Dreaming Together: Connecting the Dots Between Researchers and Volunteers

Baycrest Health Sciences is a global leader in developing and providing innovations in aging and brain health. Contributing to the hospital’s success is the Rotman Research Institute which is continually finding and testing new solutions to keep our minds healthy.

The Rotman Research Institute’s productivity and excellence depends on volunteer participants. They currently have over 11,000 registered volunteers and needed a new way to engage with them and help them understand the value of their participation. That’s when they turned to ORION.

Baycrest wanted to share their research with the public, giving prospective and active volunteers a place to get information about the studies underway or the outcomes of the ones to which they had contributed. The ideal platform would allow them to share and collaborate with others in the research and education sector. And feed seamlessly into all communication channels.

We worked with Baycrest to help them launch a public blog using O3 Collaboration, ORION’s own collaboration tool. In the blog, they share their research studies and innovative projects. The stories feed into Baycrest’s corporate website and email newsletters, expanding the reach of the blog. The public can read about and participate in these studies while learning about the research process.

“Our goal is to communicate research findings to study participants as well as information about new and innovative research. The O3 blog is an excellent approach to connect with participants and share the value of their important contribution,” said Sana Mulji Dutt, Senior Research Communications Specialist at Baycrest.

But the benefits didn’t stop there; it also helped them get the message out about other special projects like “My Virtual Dream” – a model of collaboration.

In this project, Baycrest researchers partnered with the University of Toronto to amplify their research in a new and innovative way. Scientists at Baycrest collaborated with artists, musicians, technology and game developers to bring “My Virtual Dream” to the public at the 2013 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche in Toronto.

Participants at Nuit Blanche will co-create a rich, multisensory interaction with each other.  The installation is powered by a Baycrest breakthrough, The Virtual Brain, the world’s most complete and accurate model of human brain function and dysfunction. Large-scale, naturally occurring brain waves associated with different mental states, such as focused or relaxed, will be gathered from 20 individuals using EEG-based brain-computer interface headsets.  These mental states are then used to drive the selection of audio and visual scenes that comprise the art exhibit, changing the colour of the sky in response to participants’ brain waves, for example.

Photo Credit: David Pisarek
Photo Credit: David Pisarek

The O3 platform has been fundamental in promoting this innovative project and reaching out to volunteers. O3 makes it easy to promote projects like “My Virtual Dream” because of the individualized technical support and O3’s wide range of features.

“The support from the ORION team for O3 is enormously helpful. It is very important for us to be able to share our research with educators and researchers in the ORION community as there are tremendous opportunities for research collaboration to promote better aging and brain health,” said Mulji Dutt.

The Baycrest blog is available on the public Baycrest O3 portal or as an e-newsletter. More information regarding “My Virtual Dream” is available on the project website or on the 2013 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche website and volunteer opportunities are available here.