Interdisciplinary Days in Environmental Sciences

Researchers of the Université du Québec and Rennes network explore possibilities of a collaboration in environmental sciences.

Interdisciplinary days UQ and Rennes network April 2017

Photo: Sylvain St-Amand, Magali Bricaud, Anne-Hélène Prieur-Richard. René Audet, Gilles Pinay, Catherine Mounier, Lyne Sauvageau, Gérard Gruau, Luc-Alain Giraldeau and Philippe Boudes.

Nine researchers in environmental sciences (Rennes' universities, the CNRS and Agrocampus Ouest) and two PhD students visited Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) from 3rd to 5th April 2017 to meet their counterparts from Quebec's universities (UQAM, UQAT, UQAC, INRS) during the Interdisciplinary Days in Environmental Sciences organised by UQAM's Institut des Sciences de l'Environnement (ISE) and Université de Rennes 1's Scientific Observatory (OSUR) at the Pierre-Dansereau science complex.

'At a time when our society is concerned more than ever by social and environmental issues and when environmental issues are increasingly complex and globalised, your areas of research are well suited to an interdisciplinary approach', stated Catherine Mounier, Vice Chancellor of Research and Creation on 3rd April 2017 during the plenary meeting which opened the Interdisciplinary Days.

Bringing together sociologists, hydrologists, legal practitioners, geographers and hydrogeologists, the goal was to gain a deeper understanding of the research and training contexts of the various participants.

The Interdisciplinary Days emerged from discussions which began during Catherine Mounier's stay in Brittany in autumn 2016. The Vice Chancellor of UQAM was able to observe that Rennes' universities and UQAM had common interests in environmental science research, with certain research collaborations having already been established. The objective of these Interdiscilplnary Days was to reinforce and further develop this collaboration. 'We are convinced that environmental issues can't be resolved without linking natural sciences and humanities and social sciences. This interdiscilpinary approach, which we are truly committed to, is a great asset, which continues to be the hallmark of our university. Indeed, environmental sciences form part of UQAM's genetic capital, as our university has been a pioneer in this field for over 40 years in Canada.'

The dean of the Faculty of Science, Luc-Alain Giraldeau, welcomed participants. 'Our faculty has several areas of excellence but the environment is by far the area which best demonstrates our strength in research. Here, you are amongst researchers who are open to interdisciplinarity. I hope that you will manage to set up fruitful collaborative projects and that you will be able to come up with solutions to the extensive environmental problems that we are about to leave to our children.'

'There is a long tradition of scientific collaboration between France and Quebec. It has been intense, fruitful and mutually beneficial', stated Lyne Sauvageau, Vice President of Research and Training at Université du Québec. 'I would like to underline the importance of training which is linked to these research collaborations', added Magali Bricaud, Universities and Science Attaché at the French Consulate in Quebec. 'This year, we will reorient funding in order to encourage mobility when students enrol on joint degrees created between France and Quebec at master's level.'

Gilles Pinay, Director of the OSUR, gave an overview of the environmental research topics of Rennes' institutions, whilst René Audet, Director of the ISE and Professor of Strategy, Social and Environmental Responsibility at UQAM School of Management (ESG UQAM), presented the history of environmental sciences at UQAM and in the Université du Québec network, as well as the research and training provided by the ISE.

At the end of the Interdisciplinary Days, three lines of research which could be considered for short term funding were established:

  • Underground resources and society
  • The environmental transition of cities
  • Water quality in catchment areas

'It is vital to consider each of these lines of research as a blank page. We must make the most of this opportunity to imagine the scope of our research fields and allow ourselves to freely consider how these might be articulated through our discussions and collaboration. These interdisciplinary days are an invitation to develop a whole international interdisciplinary research programme, from scratch, taking into account the skills and interests of each particpant, inspired by the social and environmental challenges we have to address', specified René Aude.

'Interdisciplinarity cannot be imposed. Researchers decide to collaborate with their counterparts, recognise and enhance the value of diversity in approaches and really reap the benefits of interdisciplinarity when they reach the boundaries of their skills and wish to understand other aspects of their object of research', concluded Gilles Pinay.

Université de Rennes 1 and Canada

Université de Rennes 1 has 29 cooperation agreements with 12 Canadian universities.

On 16th June 2016, an agreement was signed for the creation of the International Research Laboratory 'Exploitation of deep sea resources and protection of surface water resources: relations between science and decision-making' (RE-SO), the main partners of which are Université de Rennes 1, INRS and CNRS. The creation of this international research laboratory is the result of a long-standing collaboration between research groups in Rennes and Quebec. It is the basis of intense and dynamic cooperation between Université de Rennes 1 and INRS, consolidated by a framework agreement signed in October 2014 in Quebec during President Hollande's visit to Canada.

Université de Rennes 1 has close ties with Université Laval and 6 agreements between the universities have resulted in student exchanges, a double degree, a partnership allowing lecturer exchanges and 2 joint degrees which are currently in progress.

Student and lecturer mobility is active. 5 double degrees, in partnership with 4 Canadian universities, two of which are directly linked to the Rennes Graduate School of Management (IGR-IAE) and 10 joint degrees currently in progress, demonstrate the vitality of this exchange