Research – The Brock News A news source for Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario Thu, 21 Nov 2019 21:19:57 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 Healthy Living panel coming to Brock Nov. 29 Thu, 21 Nov 2019 21:07:28 +0000 A highly-anticipated Brock University panel is set for Friday, Nov. 29 in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre.

Co-hosted by Brock’s Centre for Lifespan Development Research, the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and Centre for Bone and Muscle Health, Staying Healthy Across Your Lifespan – Tips and lessons from research will help educate and enlighten the public around the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

Brock professors and researchers Mike Holmes, Nota Klentrou and Wendy Ward, along with a panel of student researchers, will use their own research to explain key issues and evidence-based recommendations for healthy living, with a focus on workplace health habits, bone health and nutrition, and exercise/sport training. Speakers will use their own research to explain key issues and evidence-based recommendations for healthy living.

“This event aims to build linkages with the community with the focus on promoting physical activity across the lifespan,” says Klentrou, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. “Translating advances in exercise science research into the promotion of fitness, performance and health outcomes is in line with the Faculty’s mission to help Canadians improve the health of individuals, families, communities and organizations.”

A panel of student researchers will also include: Nigel Kurgan, PhD candidate in Kinesiology; Kailynn Mannella, MSc candidate in Kinesiology; Michael McAlpine, PhD candidate in Health Sciences; and Brandon McKinlay, PhD candidate in Kinesiology.

The event, which takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 29, is free and open to anyone in the public interested in learning more about healthy living, including the general public, policy-makers, organizations, educators and practitioners. Registration is required as space is limited. Free parking is available in Lot D.

]]> Brock tops national list for health sciences publications Thu, 14 Nov 2019 23:04:49 +0000 A national company that tracks Canada’s research and development performance has given Brock University high marks for the amount its researchers and scholars publish.

Brock ranked first out of 17 universities across Canada in its category for the number of health sciences publications — 544 — produced from 2013 to 2017, according to Research Infosource’s latest report, released Nov. 7.

For social sciences and humanities publications, Brock scored second out of 11 universities in its category with 829 publications, while for natural sciences and engineering publications, Brock had the fourth highest number of publications — 743 — out of 20 universities, says the Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities 2019 report.

To be included in the publication’s performance spotlight section, a university must produce a minimum of 125 publications in each of the major fields between 2013 and 2017.

Publications include articles, notes and reviews published in peer-reviewed scientific international journals.

“Research publishing is a cornerstone of the academic endeavour,” says Ron Freedman, CEO of Research Infosource. “Hats off to the Brock research community.”

Tim Kenyon, Vice-President, Research at Brock, says publication numbers are one of several metrics that indicate research impact.

“Research Infosource’s latest report reflects Brock’s high level of research productivity and intensiveness thanks to the dedication of our researchers and scholars,” he says. “The insights and discoveries arising from our research are reaching people outside of our walls and are making a difference in so many ways.”

Research Infosource Inc. tracks post-secondary institutions’ research performance in a wide variety of areas.

Brock’s total research income for fiscal 2018 is listed as being $15.7 million, up from $14.2 million last year. Overall, Brock ranks 38 out of Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities in Canada.

]]> Niagara’s ICT job growth surpasses provincial rate, says Brock research Fri, 08 Nov 2019 18:00:57 +0000 Once known for its car manufacturing, the Niagara region is carving a respectable space in information communications technology (ICT) job growth in Ontario, says new Brock research.

Within the past eight years, the percentage of ICT positions in Niagara as a whole more than doubled those of the province overall, says the latest Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) policy brief.

“Niagara’s pursuit of a digital sector cannot be dismissed as an elusive quest,” says the brief, titled Elusive Quest or Emerging Reality: Niagara’s ICT Innovation Cluster.

“The region has a presence in every industry within the ICT sector, and commands considerable competencies in several of them. More importantly, the ICT sector is relatively new but growing, with some industries surpassing the provincial average.”

