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Brian G. Southwell

Program Director, Science in the Public Sphere

Brian Southwell, PhD, is an expert in communication and human behavior and a senior research scientist in the Center for Communication Science at RTI. His large-scale evaluation work has spanned behaviors and audiences, including cancer prevention and screening promotion efforts, national campaigns to discourage drug and tobacco use, efforts to bolster television news coverage of science, and various state-level campaigns. He also has studied public understanding of energy and related topics.

Southwell is also an adjunct professor with Duke University, where he is affiliated with the interdisciplinary Duke University Energy Initiative. In addition, he has served since 2011 as research professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an adjunct associate professor with UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health.

He served almost a decade at the University of Minnesota prior to these appointments, most recently as a tenured associate professor and director of graduate studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and has worked for a variety of nonprofit and government organizations.

Southwell's award-winning research and theoretical contributions appear in more than 70 journal articles and chapters. In 2013, he published the book Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health. He has served as senior editor for Health Communication and as a member of seven other editorial boards, including Communication Research and Public Opinion Quarterly.


PhD, Communication, University of Pennsylvania; MA, Communication, University of Pennsylvania; BA, Rhetoric and Communication Studies/Government, University of Virginia.

Latest Publications

Exposure to sided media coverage of an organization, subsequent group conversations, and public relations outcomes — Public Relations Review
Lee, H.M., Southwell, B.G., & Suzuki, Y. (Sep 2013)
An Intervention to Decrease Adolescent Indoor Tanning: A Multi-Method Pilot Study — Journal of Adolescent Health
Lazovich, D., Choi, K., Rolnick, C., Jackson, J.M., Forster, J., & Southwell, B. (May 2013)
Communicating quantitative risks and benefits in promotional prescription drug labeling or print advertising — Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
West, S.L., Squiers, L.B., McCormack, L., Southwell, B.G., Brouwer, E.S., Ashok, M., Lux, L., Boudewyns, V., et al. (May 2013)
Inducing fear as a public communication campaign strategy
Rice, R.E. & Atkin, C.K. (Eds.) (Jan 2013)
View all publications by Brian G. Southwell (62)