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5,100 scholars, 173 colloquia and 3,000 papers: Acfas comes to Concordia

Landmark conference spotlights interdisciplinary research at the university
May 21, 2014
By Lucas Wisenthal

The numbers alone are impressive.

From May 12 to 16, Concordia welcomed some 5,100 scholars — 500 of whom came from outside Canada — to the 82nd Congress of l’Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas), the largest multidisciplinary gathering of research and knowledge in the French-speaking world.

In the course of five days, delegates presented at 173 colloquia; in total, there were more than more than 3,000 papers. The congress was supported by a staff of approximately 100 student, staff and faculty volunteers.

Concordia’s inaugural hosting effort was, as Acfas president Louise Dandurand explains, a major success by any measure. “The scientific program was of very high quality.”

The colloquia addressed everything from mass spectrometry to art therapy. In addition to drawing coverage from Montreal’s major anglophone and francophone outlets — some 300 items published by the likes of La Press, Le Devoir, the Gazette, CTV and Huffington Post Québec — they generated significant buzz on social media.

“The colloquia on Quebec police officers’ use of force drew a lot of comments online,” Dandurand says. “So did those on the growing culture of research at the college level in the province and multimedia innovations in the textile industry.”

In all, more than 7,000 messages were posted from 940 accounts.

Graham Carr, Concordia’s vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies, was pleased that the conference — which Concordia was hosting for the first time — was able to spotlight so much of the university’s work.

“One line of investigation that’s very important, from a Concordia perspective, is research on aging and the promotion of healthy living, given Quebec’s fast-growing senior cohort,” he says.


The congress closed with a public panel discussion on the issue led by PERFORM Centre scientific director Louis Bherer and political science professor Patrik Marier.

“This really showcased how we, a university without a medical facility, can contribute in inspired ways to health research in Canada,” Carr says.

For Concordia’s many researchers, the conference also offered the opportunity to nurture existing professional relationships and forge new ones.

“We have individual faculty members and research centres that benefit from strong inter-institutional collaborations with partners throughout Quebec and internationally, across the francophonie,” Carr says. “At Acfas, the colloquia in which they participated provided them with an opportunity to connect with their colleagues from all of these places.”

Students — who made up 40 per cent of this year’s Acfas participants — were also able make important contacts in the research community. For many PhD and master’s candidates, the event was a valuable first opportunity to present their work in a professional setting.

“It represented a very important moment in their career development,” Carr says.

Dandurand was also impressed by Concordia’s commitment to including the greater Montreal community.

Along with the concluding event with Bherer and Marier, the public was able to take part in 15 free activities, including a talk on cinema with Kim Nguyen (FA 97, Film Production), director of 2012’s Oscar-nominated Rebelle; an indie video game showcase; and an architectural tour of downtown Montreal’s Quartier Concordia.

“It was great to have events that spoke so directly to media arts and the city,” Dandurand says.

She found that this focus was highlighted across Acfas.

“The fact that it was held at Concordia meant that it had a strong emphasis on creation and creativity, and that the congress had an urban sensibility about it,” she says. “That was definitely this year’s signature.”

Find out why honorary Acfas president Michael Sabia says Quebec needs more entrepreneurs.


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