Brian G. Southwell

Program Director, Science in the Public Sphere, RTI International
Research Professor of Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Adjunct Faculty, Duke University

About Brian

Southwell is an expert in public understanding of health, the environment, and emerging science. 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 has served as senior editor for Health Communication and on the editorial board of nine other journals.


In the News

Opinion: "Zika Virus–Related News Coverage and Online Behavior, United States, Guatemala, and Brazil," Brian G. Southwell (with Suzanne Dolina, Karla Jimenez-Magdaleno, Linda B. Squiers, and Bridget J. Kelly), Centers for Disease Control and Protection: Emerging Infectious Diseases, June 15, 2016.
Research discussed by Brian G. Southwell, in "So Now Look," Documentary, August 8, 2014.
Research discussed by Melanie Tannenbaum, in "Knowledge, Knowledge Everywhere: Do Social Networks Spread or Drown Health & Science News?," Scientific American, November 21, 2013.
Quoted by Maria Konnikova in "The Psychology of Online Comments," The New Yorker, October 23, 2013.
Quoted by Michael Schudson and Katherine Fink in "Link Think," Columbia Journalism Review, March 2012.
Host by Brian G. Southwell to The Measure of Everyday Life.


"Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
Argues for caution regarding the role of peer-to-peer information spread as a mechanism for informal science education and public health promotion.
"Americans’ Perceived and Actual Understanding of Energy," (with Joseph J. Murphy, Jan E. DeWaters, and Patricia A. LeBaron), RTI International, August 2012.
Presents national survey data on Americans’ understanding of basic facts regarding energy and household energy use.
"The Marketing of Dissolvable Tobacco: Social Science and Public Policy Research Needs" (with Annice E. Kim, Greta K. Tessman, Anna J. MacMonegle, Conrad J. Choiniere, Sarah E. Evans, and Robin D. Johnson). American Journal of Health Promotion 26, no. 6 (2012): 331-332.
Proposes a research agenda for social science regarding novel tobacco products, offering a framework relevant to current policy consideration for regulation of smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarette products.
"The Symbiosis of News Coverage and Aggregate Online Search Behavior: Obama, Rumors, and Presidential Politics" (with Brian Weeks). Mass Communication and Society 13 (2010): 341-360.
Assesses the relationship between news coverage of rumors and Internet search behavior.
"New Communication Technologies, Old Questions" (with Marco Yzer). American Behavioral Scientist 52, no. 1 (2008): 8-20.
Assesses whether new communication technologies actually warrant new theories of media effects.
"The Effects of News and Entertainment on Interpersonal Trust: Political Talk Radio, Newspapers, and Television" (with GangHeong Lee and Joseph N. Cappella). Mass Communication and Society 6 (2003): 413-434.
Explores the role of media exposure in accounting for interpersonal trust.