The Érudit platform has been supporting scholars and academics for 25 years by giving them free online access to a range of publications in French, especially in the fields of humanities and social sciences. Meeting with Frédéric Bouchard, president of this “national treasure”.
What was the initial idea for the Érudit platform?
They were crazy dreamers, the founders of the platform. In the 1990s, we were a long way from the technologies we have today, but we were at the intersection of two realities, with the democratization of the Internet. We suspected that scientific journals would become increasingly digital.
It was such a vision that Quebeckers, as early as the 1990s, told themselves that the future of magazines would be online.
At that time, research in the humanities and social sciences was not a priority for private publishers. However, she also had to participate in this revolution. This is where Erudite's contribution can be explained.
The starting point is a partnership between three universities: Université Laval (ULaval), Université du Québec de Montréal (UQAM), and Université de Montréal (UdeM).
Frederic Bouchard, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Montreal, is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Erudite.
Now, we are working on open science, which has become more accessible and democratic, not only in French, but also in German and Brazilian Portuguese, and we should be very proud of that. This adds to the fact that we have a well-established research capacity in our community, relevant to our language.
In your opinion, did erudite play a major role in French-speaking science?
French-language science did not have the means to achieve this digital transformation. Initially, the question was for Quebecers: How can we ensure that the French-language humanities are at the cutting edge of technology? It was very ambitious, even subversive!
If the humanities in French did not find the means to be as avant-garde as those in other languages, they would not be as important today.
It is a matter of scientific sovereignty, ensuring that research in all fields is taken seriously and is accessible to all.
There wasn't much talk about open science at the time, but from the beginning of Erudite, there was a desire to transfer knowledge on a large and generous scale. From the beginning, the values of the public Internet – free and open – were constitutive of the project.
However, before you send something, you must have content. So the idea was first to make sure that the humanities in French were part of the discussion topics.
What is the importance of having scientific journals in Quebec?
It is really important that each company has its own national research capacity. Consider leaving school. In Quebec and Japan, these are neither the same causes nor the same treatments.
A researcher who wishes to compare school dropouts in Montreal and Chicoutimi, if he publishes his research in a French-language journal, does not have to justify the fact that he is investigating these questions in French. If he submits his research to an international journal, a large portion of his text will explain why his research is in French.
We proudly collaborate with French researchers, but Quebec journals are a must.
Moreover, centralizing everything in one language, English for example, would harm us. The dominance of English in science is not bad in itself, as it has allowed many scientists to transfer their knowledge across borders, but I am convinced that we are moving towards greater linguistic diversity, thanks to open science.
I would be very surprised if in 40 years, or even 20 years, science is only English-speaking. Machine translation technology and the democratization of science will reduce the impact of linguistic standardization. However, for this to become a reality, platforms like Érudit are needed.
What role do open access scientific articles play?
Knowledge that is not transmitted is dead knowledge. We cannot predict which use of knowledge will be the most important, but if we keep knowledge within a small circle of educated people, we limit its potential.
With Érudit, there are a lot of high school students who find out what college is like by looking for homework. They discover that such a researcher existsUQAMthat this sociologist from Trois-Rivières, etc.
Open science helps show that everyone can participate in research. It also nurtures curiosity in this world of feelings and hobbies.
It is clearly beneficial for researchers, not only here, but also in less fortunate countries that cannot afford to subscribe to journals.
I am amazed by all these people I meet who benefit from knowledge: journalists, researchers, people in different ministries, etc.
Érudit is used every day by people all over the world. Right now, there's someone in Tunisia reading research done here. It makes our researchers known globally.
What legacy and what future for Erudite?
Érudit is a happy act of subversion. We're just trying to change the world, and we're doing it. It is important for each country to have its own international research capabilities. It would be very dangerous for Canada to say to itself:
We will rely only on American platforms. Imagine if they cut off access to the server, like Meta is now doing with news on its platforms.
Research in Quebec and Canada has long led to great achievements. When Erudite was launched, we knew we would be able to make a significant impact through the quality of our research.
Quebec and Canada hold a special place on the world stage, thanks to our openness and credibility. We do not try to dominate or control others. We truly have something to contribute to the world. We have to allow ourselves to be proud of what we've done, and give ourselves permission to expand our ambitions.
He's a national treasure, and I truly believe that.
I'm convinced that our great collective successes start with crazy dreams, and are sustained by people who work every day to prove that it's not crazy, after all. One day Érudit will celebrate its centenary, I am convinced of that. I think we can be very proud of that.
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