The biggest leap is in Niagara’s communications equipment manufacturing industry. From 2011 to 2019, jobs in this field grew from two to 45, a 2,173 per cent increase, compared to a job loss of 56.7 per cent in that field in all of Ontario.

In the area of computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing, job numbers grew from 18 in 2011 to 125 in 2019, a 586.3 per cent increase, compared to 14.9 per cent in Ontario. Positions in computer systems design and related services expanded from 857 in 2011 to 1,514 in 2019, a 76.7 per cent increase, compared to 47.2 per cent in Ontario.

The occupations experiencing the most growth are information systems analysts and consultants, user support technicians, and computer programmers and interactive media developers.

Overall, the number of ICT jobs in Niagara grew 51.8 per cent in the last eight years, compared to 20.7 per cent in Ontario overall.

NCO Director and policy brief author Charles Conteh, an Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Political Science, emphasizes the ability to “capture, transmit, manage and display data and information” as being key to economic and social resiliency and productivity.

“In the knowledge-driven economy of the 21st century, any region that misses the boat on the digital sector is practically stranded on a lonely island, facing the threat of economic and social stagnation, or worse,” says Conteh.

Despite the rosy numbers, though, the brief puts forth some cautionary findings.

It notes that almost 75 per cent of ICT enterprises in Niagara consist of one employee, with the remaining having very few staff. Only five businesses employ between 50 and 99 workers, according to the research.

“The absence of larger businesses in the sector raises concerns about the lack of anchor firms that generate more jobs, project the global image and deepen the resilience of a region’s innovation ecosystem,” says the brief.

To nurture the region’s fledgling ICT sector, the brief makes several recommendations, including that the Niagara Region and other stakeholders:

  • Come up with a comprehensive data management and IP strategy as part of its long-term economic development strategy
  • Generate, attract and retain talent to avoid start-ups from moving elsewhere as they expand
  • Develop a rigorous strategy in which digital industry groups, incubators, accelerators and post-secondary institutions align entrepreneurship training programs with emerging opportunities

Conteh urges these and other actions to be taken, as Niagara is at “a critical crossroads” with the future of its digital sector and, more generally, its emerging “knowledge-driven economy.”

He will be releasing his policy brief at a panel discussion on Thursday, Nov. 7 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Room 207, Cairns Complex.

]]> Brock in voting round of national health video competition Thu, 07 Nov 2019 13:57:11 +0000 A Brock University graduate has made it into the voting round of a national video competition sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — and she needs your thumbs up to make it to the next level.

Earlier this year, then-Master’s student Alicia Azzano in the Department of Applied Disability Studies created her video, Parent-mediated targeted intervention for young children at-risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)and entered it into the IHDCYH Talks Video Competition.

Her video is among 25 across Canada that were selected for public voting. To vote, the viewer must like the video by clicking the thumbs up icon at the bottom of the video. Voting began Nov. 1 and will close Nov. 30 at 5 p.m.

A panel of judges will select four winning entries based on a range of criteria, including the number of likes, as well as relevance, creativity and video quality.

“The idea is to get further reach,” says Azzano, who graduated last month and is preparing to enter a PhD program.

But for Azzano, it’s about much more than just winning a competition.

“I want to propel this ASD research forward,” she says. “I want parents and professionals to know about early identification for signs of ASD so that early intervention can take place; that’s the main reason I want them to watch and like the video.”

Azzano’s video is based on research led by Professor and Chair of Applied Disability Studies Maurice Feldman and Clinical Psychologist Rebecca Ward, both of whom are registered psychologists and board certified behaviour analysts.

The duo created the Parent Observation and Early Marker Scale (POEMS) that parents can use to detect early signs of ASD in children up to 36 months of age.

“We found that the POEMS scores predicted, as early as nine months, which infants would eventually be diagnosed with ASD at three years of age,” says Feldman.

As part of her thesis work, Azzano had parents complete the POEMS for their child on a regular basis, recorded training sessions on video, analyzed them, and tracked the parent teaching skills and the children’s progress.

