Call for proposals: Research network on flood risk management in a changing climate

May 17th, 2018

The deadline to submit a proposal has been postponed at 4 p.m. on September 14, 2018.

This call for proposals for the creation of a network on flood risk management in a changing climate falls under the Common General Rules (CGR), which apply to all Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) programming. Only the specific conditions applicable to this call for proposals are indicated in this document and prevail over the CGR.

1. Background

As part of the Quebec Research and Innovation Strategy (SQRI) launched May 12, 2017 by the Government of Québec, the FRQ were allocated specific budget envelopes to implement intersectoral initiatives in response to major challenges facing Québec society. Three key challenges have been identified, those being sustainable development and the fight against climate change; demographic changes and the aging population; and entrepreneurship and creativity. As these issues are, by definition, multidimensional and often transdisciplinary, intersectoral networking integrating distinct but complementary areas of expertise and research methods to address a complex research topic is considered a promising path and is strongly encouraged.

The May 2017 spring floods severely tested citizens and municipal and provincial authorities. Now more than ever, research (and, indirectly, FRQ funding opportunities related to societal challenges) and government action must come together more closely to fill the knowledge gap and develop innovative solutions in response to the needs expressed by the affected communities. Flood risk management in a changing climate is of concern to the FRQ and several of their partners, including ministry partners (Ministère de la Sécurité publique (MSP), Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Occupation du territoire, Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC), Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, Ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l'Électrification des Transports, Ministère de l'Économie, de la Science et de l'Innovation, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux…).

Indeed, while many sector-based projects on this topic are already underway in colleges and universities as well as in government departments and public institutions, it would appear that research is taking place essentially in silos. To become more efficient and relevant in view of the urgency of better understanding Québec's specificities regarding floods, the FRQ wish to support cross-cutting research initiatives that would draw together stakeholders from a range of sectors and settings, allowing them to develop a shared vision of this complex issue. In terms of natural sciences and engineering, more adequate modelling of flood-risk areas is necessary for better land use planning, improving forecasting and alert services, developing appropriate emergency plans and, finally, for exploring different mitigation measures with the aim of better protecting homes and infrastructure. With regard to the humanities, the current flood context requires renewed modes of governance and land development in both urban and rural settings, as well as an analysis of the obstacles to integrating flood risk into land use policies. Finally, from a social and health sciences perspective, much remains to be documented and analyzed in terms of community impacts, psychosocial impacts, health risks and impacts on public health care spending. In this respect, intersectoral initiatives that combine areas of expertise and research methods from distinct but complementary research fields (geography, biophysics, hydrology, biology, social sciences, law, economics, ethics, education, medicine…) appear particularly promising.

This need to foster research networking on flooding in a climate change context led Québec's chief scientist Rémi Quirion to arrange for two brainstorming sessions to be held at the FRQ offices in May and November 2017, bringing together key experts and partners in the field. The objective of these sessions was always the same: to identify the broad parameters for a partnership-based structuring intersectoral initiative that will bring concrete, innovative solutions in response to flood risk, a phenomenon that is likely to become more frequent and more intense due to climate change. In addition, the chief scientist took part in two other forums organized by the MDDELCC in 2017 (Ensemble planifions l'avenir autrement, October 2017) and the MSP (Inondations du printemps 2017: bilan + perspectives, December 2017), which highlighted needs in terms of flood-risk area mapping and management, land use and urban planning, prevention, preparation and recovery.

Finally, following the December 2017 forum, which assembled provincial and municipal elected officials, flood victims, representatives of local and regional authorities, civil security organizations and Québec government departments and agencies, a civil security flood action plan was tabled in early March 2018 with the goal of improving the flood resilience of Québec society. This action plan, which is based on tools already in place in Québec, includes 24 measures to address the challenges posed by water-related risks. Two measures specifically mention research to support the mapping of flood-risk areas in a climate change context and new intersectoral approaches based on evidence and the development of innovative practices. In both cases, the measure calls for a well-built research team, be it the Ouranos consortium and network or the brand new Urban Resilience Governance Living Lab, a col­lab­o­ra­tive ini­tia­tive that brings togeth­er actors work­ing on urban resilience, from city man­agers to pri­vate enter­pris­es, non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tions, cit­i­zens and aca­d­e­m­ic researchers.  

It is within this framework that the FRQ have launched this call for proposals for the creation of a new collaborative interinstitutional, intercommunity, intersectoral research network, whose study theme will focus specifically on flood risk management in a changing climate. Not only will the network pool current research strengths in the field, it will also take cross-cutting research one step further by breaking down silos to link the academic, practical and government sectors. In short, this research network will build on a cooperative partnership approach with stakeholders in practice and decision-making settings to set out common, relevant and applicable solutions in response to flood risks. In sum, for the FRQ, it goes without saying that the networking of Québec's key players around this multidimensional and worrisome issue will consolidate existing actions in the field, foster a dynamic link between researchers and research user communities, and make Québec a world leader in the field.

