University of Ottawa and Embassy of France in Canada pave way for scientific diplomacy

Research and innovation

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

A group of people sitting around a table
In a world increasingly shaken by crises and polarized debate, science is more critical than ever, and the concept of scientific diplomacy is taking on added importance. Bolstered by collaboration in place for more than 20 years now, the University of Ottawa and the Embassy of France in Canada are launching a brand-new research chair in scientific diplomacy aimed at shedding light on and examining issues that extend far beyond national borders.

The announcement was made during the visit to Canada by French Minister of Higher Education and Research Sylvie Retailleau, who was very pleased with the conclusion of an agreement “supporting scientific diplomacy.”  

Increasingly, states are indeed building their diplomacy around research collaboration, in bilateral and multilateral frameworks. Thus, scientific diplomacy is having a clearer influence on international relations than in the past. States have understood that it’s important to ensure their presence in forums for international dialogue to support research efforts, whether it’s regarding pandemic management or fighting climate change. As well, states are strengthening their bilateral relations and adjusting their strategies for co-operation on priority matters. For France’s ambassador to Canada, Michel Miraillet, “it’s time to create a high-level dialogue with Canada on strategic and diplomatic issues in science and technology. This new chair should be useful in fuelling reflection.” 

“Science and diplomacy — the products of two very distinct cultures — can work well together despite their complexities. Scientific diplomacy, however, is becoming increasingly essential for tackling such major transnational issues as artificial intelligence and climate change, for example,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research and innovation, at the University of Ottawa. “One of the chair’s challenges will be to build bridges between those two cultures and to blaze new trails for dialogue that can lead to new partnerships or even solutions to major global crises. We are delighted to fund this promising and novel initiative in Canada together with the Embassy of France in Canada.” 

Four people are standing and sitting in front of flags
From left to right: federal Minister François-Philippe Champagne, uOttawa President, Jacques Frémont, French Ambassador Michel Miraillet and French Minister Sylvie Retailleau

The agreement to create this new research chair was signed by uOttawa President Jacques Frémont and French Ambassador to Canada Michel Miraillet, in the presence of the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, and the French Minister for Higher Education and Research, Sylvie Retailleau.

The chair, located at the University of Ottawa, will host French researchers of different disciplines — both in the social sciences and the humanities and in science and technology — whose work will enhance our understanding of what various aspects of scientific diplomacy can bring. Activities will also be organized to ensure a broad, inclusive Franco-Canadian dialogue. The chair’s work, whether scholarly publications or academic meetings, will be useful in fostering greater closeness between the French and Canadian higher education and research communities.  

The Research Chair in Scientific Diplomacy, to be funded jointly, will begin its work this year by hosting guest researchers. The Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, will be issuing a call for applications shortly, to determine the French and Canadian chairholders for 2024–2025.