professors. This support includes access to official-language data, enhancing access to scientific information in French and support for research and publication in French. These steps are going to continue to improve the situation for French researchers in Canada.
Some work has also been done in the international student exchange, which will be of benefit. I hear the concern, and I am starting to understand it more and more. I know that the government is well aware of the concern and doing its utmost to make sure that science and research get the funding they deserve and that French-language researchers, in particular, are not penalized through the systems that we have created here in Canada.