Information from BALSAC

A Word from the Director

New year, new look! The 2012 BALSAC Annual Report may look different, but its objective remains the same: to present all the research projects and other activities that contributed to the development and deployment of the data. First, here are some of the highlights.

Interinstitutional Steering Committee

Under the new agreement signed with partner institutions last year, the BALSAC Project is now advised by an Interinstitutional Steering Committee to help orient the project, establish management priorities and support the development of the database.

Publication in SCIENCE

The American Association for the Advancement of Science held its first press conference on Canadian soil on November 3, 2011 in Montreal to announce the publication of an article titled Deep Human Genealogies Reveal a Selective Advantage to be on an Expanding Wave Front in SCIENCEBased on genealogies produced using BALSAC data, this study is the result of a collaboration between researchers at Université de Montréal, Université de Berne and the BALSAC Project. The research sparked a lot of discussion and interest in national and international media.

Roots and Dreams, a Fresh Look at the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Region Exhibit Opening

On June 8, Musée du Fjord opened a new exhibit showcasing the region’s history and people through a scientific lens informed by four decades of research with the BALSAC database. The exhibit presents a chronological portrait of the history of the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, using church records to trace vital events like baptisms, weddings and burials and explore themes like pioneer family life and romance, the Saguenay utopia and hereditary inheritance. This partnership with the Musée du Fjord enables its visitors to discover the BALSAC Project, a significant part of Quebec’s scientific heritage, and the work of its researchers.

New Phase of the CARTaGENE Project

BALSAC still works in collaboration with the CARTaGENE Project with the objective to create a public infrastructure representative of the genetic diversity of the Quebec population. BALSAC’s role is to coordinate the genealogical option of the project, to reconstruct the participants’ genealogical trees and to provide researchers with genealogical data. Genealogical studies enable us to better understand demographic and historical factors that shaped the Quebec gene pool and their impact on the distribution of given genetic traits or diseases in the current population. BALSAC renewed the agreement to participate in the second phase of the CARTaGENE Project, in which 10,000 new participants will be added to the 20,200 already surveyed. To that end, we began developing a computer-assisted genealogical questionnaire in summer 2012.

Data Exchange with Drouin Institute

The BALSAC Project also entered into a data exchange agreement with the Drouin Institute. Under the terms of this agreement, BALSAC will obtain 1.5 million baptism and death records from 1800 to 1849. This is sure to be a valuable resource for researchers and to open up new avenues for research.

Research Support

In February 2012, BALSAC received a visit from the new Quebec Chief Scientist, Rémi Quirion, and his team. His role is to advise people who make research development decision and to position and promote the province of Quebec at the national and international level. The BALSAC Project was one of the stops on his tour of Quebec universities, which he undertook to better understand research funding needs and the resources researchers will need to continue to thrive and progress. Following the visit, BALSAC submitted a proposal for a cross-sectoral project with many researchers from Quebec including Marie-Hélène Roy-Gagnon, Brad Loewen and Damian Labuda. This project entitled Human Evolutionary Genetics: Population History, Social Issues and Health Risks has for objective to describe, understand and explain the structure and distribution of genetic variants in human populations past and present. This research may have applications in genetic epidemiology to identify genetic risk factors and eventually have an impact on health care and medical practices.

Last April, in collaboration with the Research Program in Historical Demography (PRDH) at Université de Montréal and the Centre interuniversitaire d’études québécoises (CIEQ) at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, BALSAC submitted a proposal to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to build an integrated infrastructure for historical microdata about the Quebec population. The IMPQ will regroup in one place all available microdata series about the Quebec population back to European settlement. One of the world’s leading research resources, it will help us preserve, develop and fully utilize a unique treasure trove of historical and scientific data. We expect an answer from the CFI in November 2012.