Research Centers and Groups

The School of Journalism & Mass Communication is world renowned as a leading force in communications research. With an intellectual climate built on collaboration, multidisciplinarity, and methodological pluralism, faculty and students produce research that is regularly evaluated as among the best in the field. Much of this work happens in the research centers and groups that are a large part of the intellectual culture of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Below is a current list of centers and research groups.

Center for Communication and Democracy

The Center for Communication and Democracy houses a research and action project at UW–Madison. The goals of the center are to study how citizens can use new communications technologies to advance democratic discussion and civic participation; to explore the relationships between geographic communities and the emerging world of cyberspace; to explore the structural relations among communications and information markets, the civic sector, and government to find relationships necessary to build and sustain a public sphere in communication that is not dominated by the market. Contacts: Profs. Lew Friedland and Hernando Rojas

  • International Communication Research Group (ICRG) – The ICRG is a faculty/student collaborative research group that studies the relationships between communication and democracy in multiple contexts. With an initial focus on Latin America, this group has expanded its scope to include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom, through a series of comparative collaborative research projects. Contact: Prof. Hernando Rojas
  • Madison Commons – The Madison Commons was founded in 2006 to provide news and information from all of Madison’s neighborhoods. It is a collaboration between Madison citizens from every part of the city and faculty and students at the SJMC. The Commons focuses coverage on education, food, and transportation, as well as neighborhood news. It is partnered with WISC-TV/Channel 3000 and Community Shares, and supported by a service-learning matching grant from the Morgridge Center for Public Service. The Madison Commons also provides a lab for research on community, civic, and public journalism. Contact: Prof. Lew Friedland
  • Qualitative Inquiry & Research – In this group, graduate students and faculty focus on qualitative inquiry into questions about journalism, mass communication and society. Meetings are devoted to providing intensive feedback on completed or in-progress papers, learning new research techniques and discussing innovative methodology from qualitative perspectives. Every aspect of the research process—from raw ideas and question framing to peer review and publication—is explored. Contacts: Profs. Lew Friedland, Hemant Shah, Sue Robinson and Lucas Graves


Center for Journalism Ethics

The Center for Journalism Ethics aims to advance the ethical standards and practices of democratic journalism through discussion, research, teaching, professional outreach, and newsroom partnerships. The Center is a voice for journalistic integrity, a forum for informed debate, and an incubator for new ideas and practices. Contacts: Profs. Katy Culver and Lindsay Palmer


Mass Communication Research Center (MCRC)

The MCRC encompasses a wide range of faculty/student research groups that are characterized by a collaborative orientation, open participation, student direction, and faculty mentoring.  All affiliated groups share an orientation toward collaborative engagement with mass communication research topics, theories, and methods; a policy of open participation that is welcoming of all interested students and faculty members; an expectation that students themselves will be instrumental in setting the agenda for, and contributing to the goals of, each group’s activities; and a core of faculty mentoring and interaction with students to further develop both leadership and pedagogical skills among students. Currently, the following research groups are part of the MCRC and have regular meetings to advance these areas of inquiry. Contact: Prof. Dhavan Shah

  • Civic Culture and Contentious Politics (CCCP) – This faculty/student collaboration bridges scholarship from various disciplines, particularly communications, political science and sociology, to investigate the fluid and evolving relationship between mass media and civic and political life. Formerly the Consumer Culture and Civic Participation research group, we have previously examined cultural capital, identity politics, conscientious consumption, and political marketing. Our recent efforts focus on the role of mediated and networked communication in highly polarized political environments such as the deeply contested efforts to recall Governor Scott Walker and the 2012 presidential election. Contacts: Profs. Lew Friedland, Dhavan Shah, Mike Wagner, and Chris Wells
  • Health Information Technology Studies (HITS) – The goal of this research group is to examine the influence of health communication messages on optimizing individuals’ health behaviors, quality of life, emotional coping, and access to needed services. This research has focused on health communication in the context of cancer, addiction, aging, asthma, HCV and AIDS/HIV. The goal of this work is to understand the processes through which mediated and interactive messages improve health and reduce disparities in wellness. This research groups aims to improve the development and dissemination of appropriate, accessible, accurate, tailored, and customized messages. Contacts: Prof. Dhavan Shah
  • Media and Politics (MAP) – This student-faculty collaborative integrates scholarship from communications, political science, psychology and sociology to investigate the effects of mass media on political judgment, reasoning, and behavior. Originally called Mass Communication Research Center, the group is the original collaborative in the department, and has conducted research on media and politics for more than 50 years. During that time span, the group has conducted survey, experimental, content analytic, and mixed-methods research projects focusing on a range of topics, from more traditional communication areas like community life or framing effects, to newer questions surrounding digital media. Contacts: Profs. Young Mie Kim, Doug McLeod, Dhavan Shah, and Mike Wagner
  • Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) – This student-faculty research collaborative focuses on the study of user-created digital media and its political and social implications. It is broadly concerned with the implications of the Internet for participatory engagement and political conversation, with particular attention to the political blogs and web news sources, social networking systems, and peer-to-peer interactions in online settings. As part of its research, SMAD has engaged in a series of ongoing, large-scale content harvesting projects around Twitter, YouTube, and other widely used social media platforms. These projects apply computational social science and related data science techniques to the study of “big data.” Contacts: Profs. Young Mie Kim, Dhavan Shah, and Chris Wells


The PACE group will conduct research examining the physiological correlates of political and social attitudes, media effects, and the like. Our best work will integrate theory and evidence from the sociological environment, political groups and institutions, psychology, and physiology. In other words, we aren’t in the business of making a biological determinism argument. We are interested in when people think, reason, feel, and behave in ways “against type.” Contact: Prof. Michael Wagner