Researchers on the Move

In today’s fast-paced world, busy scientists and researchers collaborate and conduct field research using mobile technology. To facilitate their work, ORION offers O3, a free, customizable, online collaboration tool that allows users to take their workspaces with them. Read on to discover how these cloud-based workspaces helped one team of researchers keep up with some of Ontario’s Special Olympic athletes.

Ontario’s Special Olympic athletes work hard to remain at the top of their game – always on the go and competing across the province, nationally and internationally. That means that a team of York University researchers who have partnered with the Special Olympics organization need to be mobile too.

Dr. Jonathan Weiss and his colleagues at York University are researching ways to improve the mental health and general well-being of children living with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorders.

As part of the Sport Participation in Youth with Intellectual Disabilities (SPY-ID) Project, Dr. Weiss is assessing the impact that participation in Special Olympics–related sports activities has on psychological well-being in youth with intellectual disabilities.

A separate research project – intriguingly known as the Secret Agent Society (Operation Regulation) – is investigating cognitive-behavioural and social skill interventions that promote improved mental health in children who have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder or Asperger Syndrome.

The SPY-ID project could help reduce barriers to and increase opportunities for physical activity for youth with intellectual disabilities. The research results from Operation Regulation, on the other hand, could improve access to effective mental health interventions for thousands of Ontarians living with autism or intellectual disabilities.

Photo Credit: This photo ("special olympics8") was taken by "Shooting Katherine" (Katherine Williams) and is used here under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Photo Credit: This photo (“special olympics8”) was taken by “Shooting Katherine” (Katherine Williams) and is used here under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Please contact us if you have any questions.

To carry out these kinds of research projects, Dr. Weiss and his team have been travelling across Ontario to meet with various youth and their parents to assess the types of activities they engage in and how they feel about themselves.

To do this effectively, however, they needed the flexibility to access their data in the field and the ability to collaborate with their colleagues and research partners at any time, on any electronic device.

Unfortunately, online communication can be tricky when it comes to ensuring the security of patient information without inhibiting the participation of external partners, such as the Special Olympics organization.

That’s why Dr. Weiss turned to ORION’s O3 collaboration tool.

Offered as part of the ORION Nebula of cloud services, O3 is a cloud-based software suite that allows users to easily collaborate, share news and track information. Accessible over the Internet, these customizable online spaces allow researchers and educators to move their labs or classrooms onto the cloud.

Dr. Weiss’s O3 workspace includes easy-to-use security measures that give him and his team complete control over information access. This has enabled them to continue collaborating with outside partners, while still safeguarding patient confidentiality.

Now, Dr. Weiss and his partners can access their research lab with ease, on any device with an Internet connection.

O3 become a standard part of how we manage our data and share information.

-Dr. Jonathan Weiss, York University.

“We are able to upload datasets and content easily, make changes, and track progress in an efficient way that takes it well beyond what we were doing with email,” says Dr. Weiss. “The opportunity to create new subgroups also means we can expand projects and include collaborators in specific ways. O3 has been an extremely helpful platform for ongoing research collaborations.”

ORION is proud to support Dr. Weiss and his team. In fact, we believed in their work so much that we even wrote letters of support for Dr. Weiss’ research work, helping him win funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

We’re also proud to help youth with autism and intellectual disabilities across Ontario participate in social and physical activities and live their lives to the fullest.

Go team go!


  • Approximately 100,000 Ontarians display autism spectrum disorders.
  • Almost 900,000 Canadians (2%) have an intellectual disability.
  • Those living with an intellectual disability can be 3 or 4 times more likely to experience mental illness. Those living with autism are also be more prone to struggling with emotional problems and experiencing anxiety, depression or anger.