2. Objectives of the research network on flood risk management in a changing climate

Primary objective

The primary objective of the research network, which must be collaborative, interinstitutional, intercommunity and intersectoral, is to quickly provide concrete, applicable, sustainable responses and solutions to the needs expressed by communities affected by flooding (citizens, practice settings and decision-makers, at all levels). The network's mission will be to develop, integrate and coordinate research, cooperation, strategic analysis and knowledge transfer activities that will support informed decision-making and the development of a society that is resilient to flood risk in a changing climate.

Specific objectives

  • Foster research networking and intensify intersectoral1, interinstitutional and intercommunity research on the issue of flood risk management in a changing climate;
  • Implement intersectoral research programming related to flood risk management by focusing on innovation in all its forms (technological, economic, social, organizational, educational...) and the development of solutions for ensuring a flood-resilient society;
  • Develop, carry out and disseminate innovative collaborative projects fostering better flood risk management in a changing climate;
  • Build a dynamic link between researchers and research user communities (decision-makers, stakeholders on the ground or in practice settings, communities affected by flooding, citizens…), from the initial conception of research projects to the integration of research findings into practice;
  • Lead strategic analysis, research dissemination and expertise-sharing activities in the different research settings;
  • Contribute to the intersectoral training of highly qualified personnel in the field;
  • Encourage the obtaining of funding from complementary sources (provincial, federal or municipal funding, industry, etc.);
  • Become the Québec reference for flood research and secure a leadership position in the sector.

[1]As defined by the FRQ, the notion of "intersectorality" or "intersectoral networking" refers to a research and collaboration approach which brings together researchers from disciplinary fields or research practices from at least two of the three major sectors covered by the FRQ (health sciences; natural sciences and engineering; humanities and social sciences, arts and literature) to work on a research topic, problem, method or question, in order to shed new light on common or shared research issues. From an intersectoral perspective, disciplines and sectors must firmly engage in a joint, co-created "research approach" whose mode of operation lies outside of the hierarchization of fields of knowledge.
In concrete terms, intersectoral networking in research – which cannot be reduced to a merely collaborative approach – takes shape through:
•    The joint design and development, within a project or research program, of research problems that engage research questions or topics common to or shared by representatives of the different sectors;
•    The development of an innovative methodology, adapted to each research problem and integrating approaches from each sector represented within the project or research program;
•    Team composition: the presence of researchers from at least two sectors.

3. Nature and characteristics of the research network on flood risk management in a changing climate

The collaborative, interinstitutional, intercommunity and intersectoral research network on flood risk management in a changing climate must:

  • Include at least five (5) university or college-level institutions involved in the field. The college and/or university researchers who join the network may also be members of an infrastructure that is already funded by one of the three FRQ (Nature et technologies, Santé, Société et culture);
  • Involve a critical mass of researchers from teams, networks or clusters representing the three sectors of the FRQ (nature and technology, health, society and culture);
  • Include the participation of the practice settings and government entities concerned, thereby ensuring the coordination of efforts in this area and contributing to the evaluation of the relevance of the research;
  • Present specific characteristics that distinguish it from other existing networks and clusters with the same theme. The network's purpose must be translated into close intersectoral, interinstitutional and intercommunity cooperation and support for the realization of research and transfer projects that fall under more than one sector (nature and technology, health, society and culture);
  • Implement intersectoral research programming and initiatives addressing the following five themes: governance; technology transfer and knowledge acquisition; land use planning and regulation; economic and social issues; psychosocial impacts and population health;
  • Introduce monitoring and strategic analysis activities and provide for the sharing of infrastructures, information and expertise between network members;
  • Include partnership and transfer initiatives with communities affected by flooding, businesses and government entities to maximize the impact of the research results in terms of social, environmental, economic and population health innovation;
  • Use a governance model that is transparent, flexible, open and representative of the diversity of institutions and sectors making up the network to carry out its research, coordination, outreach, dissemination and knowledge-sharing activities.

To reach these objectives, the research network on flood risk management in a changing climate will require a flexible, collaborative and open organizational structure involving both researchers and partners, taking its inspiration from the existing structures of different Québec and Canadian networks.

4. Targeted research themes

Five research themes have been identified and should be used to guide the conception of intersectoral research projects.

