Dr. Scott I. Donaldson

Dr. Scott I. Donaldson

Senior Research Associate

University of Southern California


SCOTT I. DONALDSON is a Senior Researcher in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Scott completed a Postdoctoral Scholarship in Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and completed a PhD in Evaluation and Applied Research Methods at Claremont Graduate University. He completed an MS in Applied Psychology at the University of Southern California, and completed a BA in Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His research leverages quantitative methodologies, such as psychometrics, meta-analysis, data science, and other advanced statistical approaches to research the intersection of digital media and health. He currently works in the USC Social Media Analytics Lab on a monitoring and evaluation grant funded by the California Department of Public Health in addition to other grants funded by the Regents of California.


  • Evaluation Science
  • Surveillance
  • Tobacco Marketing
  • Psychometrics
  • Well-Being Science


  • Postdoctoral Scholar in Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement, 2021

    University of California, San Diego

  • PhD in Evaluation and Applied Research Methods, 2020

    Claremont Graduate University

  • MS in Applied Psychology, 2015

    University of Southern California

  • BA in Psychology, 2014

    University of California, Los Angeles

Media Coverage

Statistical Programming Expertise

R Programming





Adjunct Professor in Evaluation, Research Methods, and Measurement

University of Connecticut

May 2023 – Present California

Principles in Biostatistics (Instructor)

Keck School of Medicine of USC

May 2022 – Aug 2022 California

Senior Research Associate

Keck School of Medicine of USC

May 2021 – Present California

Adjunct Professor (Research Design and Methodology)

University of San Diego, School of Leadership and Education Sciences

Jan 2020 – May 2021 California

Postdoctoral Scholar in Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement

University of California San Diego, Moores Cancer Center

Sep 2019 – May 2021 California

Adjunct Professor (Statistics & Research Methods)

Chapman University Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences

Aug 2018 – May 2019 California

Accenture Evaluation and Measurement Lead

Accenture Talent Innovation Research Lab

Feb 2018 – May 2019 California

Adjunct Professor (Statistics & Research Methods)

California State University, Los Angeles

Aug 2017 – May 2018 California

Evaluation Procedures Teaching Assistant

Claremont Graduate University

Feb 2017 – May 2018 California

Research and Jobs Coordinator

Claremont Graduate University

Jan 2017 – May 2018 California

Director of Oxbridge Seminar in Evaluation Science

Claremont Graduate University

Sep 2016 – May 2017 California

Lab Manager for the Positive Organizational Psychology Research Lab

Claremont Evaluation Center

Feb 2016 – May 2017 California

Research Objectives

Research Contributions and Future Plans

One theme underlying my interdisciplinary training and research is the use of advanced statistical and measurement approaches to understand health risk behaviors, psychological well-being, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of health promotion interventions.

I received a strong methodological background during my doctoral studies at Claremont Graduate University, writing an award-winning dissertation on validating a new measure of positive functioning, presented at the 7th World Congress for the International Positive Psychology Association. In 2019, I published the first meta-analysis on the association between positive psychology interventions and work-related outcomes. The paper has since been featured in Psychology Today, downloaded 28,000 times per Almetric, and is my most cited paper on Google Scholar (152 citations as of 9/01/23).

My expertise in evaluation, statistics, and measurement in the health-context was then developed during my postdoctoral studies at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine where I was responsible for developing a monitoring & evaluation system for a statewide tobacco use prevention education program (TUPE) funded by the California Department of Education. I also learned more advanced measurement approaches, such as item response theory, and published one such psychometric assessment in Computers in Human Behavior Reports, evaluating a brief measure of problematic smartphone use among adolescents.

