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Phil Brown

College of Social Sciences and Humanities Distinguished Professor, Sociology and Health Sciences; Director, Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute

Phil Brown joined Northeastern University in 2012 after 32 years at Brown University. He is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences, and director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI), which extends the work of the Contested Illnesses Research Group, which started in 1999 at Brown. SSEHRI has many federal research and training grants from both NIH and NSF, and foundation grants from The JPB Foundation, involving collaboration between social science and environmental health science, including a decade and a half of work with Silent Spring Institute. SSEHRI trains graduate students and postdocs in this interdisciplinary work, including the NIEHS-funded T-32 Training Program, “Transdisciplinary Training at the Intersection of Environmental Health and Social Science.”

Phil Brown is the author of No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community ActionToxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement, and co-editor of Illness and the Environment: A Reader in Contested Medicine, Social Movements in Health, and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements. His current research includes multiple projects on per- and polyfluorinated compounds (PFAS) (biomonitoring, analysis of activism, water monitoring, policy analysis), biomonitoring and household exposure, social policy concerning flame retardants, ethics of reporting back research data to participants, data privacy, and health social movements. This work combines environmental sociology, medical sociology, environmental health, science and technology studies, and social movement studies. Much of this work is community-based participatory research involving environmental health and justice organizations. Phil Brown received the Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution to Environmental Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association’s Environment and Technology Section in 2006, and the Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contribution to Medical Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology Section in 2012.

Phil Brown is a co-founder and member of the Steering Committee of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), which analyzes federal environmental data, websites, institutions, and policy through: 1) archiving vulnerable environmental data, 2) monitoring changes to information about the environment, energy, and climate on federal websites, 3) interviewing federal employees about threats and changes to environmental health agencies, and 4) imagining, conceptualizing, and moving toward Environmental Data Justice. He has led the writing of successful proposals for EDGI from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Phil Brown’s work on the Jewish experience in the Catskills includes an original work, Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area, an edited volume In the Catskills: A Century Of The Jewish Experience In “The Mountains,” and the co-edited Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust, and the Literary Imagination. He is founder and president of the Catskills Institute, a research organization that contains the world’s largest archive of material on the Jewish experience in the Catskills, much of it on a website with library-quality metadata: