SSEHRI Research Projects

The SSEHRI Research Group is an interdisciplinary research group modeled after the tremendously successful Contested Illness Research Group of Brown University. The SSEHRI Research Group meets weekly to discuss and support the ongoing work of group members, coordinate projects and grants, and brainstorm future projects. Below are some of the projects in which SSEHRI members and collaborating groups are currently engaged. Click each title for more information.

Current Projects:

Biomonitoring Research Ethics
  • Ethical and Legal Challenges in Communicating Individual Biomonitoring and Personal Exposure Results to Study Participants: Guidance for Researchers and Institutional Review Boards. A collaboration between SSEHRI, Silent Spring Institute, and UC Berkeley this study is designed to develop ethical guidelines for biomonitoring studies which report back body-burden results to participants. This study builds off the work of four biomonitoring studies, interviewing participants, researchers, and IRB members on their views and expiriences with biomonitoring report back. This study is funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. The primary investigators are Phil Brown of SSEHRI, Julia Brody of Silent Spring Institute, and Rachel Morello-Frosch of the University of California, Berkeley. For more information contact Matt Judge jmjudge@neu.edu


ViCTER Consortium

  • The proposed ViCTER Consortium is a transdisciplinary effort in which each project is fully integrated and will contribute to and benefit from the others. This collaboration provides exceptional access to state-of-the-art user-centered technology for environmental health and promotes translation of exposure science to public health communications. The goal of the consortium is to build off the Biomonitoring Ethics Project to integrate knowledge from environmental health science, social science, and computer science to develop empirically-based digital report-back methods that strengthen the impact of the parent grant by providing resources to report individual exposure results for emerging contaminants.
  • The parent grant, led by J. Brody at Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with P. Brown at Brown University and R. Morello-Frosch at the University of California, Berkeley, contributes experience in Endorcrine Disrupting Chemical report-back, social science, and environmental public health. K. Gajos, who leads the Intelligent Interactive Systems Group in the Harvard Computer Science Department, will provide expertise in human-computer interaction to lead development of the digital interface. Exposure scientist G. Adamkiewicz at Harvard School of Public Health, the Boston lead for the CDC Green Housing Study, will field test the digital report-back model for a public housing population where effective communication can reduce chemical exposure burden. To strengthen results communications, Adamkiewicz and HSPH colleague J. Spengler add exceptional expertise in community-engaged research and interventions to improve indoor air quality in public housing. This study is funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. For more information contact Matt Judge jmjudge@neu.edu


Data Privacy

  • Increased data-sharing can accelerate science and stretch research dollars, but fears of re-identification of study participants from readily available datasets raise concerns about protecting privacy, a central ethical responsibility in human subjects research. This project will investigate privacy risks and solutions for sharing data from environmental health studies, a field where these issues have not yet been widely discussed. This project will empirically design and validate strategies for protecting privacy while facilitating wider sharing of EH data. The results will include a computational model that researchers, agencies, and IRBs can use to anticipate which variables pose privacy risks. We will apply the model to 10 prominent existing EH studies to provide the first assessment of the extent of privacy risks in this field. We will formulate empirically based guidance on how to redact or modify data to protect privacy while optimizing usefulness. This privacy utility assessment is important in order to identify variables that may be unexpectedly problematic and avoid redacting valuable data in ways that don’t benefit privacy. We expect that many chemical exposure measurements themselves will have low privacy risk, although ancillary data used to interpret exposures and link them to health will create re-ID possibilities. This creates an imperative to improve and secure report back processes in ways that can also protect access to useful data for researchers and communities
  • This project builds off of the Ethics Project and the ViCTOR Consortium, forming a three part program to improve biomonitoring report back studies in the future. The primary investigators are Julia Brody of Silent Spring Institute and Phil Brown of SSEHRI. This project is supported by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. For more information contact Matt Judge jmjudge@neu.edu


Fracking Research Program

  • The spread of unconventional natural gas and oil extraction through the process of horizontal hydraulic fracture drilling, or the pumping of hundreds of proprietary chemicals and millions of gallons of water under high pressure into the deep shale seams to release hydrocarbons, has led to a growing concern among residents, advocates, and scientists surrounding the environmental  health concerns associated with the industry. Professors Len Albright and Sara Wylie are organizing a multifaceted research strategy to research the emerging landscapes of unconventional oil and gas extraction.
  • WellWatch: Open Source Digital Platforms for Networking Community Narratives of Natural Gas Extraction. This project partners with Public Lab and a team of social scientists to develop an an interactive, digital, ethnographic archive of data from communities affected by unconventional oil and gas extraction. For more information contact Professor Albright l.albright@neu.edu and Professor Wylie s.wylie@neu.edu


Learning from C8 Exposure

  • The Learning From C8 Exposure Study is Ph.D. research being conducted by Matthew Judge under the supervision of SSEHRI Director Phil Brown (p.brown@neu.edu).  This study is designed to develop understanding about the C8 exposure experience through interviews with residents of the exposed communities.  The insights from this research we believe will be useful to future communities faced with exposure to similar emerging contaminants – chemicals for which there exist insufficient health and exposure information.
  • If you are interested in being interviewed please email Matt Judge (jm.judge@neu.edu).  Interviews will last between 30 to 60 minutes and will focus on individuals C8 exposure experience including questions about how you came to  understand the meaning of exposure, participation in biomonitoring studies and C8 lawsuits, and one’s views about the legacy of the exposure.  Participants will receive a $10 gift certificate as a thank you gift for completion of the interview.  Please feel free to address any questions about interviews or the overall research to Matt Judge.
  • This research has been accepted by the Northeastern University Office of Human Subjects Research Protection (http://www.northeastern.edu/research/hsrp/contact/) .  Participants can choose to maintain anonymity in any research papers or published documents.  If you have specific questions about research protections you may contact Matt Judge (jm.judge@neu.edu) or IRB chair Nan Regina (n.regina@neu.edu).