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NBIF’s R3 Event Adds Comedic Touch and Prize Money to Make Research More Engaging

Comedian James Mullinger. Image: Tyler Warren Ellis

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) plans to showcase innovative research being done in the province with a new spin on one of its flagship events next month.

For a decade, R3 has been a highly anticipated biennial awards gala that recognized the best and brightest in New Brunswick research. But for the event’s 10-year anniversary, the organization says it’s going bigger and better – a three-day event taking place from April 10 to 12.

“We took a look at what we were really trying to achieve by the R3 event and how we wanted to raise awareness of the exceptional research that happens in New Brunswick,” says Lindsay Bowman, Director of Research at the NBIF. “We really wanted to make research more exciting and more accessible, not just to the research community but the general public, industry and government.”

“We wanted to make sure we were hitting every audience. This year, we expanded what was traditionally just an awards dinner to three-days, including events that are much more public-facing and engaging. We also wanted to highlight an important action area and develop a theme for this year.”

This year’s theme is “Innovations in Aging.”

“There’s a lot of fabulous cross-disciplinary research happening in this area of New Brunswick and it’s the type of research that’s really going to affect everyone in the province,” says Bowman.

“Whether it’s looking at how nursing homes are created and built, to looking how we help rural New Brunswickers access aging supports, or how technology will help us do things differently. I think it’s a topic that regardless of what we do in our day jobs or what our situation is, it’s something that resonated with us.”

Instead of having only the awards gala for one night, NFIB will be hosting three different R3 events over three days.  

The first event April 10 at the Fredericton Playhouse is called R3 Talks, which will be a TED Talk style event where researchers will give 12- to 15-minute presentations on their areas of research. The event is being hosted by comedian James Mullinger.

If someone comes for comedy and ends up taking away research knowledge and can get excited about the stuff that’s happening in New Brunswick, we hit the mark,” says Bowman.

The second event will be a two-day R3 Conference from April 11-12 that will feature workshops and short presentations from industry, researchers, nonprofits and government agencies around the types of research and projects that are happening in New Brunswick in the field of aging.

Bowman says this conference isn’t just for those in the research community.

“My dream is that we facilitate conversation and collaboration between engineers, social workers, seniors and clinicians who are all trying to answer some of the challenges and approach those as opportunities,” she says.

Then there will be the R3 awards gala on the evening of April 12, where they will be awarding three prizes to New Brunswick researchers. But the change this year is they will be offering funding as a prize and opened it up for nominations from all around the province.

They narrowed it down to five finalists working in the area of aging. There will also be a viewers choice prize, made possible by a partnership with CBC New Brunswick.

The five finalists:

  • Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard (Université de Moncton)
    Nursing Homes Without Walls: A Model for Aging in Place
    With the majority of seniors wanting to age at home, we require an efficient model of service delivery to ensure they are getting the services they need. Dr. Dupuis-Blanchard’s research explores the notion of nursing home personnel providing services to older adults living at home.
  • Clive Baldwin (St. Thomas University)
    Enhancing Well-Being in Later Life through Innovations in Narrative Care
    Narrative care is an approach to health and healing that uses people’s life experience (i.e., their life stories or narratives) to address the many challenges facing older adults that can result in feelings of loneliness, meaninglessness, anxiety, depression, and despair.  Research in the field of “narrative gerontology” has shown that approaches to care that involve some form of life story work (e.g., life review, life-writing, reminiscence) have a significant and positive impact in terms of health outcomes with this population.
  • Carole Goodine (University of New Brunswick)
    Polypharmacy App to Improve Health Outcomes in Older Adults
    Dr. Carole Goodine’s work is developing a Polypharmacy App that aims to solve the simultaneous use of multiple drugs – which has become a major issue in the aging population. The App will result in a more efficient and accurate medication safety review – which will save hundreds of clinician hours and decrease high risk medication use and adverse effects.
  • Erik Scheme (University of New Brunswick)
    PITCH – a comprehensive screening program that will enable regular and proactive health monitoring and intervention
    PITCH stands for Proactive Integrated Technology-Enabled Patient-Centric Healthcare, and is a comprehensive screening program that will enable regular and proactive health monitoring and intervention. PITCH’s multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, researchers, and data scientists aim to develop and validate a new mobile digital health platform and demonstrate that a proactive and patient-centered approach can translate into better health outcomes and reduced health care costs.
  • Trevor Hanson (University of New Brunswick)
    Age-Friendly Transportation Planning to facilitate safe and efficient mobility of rural older adults
    Dr. Trevor Hanson’s research is addressing the long-standing issues facing rural older adults that can’t or don’t drive by exploring the technical and policy challenges that limit mobility solutions.  While there has been much debate on limiting driving due to the health effects of aging, we also need important conversations around how to help older adults maintain mobility in a way that ensures their needs are met.  

The top three of the five finalists selected by our independent review committee will win $50,000 each in NBIF research funding and the CBC Viewers Choice winner will get $15,000 in NBIF funding.

Bowman says one of the big goals of the three-day anniversary event is to dispel misconceptions people might have about what research is and make it more accessible to the broader population.

“I think a lot of people still have this vision of research being a chemist in a lab and a bunch of test tubes and beakers. That doesn’t seem very accessible to folks like us. But the reality is, research looks very different than that and it’s happening in our communities and it’s not just happening in these ivory towers of universities,” she says.

“We have interesting projects that are happening in nursing homes right here in Fredericton and Moncton. Research is happening with community groups. This is an opportunity to see the type of research that’s actually going to [have an] impact.”

It’s also an opportunity for the research community to get feedback from the public on their projects.

“We’re always after our startup companies and our new entrepreneurs to get what we call market validation, and similar things need to happen in research projects,” says Bowman.

“You’ll get to learn more about those and this is an opportunity to talk to them and present what the real challenges, needs and opportunities are within our communities around aging.”

If this year’s three-day event is successful, Bowman says future R3 events may follow the same format. She says getting the general public more involved in the work they support is an important part of NBIF’s mission.

“That’s a big part of our mandate, to raise awareness and advocate for our research institutions, and I think a big part of that should be making sure the public feels engaged in the research community and informed and excited by it,” she says.