  • Governance

Flood risk management and prevention is a complex issue with multiple solutions. That which comes up most often involves best practices in governance. Québec has legislative frameworks and planning/action tools that promote flood management and prevention. Internationally, the state of knowledge in this field has made considerable progress in recent years, notably with the development of new alert models, flood-risk area identification and management protocols, etc. Despite this advancement of knowledge, the events of 2017 revealed a major gap in Québec: the translation of science into practice. Between our understanding of risk and the implementation of integrative and sustainable solutions, there continue to be obstacles related, among other things, to governance. In this regard, the projects carried out by the research network on flood risk management in a changing climate could focus on the following avenues:

  • What are the objective reasons for this difficulty on the part of decision-makers to implement already-developed planning and action tools?
  • What obstacles prevent the adoption of best practices in this area?
  • How is this planning structured between the different levels of governance?
  • In the event of a crisis, how can we ensure effective coordination between the different administrative levels and stakeholders concerned?
  • How can we ensure that the actions undertaken in an emergency situation are relevant and coherent?
  • Technology transfer and knowledge acquisition

The applicability of existing solutions, technology transfer in the flood sector and the risks related to climate change would all benefit from further study. It would be interesting to compile a list of the many existing tools and solutions and evaluate their complementarity. It is also necessary to understand why proposed solutions are not always transferred or do not find a taker. What transfer strategies could be deployed to improve performance in this regard? What is the best way to operationalize strategies for the transfer of tools and good practices, measure their efficacy and provide follow-up? In addition, there is a need for continuous documentation of floods themselves (risks; forecasting; variations related to climate change; changes in frequency, timing, magnitude). All this information is useful for decision-making and the design of concrete, sustainable and applicable responses and solutions. Finally, when it comes to flood risk management, comparative approaches are welcome, as flood management and prevention tools have seen strong development, particularly in Europe. It is important to take inspiration from what is being done elsewhere in terms of good practices and applications, to help guide the actions of decision-makers in the areas of environment, public security, health, education, etc.

  • Land use planning and regulation

The current flood context requires a rethinking of the organization of space, in both urban and rural contexts. Given the key role of municipalities in understanding and mapping risk, projects could focus on the dynamics between regional county municipalities (MRCs) and municipalities, knowledge transfer, and collaboration in land use planning. Projects could also examine the relevance, applicability and actual implementation of existing regulations; the consideration of the specific characteristics of Québec winter conditions in existing models; the improvement of our knowledge of risk cycles and trajectories; etc. Risk analysis could help define new land use development models and guide public policy with a view toward sustainability, viability and safety, as well as the development of educational interventions with the organizations concerned. Finally, the research network on flood risk management in a changing climate could invite its researchers to go beyond the understanding and mapping of risk when considering land use planning, by answering questions such as:

  • Why are we still building in flood-risk areas?
  • How can we rethink land use planning in an already built context in order to develop resilient communities?
  • Are the events of 2017 an "opportunity" to rebuild better?
  • What form(s) should this better planning take, considering the social and economic issues involved in certain measures (relocation, renaturalization, building on new land, etc.), in a climate change context?
  • Economic and social issues

The phenomenon of flooding must be examined through the prism of economic issues, both in terms of its impacts and the economic benefits generated by better governance and adaptation. It is important to measure the costs of flooding to society in order to prioritize prevention activities and to analyze the question of linking insurance compensation to the increasing risk caused by climate change. Since the frequency of flooding is likely to increase due to climate change impacts, avenues towards eco-taxation and sustainable investment are needed to better regulate, among others, companies that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

The social issues associated with flood risk are multiple. In addition to the public health issues related to the psychosocial impacts considered below, the social sciences must be put to good use in various ways in flood resilience research. The question of civil society is also central. Beyond understanding citizen behaviour in a crisis situation, individuals' daily actions have an impact on the vulnerability of the territory. However, the Québec population still appears uncertain as to its role in either prevention or crisis management. In this regard, it could be interesting to examine the culture of flood risk in Québec and the factors influencing high-risk behaviours (from building in flood-risk areas to refusing to leave home in an emergency situation). A better understanding of the population's perception of risk is also crucial, because if this knowledge is inaccurate or limited, actions will be needed to bridge the gap between perceived and actual risk. In addition, public opinion influences decision-making, sometime leading to decisions that go against the development of resilient territories. How, in this context, can we make citizens aware of the need to adopt resilient behaviours and collaborate with decision-makers in implementing risk mitigation solutions?

  • Psychosocial impacts and population health

In terms of population health, much remains to be discovered and documented on the short, medium and long terms with regard to: 1) the psychosocial impacts of floods such as depression and anxiety (for example, projects could aim to identify flood adaptations for affected communities and develop of educational interventions to support these adaptations); 2) impacts on the community (for example, the perceptions and social divisions caused by flooding within a community in which members are not all equally affected and do not experience the same impacts).

Psychosocial impacts arising from a flood-related crisis situation are also worth studying, including aggressive and angry behaviours during an emergency. How can we best equip municipal employees to manage citizens in crisis situations when events require rapid decision-making to ensure population safety? Finally, the health impacts of floods deserve further study, including the health effects of mold caused by flooding and the effectiveness of health recommendations made to populations at risk with regard to safe drinking water during a crisis situation and on the longer term.