She then worked with parents in their homes to teach their children the developmental skills they were lacking, such as responding to their name, imitation and requesting through pointing and speech.

The results showed that parents could quickly learn the teaching skills, and when they did, their children made substantial progress in the targeted skills.

The researchers stress the importance of detecting ASD risk very early in childhood and providing parent-led intervention.

Core symptoms of ASD include social communication issues and repetitive behaviours. Some examples are poor eye contact, difficulty in imitating movements such as waving or clapping, being unable to express themselves verbally, and intolerance to waiting, sleep and feeding.

Azzano’s motivation to pursue her research is personal.

“When I was young, I grew up with someone very close to me who has ASD,” she says. “It was a normal part of my life.”

“We are very proud of Alicia for her accomplishments in the CIHR Video Talks Competition,” says Dean of Graduate Studies Diane Dupont. “Her research is an excellent showcase of the caliber of work being done by graduate students at Brock University,” says Dupont. “I encourage all of our graduate students to follow in Alicia’s footsteps and partake in these important opportunities for professional development.”

]]> Brock faculty recognized in world’s most impactful researchers list Tue, 05 Nov 2019 19:30:21 +0000 From Facebook likes to profit margins, numbers are a key component of metrics. In academia, one common metric is the number of citations.

But measuring and interpreting citations in a standardized and accurate way has been fraught with difficulties.

In an attempt to address this, a research team lead by Stanford University health researcher John P. A. Ioannidis created a database published in PLOS Biology that provides standardized information for the 100,000 most-cited authors around the world.

Brock University is well represented in that list.

To the research team’s knowledge, there is no large-scale database that systematically ranks all of the most-cited scientists in each and every scientific field to a sufficient ranking depth. The researchers divided the 100,000 most-cited authors into five supplementary tables, with Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 being of particular interest to Brock.

Supplementary Table 1 tracks citations of the Top 100,000 authors from 1996 to 2017, which “provides a measure of long-term performance, and for most living, active scientists, this also reflects their career-long impact,” says the paper.

Fourteen Brock researchers made that list:

  • Michael Ashton, Professor of Psychology
  • Anthony Bogaert, Professor of Health Sciences
  • Stefan M. Brudzynski, Emeritus Professor of Psychology
  • Dirk De Clercq, Professor of Organizational Behaviour, HR Management, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship
  • Martin Head, Professor of Earth Sciences
  • Herbert Holland, Professor of Chemistry (deceased)
  • Tomáš Hudlický, Professor of Chemistry and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Organic Synthesis and Biocatalysis
  • Cheryl McCormick, Professor of Psychology
  • Catherine Mondloch, Professor of Psychology
  • Catherine Nash, Professor of Geography & Tourism Studies
  • Georgii Nikonov, Professor of Chemistry
  • Peter Rand (Biological Sciences, Emeritus)
  • Sid Segalowitz, Professor of Psychology
  • Teena Willoughby, Professor of Psychology

Supplementary Table 2 captures a moment in time: citations in 2017. There, the Brock list is even longer. Including those listed above, Supplementary Table 2 also includes:

  • Stephen Anco, Professor of Mathematics
  • Stephen Cheung, Professor of Kinesiology
  • Andrea Doucet, Professor of Sociology and Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work, Care and Community
  • Thomas Farrell, Professor of Applied Linguistics
  • Maurice Feldman, Professor of Applied Disability Studies
  • David Fennell, Professor of Geography & Tourism Studies
  • Gordon Hodson, Professor of Psychology
  • Ryan Plummer, Professor of Environmental Sustainability
  • Martin Tammemagi, Professor of Health Sciences
  • Lianxi Zhou, Professor of Marketing, International Business & Strategy

“Brock’s representation in the 100,000 most-cited authors database speaks volumes about our research intensiveness and impact,” says Brock Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon. “This is a list that takes the complications of citation far more seriously than most such exercises. We are very proud of our researchers’ hard work and dedication to increase knowledge and innovation in their fields of study.”

