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 Action, Toxic 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: https://catskillsinstitute.northeastern.edu/.
- Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area (1998, Temple University Press).
- Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust, and the Literary Imagination. 2015, Academic Studies Press. Edited by Holli Levitsky and Phil Brown.
- In the Catskills: A Century Of The Jewish Experience In “The Mountains” (2002, Columbia University Press), editor.
- Social Movements in Health (2005, Blackwell Publishers), co-edited with Stephen Zavestoski.
- Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement (2007, Columbia University Press)
- Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Stephen Zavestoski, and the Contested Illnesses Research Group (2012, University of California Press)
- Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Phil Brown, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Ruthann A. Rudel, Carla Pérez. “‘Toxic Ignorance’ and the Right-to-Know: Assessing Strategies for Biomonitoring Results Communication in a Survey of Scientists and Study Participants” Environmental Health. 2009 8:6.
- Julia Green Brody, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ami Zota, Phil Brown, Carla Pérez, and Ruthann A. Rudel. “Linking Exposure Assessment Science with Policy Objectives for Environmental Justice and Breast Cancer Advocacy: The Northern California Household Exposure Study” American Journal of Public Health 2009 99:S600-S609
- Brian Mayer, Phil Brown, and Rachel Morello-Frosch. “Labor-Environmental Coalition Formation: Framing and the Right-to-Know” Sociological Forum 2010 25:745-768
- Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Ruthann A. Rudel, Laura Senier, Carla Pérez and Ruth Simpson. “Institutional Review Board Challenges Related to Community-Based Participatory Research on Human Exposure to Environmental Toxins: A Case Study” Environmental Health 2010 9:39
- Crystal Adams, Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Ruthann Rudel, Ami Zota, Sarah Dunagan, Jessica Tovar, ¬ and Sharyle Patton. “Disentangling the Exposure Experience: The Roles of Community Context and Report-back of Environmental Exposure Data” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2011 52 (2):180-196.
- Phil Brown, Mercedes Lyson, and Tania Jenkins. “From Diagnosis to Social Diagnosis” Social Science & Medicine 2011. 73:939-943.
- Phil Brown and Alissa Cordner. “Lessons Learned from Flame Retardant Use and Regulation Could Enhance Future Control of Potentially Hazardous Chemicals”. Health Affairs 2011 30 (5):1-9.
- Phil Brown, Julia Green Brody, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Jessica Tovar, Ami R. Zota, and Ruthann A. Rudel. “Measuring The Success Of Community Science: The Northern California Household Exposure Study” Environmental Health Perspectives 2012, 120:326–331.
- Alissa Cordner, David Ciplet, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Phil Brown. “Research Ethics for Environmental Health and Justice: Academics and Movement-Building”, Social Movement Studies 2012, 11:161-176.
- “Integrating Medical and Environmental Sociology with Environmental Health: Crossing Boundaries and Building Connections through Advocacy”, Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2013, 54:144-64.
- Alissa Cordner, Lauren Richter, and Phil Brown, “Can chemical-class based approaches replace chemical-by-chemical strategies?: Lessons from recent FDA regulatory action on perfluorinated compounds.” Environmental Science & Technology 2016 50 (23), pp 12584–12591
- Phil Brown, Carmen Milagros Velez Vega, Colleen B. Murphy Vellena, Michael Welton, Hector Torres, Zaira Rosario, Akram Alshawabkeh, Jose Cordero, Ingrid Padilla, and John Meeker “The Hurricanes and the Environmental Justice Island: Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico” Environmental Justice 2018 11(4):148-153
- Jennifer Carrera, Phil Brown, Julia Green Brody, and Rachel Morello-Frosch, “Research Altruism: Why People Agree to Research Participation in Biomonitoring and Household Exposure Studies” Social Science & Medicine. 2018 196: 175-181
- Leif Fredrickson, Christopher Sellers, Lindsey Dillon, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Nicholas Shapiro, Marianne Sullivan, Chris Amoss, Stephen Bocking, Phil Brown, Vanessa De La Rosa, Jill Harrison, Sara Johns, Katherine Kulik, Rebecca Lave, Emily Marquez, Michelle Murphy, Liza Piper, Lauren Richter, Sara Wylie, and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. “History of US Presidential Assaults on Modern Environmental Health Protection” American Journal of Public Health 2018. 108 (S2):S95-S103
- Lauren Richter, Alissa Cordner, and Phil Brown, “Non-Stick Science: Sixty Years of Research and (In)Action on Fluorinated Compounds” Social Studies of Science In press
Awards and Honors
- Danforth Graduate Fellowship for doctoral study, 1978-1980
- Commencement Speaker, SUNY Albany School of Public Health, 2004
- Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution to Environmental Sociology Award, American Sociological Association Environment and Technology Section, 2006
- Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contribution to Medical Sociology Award, American Sociological Association Medical Sociology Section, 2012
- American Sociological Association – Sections: Medical Sociology, Environmental Sociology, Collective Behavior and Social Movements, Science, Knowledge and Technology
- Society for the Social Study of Science