5. Description and nature of the funding

The funding consists of an annual operating grant of a minimum of $500,000 for three years with the option to renew. It aims to cover the network's consensus-building, networking, outreach, monitoring, strategic analysis and knowledge mobilization activities, as well as funding for intersectoral projects and training awards. In this respect, the sums allocated to student and postgraduate trainee projects and awards must account for at least 60% of the total funding granted to the research network on flood risk management in a changing climate. All budget items set out in the CGR are eligible.

6. Eligibility conditions

Eligibility of the applicant:

The applicant (principal investigator) must have one of the following statuses as defined in the CGR:

  • university researcher;
  • university clinical researcher;
  • college researcher.

He/she must also meet the general eligibility requirements set out in the CGR.

Team configuration:

The research network on flood risk management in a changing climate must include at least twelve (12) university and/or college researchers:

  • representing the three research sectors covered by the FRQ;
  • from at least (5) different institutions.

Community support:

The research network on flood risk management in a changing climate must demonstrate the establishment of partnerships with communities affected by flooding, businesses or government entities.

7. Important dates

  • Announcement of the call for proposals: May 1, 2018
  • Launch of the call for proposals: May 17, 2018
  • Publication of the application form: early June, 2018
  • Deadline to submit a proposal: September 14, 2018
  • Announcement: November 2018

8.  Submission of the proposal

The applicant must provide a complete application package including:

  • The application form, available in the researcher's E-portfolio at the beginning of June 2018.
  • A document of up to (10) pages presenting the network in light of the evaluation criteria (see below).
  • An appendix of up to five (5) pages to present figures and tables.
  • A document of up to (5) pages justifying the network's expenses.
  • A CV for each member of the team. The format required depends on the member's status:
    • A Common Canadian CV for the applicant (principal investigator affiliated with the managing institution),
    • An abbreviated CV of up to two (2) pages in PDF format for other members of the team with the status of: university researcher; clinical university researcher; college researcher; other researcher or practitioner. The CV must summarize the following information as it pertains to the network, in this order: academic and/or professional training; relevant expertise and experience; relevant scientific achievements and leadership and other qualities.
  • A letter of support from five (5) institutions showing compliance with the eligibility condition pertaining to the number of institutions represented by the members of the team.
  • A letter of support from partners describing how they will contribute to the network's activities and how they will benefit from the results of these activities.

The deadline to submit a proposal is 4 p.m. on September 14, 2018.

9.  Evaluation

Evaluation committee

Once the proposals are received, the FRQ will assess their eligibility and submit them for scientific assessment by an evaluation committee from outside Québec whose members are recognized for their skills, expertise and achievements in connection with the objectives of the call for proposals. The FRQ will ensure that the committee is composed of experts from the three research sectors. Committee members will assess the proposals based on the criteria listed below.

Evaluation criteria

  • Compliance with the objectives described herein;
  • Quality of the scientific leadership demonstrated by the principal investigator (applicant) and each of the co-investigators;
  • Interinstitutional and intersectoral nature of the network (nature and technology, health, society and culture);
  • Relevance and specificity of the network in comparison to other existing groups;
  • Scope of the proposed research strategy, including the relevance of the research approaches and methods used to achieve the stated objectives;
  • Mentoring and training activities for new researchers;
  • Degree of involvement of the partner setting(s) and relevance of the collaboration methods used;
  • Scope and quality of the knowledge mobilization activities with communities affected by flooding as well as practice settings and decision-makers;
  • Quality of the governance model;
  • Potential for international outreach.

10.  Announcement of results

The awarding of the grant will be announced in November 2018. The FRQ's decision will be transmitted to the applicant's home institution by the Défis de société et maillages intersectoriels department.

For the conditions regarding the announcement of funding, refer to Section 5 of the CGR .

11. Follow-up and accountability

In accordance with the CGR, the holder of a grant obtained under this call for proposals is required to submit a final report, the format of which will be communicated in due course to the principal investigator who submitted the application. In addition, in the interest of promoting the impacts of the projects funded under this program, investigators may be invited to participate in events such as forums, conferences, follow-up or transfer activities, etc.

12. Effective date

These rules apply to the 2018-2019 fiscal year.



Denise Pérusse
Directrice aux défis de société et aux maillages intersectoriels
Bureau du scientifique en chef du Québec
Fonds de recherche du Québec
140, Grande Allée Est, bureau 450
Québec (Québec)  G1R 5M8
Téléphone : (418) 643-8560, poste 3120

Sophie Gauthier-Clerc
Chargée de programmes
Direction des défis de société et des maillages intersectoriels
Bureau du scientifique en chef du Québec
Fonds de recherche du Québec
140, Grande-Allée Est, bureau 470
Québec (Québec)  G1R 5M8
Téléphone : (418) 643-7582 poste 3255