]]> Library announces Award for Open Access recipients Fri, 25 Oct 2019 16:35:55 +0000 In his introductory course for the Faculty of Education’s Adult Education program, Associate Professor of Educational Studies Robert McGray encourages his students to gather journal articles and other online resources to share with the rest of the class.

The idea is for the group to create a free and accessible course pack of materials that will live longer than the class.

“The students will be able to use these resources in perpetuity in their own professional work,” says McGray, whose course is geared towards mature learners who are already working in the adult education field.

Associate Professor of Educational Studies Robert McGray.

“It’s like crowdsourcing a large amount of scholarly material that is put into a repository. When class members are no longer Brock students, they can go back to that repository and download articles with annotations on them about designing courses for adults.”

Meanwhile, Professor of Health Sciences Ana Sanchez conducts primary field and laboratory research on neglected parasitic diseases such as soil-transmitted helminths and tapeworm parasites of humans and pigs.

Much of her work focusses on how these diseases affect communities (and in particular, children), mainly in Honduras.

She openly shared the results of her research into neglected parasitic diseases with researchers, practitioners and policy makers in Honduras and around the world.

For their efforts, Sanchez and McGray have jointly received the 2019 Brock University Award for Open Access, which recognizes a Brock community member who is a champion of freely sharing scholarship with audiences around the globe.

“Sanchez and McGray have each made tremendous contributions in all the areas cited in the award criteria, including sharing their scholarship openly, participating in open access journals and advocating for open access to research and educational resources,” says Elizabeth Yates, Brock’s Liaison and Scholarly Communication Librarian. “Both of these scholars are dedicated to advancing knowledge as a public good.”

Open access publications “are immediately available to anybody, anywhere, with no fee to the end user,” says Yates.

That is a concept dear to Sanchez.

“Open access – publishing in scientific journals that are not behind a pay wall – is in exact alignment with my principles of sharing knowledge and technology to advance science everywhere,” says Sanchez. “I’m very happy and honoured to receive this award. Open access is about equity and fairness and I feel a great responsibility to share my research findings. This is particularly important for countries that have been traditionally lagging behind scientific research in comparison with North America and Europe.”

Available to Brock faculty, librarians, staff and students, the Brock University Award for Open Access grants a $2,500 award that may be used to either pay an article processing charge for an open access journal or to support a non-profit platform for open scholarship.

This year’s grant will be shared equally by Sanchez and McGray.

The Award for Open Access is announced during International Open Access Week, which the Library celebrated with a day of events on Monday, Oct. 21.

“It is wonderful that both of our winners align so well with this year’s Open Access Week theme of Equity in Open Scholarship,” says Yates. “McGray’s work increases equity for students and educators by enhancing access to learning materials, while Sanchez is ensuring equitable access to health research for those in developing nations.”

In addition to Yates, the award adjudication committee included Tim Ribaric, Acting Head, Digital Scholarship Lab; Jennifer Thiessen, Liaison and Accessibility Librarian; and Nicola Simmons, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Studies and winner of the 2017 Award for Open Access.

]]> Master of Sustainability student maps Niagara’s invasive species Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:13:02 +0000 They hitch rides on the soles of people’s shoes and in water carried and dumped by ships, enabling them to sneak through borders undetected.

Once in their new homes, they destroy their neighbours by crowding them out, passing along diseases or even poisoning nearby plants, sometimes leading to major landscape transformations.

Plants and animals being introduced on purpose, or inadvertently into new environments, can have harmful impacts on native ecosystems.

During her Master of Sustainability program at Brock University, Lyn Brown (MS ’19) learned all about the dangers of invasive species.

As part of her thesis, Brown created the Niagara Region Aquatic and Riparian Invasive Species Control Database, which lists activities by organizations and groups in Niagara that manage invasive plant and aquatic species.

The initiative includes an interactive GIS map to show the locations of control efforts, and the database itself can be searched by invasive species, control type, control effectiveness or organization.

