Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute

Phil Brown, Director

The mission of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute is to conduct social science-oriented research, teaching, community engagement, and policy work in the area of environmental health.

Below is a brief description, but you can follow this link to the Social Science Environmental Health Research Group website, where there is a list of projects and publications, as well as biographical sketches of members.

The Institute works on the following areas:

Create specialized emphasis for training social scientists to collaborate with life scientists

-This extends the work done in the Contested Illnesses Research Group at Brown University since 2000, through creating a similar research group of faculty, postdocs, and graduate students. This research lab serves as a incubator for interdisciplinary collaboration on writing new research proposals, producing publications, and preparing young scholars for careers in social science-environmental health science collaborations.

-Conduct the NSF-funded “Research Training Program – New Directions in Environmental Ethics: Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Technologies, and Beyond.”  This provides specialized training for graduate students and postdoctoral research associates

– Bring social scientists to relevant environmental health conferences, and to lab tours on- and off-campus.

– Develop new mini-courses on environmental health for social scientists, to be offered here and to be exported via website and CDs.

-Conduct research on researchers’ experience of social science-life science collaboration.

Coordinate with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s focus on doctoral training in environmental sociology

The above training activities work together with the larger environmental sociology faculty team that is one of the nation’s largest environmental sociology faculties. We train graduate students and postdocs, and provide learning and community engagement activities for undergraduates and professional degree students. In addition to director Phil Brown, the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute includes Northeastern faculty members Sara Wylie and Laura Senier. Existing, newly-hired, and planned hiring of environmental sociologists cover many areas of the discipline. In addition to environmental health, there is strength in environmental justice, community-based monitoring, energy and natural resources, environmental social movements, and urban sustainability issues.

Detailed information on Northeastern’s Environmental Sociology program can be found here.

Link faculty and students with research and internship opportunities at local and distant environmental health research sites

Build on prior connections with Silent Spring Institute, Toxics Action Center, Commonweal (Bolinas CA), Communities for a Better Environment (Oakland CA), Alaska Community Action on Toxics, West Harlem Environmental Action (NY).

Continue and expand biomonitoring and air/dust monitoring, including innovative methods of reporting individual data to participants

This continues long-standing collaboration with Silent Spring Institute in Newton, MA, with which we have long-standing collaborations.

Develop low-cost, community-based monitoring programs

-Coordinate with Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a Cambridge-based organization with collaborators and projects across the US and the world. Public Lab works with environmentally-impacted communities to conduct balloon mapping, remote sensing, GIS, spectral imaging, robotic indoor air and dust collection, and other low-cost, participatory projects.

– Coordinate with Silent Spring Institute, which is developing low-cost household exposure techniques to expand its pioneering work in biomonitoring and exposure science.

Create campus-wide resources for the teaching of research ethics, cultural competence, and community-based participatory research

-Present ethics training sessions through the Northeast Ethics Education Partnership for Research Ethics (NEEP), presently based at Brown University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse)

Please see the NEEP website for further details.

Conduct lecture series designed to integrate environmental health interests across campus

Involve the Superfund Research Program, Ethics Institute, Law School, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Sociology/Anthropology, Environmental Justice Collaborative, Engineering, Environmental Science

Develop Hospitals for a Healthy Environment in Massachusetts

Based on the creation of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment in Rhode Island (H2ERI), which was modeled after Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, we will work with Health Care Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth, and H2ERI to create a coalition of hospitals, professional associations, unions, food organizations, state and local government agencies, green architecture and building groups, and others. The coalition will work towards environmentally healthy and sustainable hospital practices. This process will be an ideal learning laboratory for many students at Northeastern, and an excellent teaching opportunity for faculty. Pharmacy students may be particularly interested in the pharmaceutical take-back campaign that is a new and growing part of healthy hospital work.  Nursing students may be interested in a large number of the projects, especially given the support for this by the American Nurses Association and its state affiliates. Indeed, the spur for us to start H2ERI was the initiative of the Nurse Manager of the NICU at Women and Infant’s Hospital in Providence to remove phthalate and PVC supplies and replace them with safer substitutes.