I gained invaluable experience in evaluation and tobacco prevention during my postdoc, which led to my current role as a Senior Research Associate in the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Social Media Analytics Lab, where I am working on the California Tobacco Control Program’s Tobacco Industry Monitoring Evaluation (TIME) project. The purpose of the TIME project is to inform comprehensive tobacco control policy efforts by monitoring core tobacco industry practices related to e-cigarettes and little cigars. Part of my duties have included using data science and developing programming scripts to download social media data from application programming interfaces on platforms, such as TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, and then applying social media analytic techniques to glean insights. My work in the USC Social Media Analytics Lab has garnered national media attention from news outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, NBC Los Angeles, and the Hill. I led a meta-analysis investigating the association between exposure to tobacco content on social media and tobacco use published in JAMA Pediatrics. The paper ranks in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric and has scored higher than 99% of its contemporaries of similar age from JAMA Pediatrics (Attention Score=453).

The emergence of social media has revolutionized how people, and especially adolescents and young adults, become exposed to tobacco content online that may alter their tobacco-related attitudes and behaviors. Research has shown that adolescents and young adults make up the majority of social media users and spend up to 8 hours per day online. Regular social media use among adolescents and young adults has created an extension of in-person peer circles, whereby behaviors that are frequently observed on social media can serve as socializing forces to portray what is normative, attractive, and rewarding. My background and experiences in evaluation, psychology, and tobacco-related social media research have inspired me to understand how to a) measure exposure to, and determine the extent to which, digital content increases tobacco use behaviors among adolescents and young adults; b) design, measure, and evaluate programs and interventions that promote well-being and reduce multiple health risk behaviors among adolescents and young adults.

Future Research

Digital platforms have granted the tobacco industry unprecedented access to prospective young consumers of tobacco products. Moreover, tobacco control bodies have yet to implement swift regulations appropriate for this online environment. While the tobacco control policy landscape continues to evolve, recognizing the importance of exposure to digital tobacco marketing on tobacco use, health promotion programs and interventions are desperately needed to bolster tobacco-related digital media literacy among adolescents, young adults, parents, teachers, and public health organizations among other community stakeholders. First, my future research will aim to develop validated measures of exposure to digital tobacco marketing and understand the causal associations between exposure to digital tobacco marketing on tobacco use, and vice versa. The development of validated measures informed from social media surveillance will lead to better tobacco-related digital media literacy intervention design and evaluation.

Second, it is likely that parents, teachers, and other authority figures underappreciate the extent to which adolescents and young adults are exposed to tobacco content online, including tobacco advertisements, promotions, and user-generated posts. Further, those digital media users who are exposed to such content are likely to be exposed to higher volumes of similar tobacco content in the future by proprietary machine learning algorithms. In other words, viewing tobacco content begets further exposure to tobacco content. I want to design, measure, and evaluate tobacco-related digital media literacy interventions with the goal of preventing susceptibility to use tobacco among never users or preventing escalation of tobacco use behaviors among young adults. Interventions focused on tobacco-related digital media literacy could create awareness about emerging tobacco products, and describe how they are being marketed in the digital environment. Increased awareness of such marketing techniques could lead to the necessary skills required to refuse/avoid the uptake of tobacco by adolescents and young adults.


Scott’s Rate My Professor

Research Design and Methodology - Teaching Evaluations

Spring 2017 - CSULA

Fall 2018 - Chapman University

Fall 2019 - Chapman University

Spring 2021 - University of San Diego

Statistics - Teaching Evaluations

Fall 2017 - CSULA

Fall 2018 - Chapman University

Interterm 2019 - Chapman University

Spring 2019 - Chapman University

Statistics for the Social Sciences

Some of the main topics in my lecture and lab sequence included -measures of central tendency, analysis of variance, applied multiple regression, data visualization, and the use of statistical software packages (e.g.,SPSS). The underlying logic of my statistics course was to help students formulate questions that data can answer, carry out appropriate statistical tests, and convey a story with data that lay people could understand.

Research Design and Methodology

This course introduced students to research designs and methods that are used in the scientific field of psychology. Topics included the scientific method, measurement and survey design, reliability and validity, and sampling. This course also included a lab component, focused on guiding students as they formulate hypotheses, choose and implement appropriate research designs, analyze and interpret data, and write research reports.