“The overarching goal of this database was to make a resource that could be an information and networking tool for organizations in the Niagara region,” says Brown. “This forms a first-ever baseline of what’s being done to control invasive species in Niagara so that organizations can assess the effectiveness of what they’re doing now and plan future management strategies more efficiently.”

Most of the database’s 86 entries consist of plants that come from other parts of the world. Among the most common in Niagara are phragmites, and common buckthorn originating in Eurasia; as well as purple loosestrife, native to Europe and Asia. Asian carp, zebra mussels and quagga mussels are included as invasive riparian species.

Brown, who now works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says she first became passionate about the issue of invasive species as an undergraduate student.

She realized that invasive plant and animal species cause a host of negative effects, including starving native plants and animals by consuming their food sources, preying on native species, disrupting agricultural activities and lowering property values.

“Invasive species are great at spreading and growing,” says Brown. “They basically take over habitat, displacing many native species and further endangering native species that are already threatened.”

The Niagara Region Aquatic and Riparian Invasive Species Control Database has now been linked to by the websites of the Canadian Council for Invasive Species, Invasive Species Centre, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System.


For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Michelle Pressé, Writer/Editor, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x4420

]]> Grad student throws change up for baseball injury research Mon, 21 Oct 2019 18:55:23 +0000 With the World Series about to get underway, a team of Brock University researchers have published a systematic review outlining the consequences of fatigue in baseball pitchers and developed a tool to evaluate pitching mechanics.

Richard Birfer (MSc ’19) led the research with his co-supervisors, Associate Professor Michael Holmes and Adjunct Professor Mike Sonne in the Department of Kinesiology. The team published their findings in PeerJ, detailing fatigue in baseball pitchers as a process linked to lowered physical and mental performance, injury and changes in kinematics.

Since the systematic review’s publication in July, it has been viewed nearly 1,500 times and has attracted potential partnerships from several Major League Baseball (MLB) teams and baseball development facilities.

In addition to the systematic review, Birfer’s thesis focused on the development of a pitching mechanics tool.

“We provided coaches and scouts with photos of pitchers at a certain part of the throw that we know causes the most stress at the elbow,” said Holmes, Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics. “The coaches evaluated a pitcher’s posture and we compare the coach’s ability to determine joint angles to our gold standard motion capture system.”

The result was an easy-to-use, low-cost approach to assessing pitching mechanics.

The team created a mound in the Neuromechanics and Ergonomics Lab at Brock and put reflective markers on a pitcher’s body, allowing them to track the three-dimensional motion of the markers to accurately capture movements, postures and joint angles.

They created a system where the coaches would categorize a pitcher’s posture into a range of joint angles. The end goal is to develop a scoring system to suggest optimal pitching mechanics to maximize performance and minimize injury risk.

“If you do the same physical thing multiple times a day with minimal rest, eventually the tolerance level of our tissues get reduced, putting us at an increased risk for cumulative loading and injury,” said Holmes. “Pitchers throw hundreds of pitches a day and injuries can develop as a result of that. We’ve been applying a lot of what we know about ergonomics to baseball, which hasn’t really been done before.”

Sonne said Birfer’s connections to the baseball industry and general love for the game made him an invaluable addition to the project, which was sparked by an ergonomics-based model for understanding injury he created in 2016.

Birfer, who now works as a pitch design engineer for the Baseball Development Group in Toronto, said their findings allowed them to understand pitcher fatigue in a new light.

“With each pitch thrown, fatigue continues to accumulate,” said Birfer. “Our research has shown that pitchers are willing to sacrifice optimal movement for maintaining performance, ultimately increasing the likelihood of injury.”

With Birfer now graduated and additional research needed, Ryan Bench, a master’s student in Kinesiology and varsity baseball player at Brock, is continuing the work under Holmes and Sonne.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to see the interest surrounding our pitching research at Brock University grow around the game of baseball,” said Birfer. “The attention we’ve been receiving from individuals within MLB organizations and baseball developmental facilities has been awesome.”

