Campus News

Professor aims to make UGA known as social, behavioral research hub

Phaedra Corso

Phaedra Corso has a vision: To make UGA known as “the hub for social and behavioral research,” not just among researchers, but also with policymakers. And not just in Georgia, but across the Southeast, in the nation’s capital and with national research organizations.

Corso, named associate director of the William A. and Barbara R. Owens Institute for Behavioral Research last fall, said that “while individual researchers at the OIBR are well known nationally and internationally, OIBR as a whole is not yet well known outside of UGA.”

Research in psychology, health behavior, consumer science, economics, policy and education-all in the scope of OIBR research-increasingly is recognized as fundamental to optimal health outcomes and improving quality of life, according to Corso.

“Translational research—moving what we know about behavior from bench science to community practices—encompasses the entire scope of research conducted under the auspices of OIBR,” she said.

Already, Corso and institute director Lillian Eby, a professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, are implementing a plan to make OIBR the “go to” source for social and behavioral health expertise. The plan includes strategies aligned with what Corso said OIBR aims for: “breaking down the silos.”

OIBR’s mission, she said, is to encourage transdisciplinary research by facilitating the exchange of information and ideas across boundaries. The institute supports more than 100 affiliated faculty through a mentoring program, networking opportunities that bring together leading social and behavioral scientists from across the globe, as well as grants administration.

Getting OIBR on the map beyond the walls of UGA calls for the same collaborative approach. Since becoming OIBR associate director, Corso has initiated discussions for numerous joint conferences and collaborations with external groups that she believes will lead to joint proposals for awards.

“Our state’s leaders need information about our capabilities, too,” Corso said.

She is developing relationships with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government to get in front of government leaders. Similarly, she said working with UGA Extension with its presence in all 159 Georgia counties is an ideal way to get visibility throughout the state.

Corso’s vision for the institute was inspired, in large part, by the 15 years she spent as a researcher at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease and Prevention in Atlanta. With its variety of expertise, the government’s public health agency was “a wonderful model of interdisciplinary research,” she said.

In addition to serving as associate director of OIBR, Corso is the UGA Foundation Professor of Human Health and director in the College of Public Health’s health policy and management department. She also serves as associate director for policy at the Emory Center for Injury Control and is an adjunct faculty at the UGA School of Public and International Affairs.

Corso is known both nationally and internationally for her research in economic evaluation and economic impact assessment, primarily in the areas of child maltreatment and substance use prevention. Her recent activities include serving on a National Academies’ Institute of Medicine committee to assess the current field of research in child maltreatment and consulting for UNICEF on a project measuring the economic burden of child maltreatment in the Pacific Rim.

Her expertise in economic evaluations of public health services and programs has moved her into the public eye at a time when spending on health services is being highly scrutinized by all levels of government and the public.