Press Release

February 8, 2023 

PRIM&R Announces Appointment of Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSW to Board of Directors


February 8, 2023 


BOSTON – Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) today announced the appointment of Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSW, to its Board of Directors. Professor Patton began his three-year term on PRIM&R’s Board of Directors last month.  

“Professor Patton will make an outstanding addition to PRIM&R’s Board of Directors,” said Elisa A. Hurley, PhD, executive director of PRIM&R. “His years of research at the intersection of social media, AI, empathy, and race bring an important and timely perspective to the leadership of PRIM&R, as it continues to advance ethical research in the 21st century.”  

Professor Patton is a pioneer in the interdisciplinary crossroads of social work, communications, and data science. He is the Brian and Randi Schwartz University Professor of Social Policy, Communications, and Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania with joint appointments in the School of Social Policy & Practice and the Annenberg School for Communication. He also holds a secondary appointment in the department of psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine. 

Professor Patton’s groundbreaking research into the relationship between social media and gang violence – specifically how communities constructed online can influence often harmful behavior offline – has led to his becoming the most cited and recognized scholar in this increasingly important area of social science. 

Patton’s insights on creating non-biased and culturally nuanced algorithms give tech companies a holistic perspective on various business and social issues. Companies that adopt these proactive measures are then able to ensure they are not unintentionally propagating bias.   

In 2018, Professor Patton published a study in the prestigious Nature journal, Digital Medicine, uncovering grief as a pathway to aggressive communication on Twitter. The report was cited in an amici curiae brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in Elonis v. United States, which examined the interpretation of threats on social media. 

About PRIM&R   

Since 1974, PRIM&R has advanced the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research. We accomplish this mission through education, membership services, professional certification, public policy initiatives, and community building.  PRIM&R is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Find out more at   


Media Contact:   

Daniel McLean 
Public Engagement Manager 
Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) 
Direct: 617-303-1877