The team created a pitching mound in the Neuromechanics and Ergonomics Lab at Brock University and put reflective markers on a pitcher’s body, allowing them to track the three-dimensional motion of the markers to accurately capture movements, postures and joint angles.

]]> Brock Library to raise awareness of Open Access Week Thu, 17 Oct 2019 13:51:33 +0000 The Brock University Library will be raising awareness and celebrating the importance of making scholarly research accessible in honour of International Open Access Week.

On Monday, Oct. 21, the first day of Open Access Week, the Library is hosting a series of events in the new Rankin Family Pavilion, Room 214:

  • Announcing of this year’s Brock University Award for Open Access and the screening of the documentary Paywall: the Business of Scholarship, a scathing indictment of how academic publishing systems creates barriers to access and innovation (10:30 a.m. to noon)
  • Introducing Data Science with Python. Case Study: Sci-Hub close to home, a session that will present the basics of data science and visualizing results using two platforms (1 to 2 p.m.)
  • Conversing on Equity in Open Scholarship: Enacting academia’s core values, led by Giulia Forsythe, Associate Director of the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (2 to 3 p.m.)
  • Presenting on Accelerating Entrepreneurship with Open Access, a discussion about the challenges entrepreneurs face in finding and accessing research, and the types of research that are openly available without having to have access to library-specific resources (3 to 4 p.m.)

Open Access refers to free, immediate online access to research. The theme of International Open Access Week is: Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge.

“This is a reminder that as support for open access grows, we must be mindful of creating systems for sharing research that are truly open to all,” says Elizabeth Yates, Brock’s Liaison and Scholarly Communication Librarian. “We hope the Brock community will attend these events and add their voices to these important conversations about equity in open scholarship.”

Full information about the event can be found here.

]]> Brock to host Re-imagining Health Symposium Fri, 11 Oct 2019 19:55:36 +0000 A first-of-its kind event at Brock University next week will bring together health-focused researchers, practitioners, educators, health industry leaders and policy makers to discuss the future of health care.

Brock, Niagara Health and Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Medical Services are collaborating with support from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to host the Re-imagining Health Symposium at Brock Wednesday, Oct. 16 and Thursday, Oct. 17.

More than 35 experts will highlight current evidence-based health-care practices with the goal of providing tangible skills for those in attendance to take back to their workplaces, says Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Dean Peter Tiidus.

“This event also provides a space for individuals who often work in similar areas, but rarely get the chance to be in the same room as their colleagues, to connect and expand their networks,” he says.

One of the goals of the Re-Imagining Health Symposium is to inspire innovation, create an environment of collaborative learning and improve health and well-being in the community.

“We are very proud of our increased focus on research and academics, and how it is enhancing the patient experience and attracting and retaining the best and brightest to work at Niagara Health,” says Angela Zangari, Interim President of Niagara Health. “We know we are stronger when we work together and deeply value these partnerships to create a healthier Niagara.”

The symposium will include capacity-building workshops focusing on topics such as knowledge translation, healthy communities, data in health care and new medical technologies.

Providing opening remarks will be Dr. M. Mustafa Hirji, Acting Medical Officer of Health and Commissioner, Public Health Niagara Region.

“Since social factors are responsible for upwards of 50 per cent of health outcomes, we in Public Health strive to engage not just our health-care allies, but the entire Niagara community to the mission of improving health,” Hirji says. “By working with a multi-disciplinary institution like Brock University, we are able to explore innovations and opportunities to advance wellness across many different sectors.”

Other keynote presenters at the symposium include:

  • Andrew Best, Senior Director, Healthcare, RBC
  • Zayna Khayat, Future Strategist, SE Health
  • Anthony Levitt, Chief, Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program and Medical Director, Family Navigation Project, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Psychiatry Department

“In addition to showcasing the cutting-edge research taking place at Brock, we look forward to welcoming to campus many of our community partners and the alumni who work for these organizations,” says Tiidus. “Students have also been given the opportunity to attend at a special rate, as well as the option to present a poster and have their ideas reviewed by industry experts.”

For more information and a full list of speakers, visit the conference website.