The Acfas Awards: Excellence in Research in French – Le Devoir

This text is part of the special section Acfas prices

“In the 1940s, science was in German! » says the President of Acfas, Jean-Pierre Perreault, when asked to speak about the place of French in science. Although English predominates today, it has not always had the status of the lingua franca of research. However, progress is undeniable: according to Acfas, only 5 to 12% of funding applications for federal funding agencies are written in French. Jean-Pierre Perreault doesn’t despair: “We’ve swung the pendulum a little too far in one direction, but it’s coming back.”

For the president, science has good years ahead, and Acfas is proving that again this year by giving awards to researchers in all disciplines across the country.

“Science is done in French,” notes Jean-Pierre Perreault, who is also a biologist and vice-rector for research and graduate studies at the University of Sherbrooke. “At my university, all research groups work in French.” Another encouraging sign: “For a researcher, receiving an Acfas prize is a source of great pride.” These 16 prizes have been awarded since 1944 – five for emerging researchers and 11 for established ones Researchers – distinguish French science in Canada. “People will be proud of who won it, they’ll be like, ‘Did you see? She is a colleague from such and such a university!” “.

This year the Gilles Paquet Prize, announced last year to mark the 100th anniversary of Acfas, will be awarded for the first time. To highlight a scholar’s contribution to French studies in the context of a Canadian minority, it was presented to Annette Boudreau, Professor Emeritus in the Department of French Studies at the University of Moncton. “She has contributed to the vitality of research in French in various ways. She worked to counteract preconceived notions about languages ​​and the people who speak them. » This award is sponsored by the Association of Colleges and Universities of the Canadian Francophonie.

That’s not all: the list of trophies to be awarded is growing again, with the announcement of a 12th prize, which is intended to honor interdisciplinary research collaborations, i.e. collaborations between colleges and universities, and is sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education. “It is a hot topic at Acfas,” notes the president. We want to support research at university level. » It is true that CEGEP research centers are generally little known. “Whether the research comes from Sherbrooke University, Bishop or a CEGEP, that makes me happy,” replies Jean-Pierre Perreault passionately. If it’s in French, I’m even happier. » This prize will be awarded for the first time next year.

Two emeritus members were also named: André Fauchon, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Saint-Boniface, and Linda Cardinal, associate vice-rector for research at the University of French Ontario. “They have done their best to promote research in French outside Quebec. »

In French please!

The president of Acfas is optimistic about the future of science in French. In particular, it relies on an unusual ally: artificial intelligence (AI). “Thanks to AI, translation becomes easier. We have to take advantage of that! » He dreams of developing platforms that enable the immediate translation of scientific studies. “We could put our text written in French there and then download it in 200 different languages. Suffice it to say that the official version is in French.” To achieve this, in his opinion, it is necessary to fight against the monopoly of the large publishers.

Despite all the pitfalls, French-speaking science has a bright future, believes Jean-Pierre Perreault. It’s not just a whim, it’s a necessity. “Diversity is important. It is a question of ideas: science is not only thought of in one language. There are advantages to not just thinking in English. » For him, French-language research is also essential in order to make the results known both in the classroom and in the media. In his opinion, this is one of the keys to promoting the development of research in the “local language”: “By popularizing it, we ensure that science is appreciated by the general public and we develop the scientific culture of the entire society.”

This content was created by Le Devoir’s Special Publications team, reporting to Marketing. The editors of Le Devoir did not take part.

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