New associate vice provost Brea Perry sees role as 'being a catalyst for research impact'

Brea Perry is the new associate vice provost for the social sciences in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington.

Brea PerryView print quality image
Brea Perry. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Perry, who holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in sociology from IU Bloomington, said she sees her role as "being a catalyst for research impact and productivity in the social sciences."

She began her career at the University of Kentucky before returning to IU in 2014, where she's been actively involved in teaching, research and publishing.

In her role as associate vice provost, Perry will provide leadership and oversight for the office's centers and institutes in the social sciences. Inside IU Bloomington caught up with Perry and asked her about the new position and what's on her agenda.

Q: How do you see your role as associate vice provost for social sciences at IU Bloomington? What drew you to the position?

A: I see my role as being a catalyst for research impact and productivity in the social sciences. To me, that means providing resources to help faculty achieve their research goals, removing barriers that cause research agendas to stagnate, creating programs to incubate and advance good ideas, and putting supports in place that make it easier and more rewarding for social scientists to apply for external grants and fellowships.

I was driven to accept the position because, first, our social science faculty, collectively, are extremely impressive. We have some of the top social science researchers in the world here. There is so much talent, innovation and initiative. And second, while the social sciences have been underrepresented and under-resourced at IU, that tide is turning. IU Bloomington's existing excellence plus the will and means to elevate IU social sciences convinced me to take on this position.

Q: What are your first priorities?

A: Honestly, my first priority is to listen and learn. I am now overseeing several important research centers and institutes, and I need to learn what our social science research centers and institutes are doing and how I can help them be even more successful. And I want to contact individual social science researchers and departments to gather information about areas of strength and gaps in resources.

I also have some ideas in mind for incubating transformative ideas and for reducing barriers and increasing success rates in external funding.

Q: How do you anticipate working with social scientists and social science research on the campus?

A: As noted, I'll be reaching out to researchers and departments to gather feedback and better understand the research landscape in other schools on campus. I welcome unsolicited input, too, and am happy to meet with individuals or units that have ideas for facilitating research impact and productivity in the social sciences.

Q: You're an active social science researcher yourself. What are your main projects currently?

A: I have four main projects right now funded by the National Institutes of Health and by the National Science Foundation. I am working with faculty at the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center on a project that investigates relationships between social network dynamics, cognitive decline and neuroimaging biomarkers in the aging brain.

I also lead a study that uses big data to examine the social dynamics of high-risk drug-seeking behavior as a predictor of opioid overdose and related outcomes. With a sociologist at UCSF, I am co-leading a study of poverty, social network dynamics and health services use among health care "super utilizers" with complex, comorbid conditions. And finally, a professor in the Fairbanks School of Public Health and I have a project investigating changes in recent immigrants' health beliefs and behaviors as a function of acculturation and social network characteristics.

My research is pretty interdisciplinary, and I enjoy collaborations with colleagues across the social and biological sciences. I look forward to leveraging that experience in my new role as AVP of social sciences at IU Bloomington.

Lauren Bryant is associate director of research communications in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington.