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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI researcher among most-cited scholars

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- December 11, 2006 -- A funny thing happened to Joe Rossi of Wakefield on his way to becoming a cognitive psychologist. During the last year of his dissertation work at the University of Rhode Island, he accepted a research assistantship with James Prochaska, a professor of psychology at URI who was working on what would become a groundbreaking smoking cessation project. That was in 1984.

This year, Rossi, who never became a cognitive psychologist, but instead became a member of a world-renowned team of behavioral scientists headed by Prochaska, was designated one of the most cited scholars in the field of psychology/psychiatry.

The Institute for Scientific Information lists Rossi as one of the 250 most-cited authors of scholarly journal articles over the last two decades in the psychology/psychiatry category. Less than one half of one percent of all publishing scientists meets the criteria for inclusion. The designation is an indication of the global impact a researcher’s work has had on other scholars.

Of the thousands of articles published in research journals every year, most contain a list of citations, as footnotes or references. These cited references are acknowledgments by the authors of their debt to the published findings of others.

The Institute keeps count of the citations to reveal “the face of research” by each year designating the most cited individuals in 21 broad categories of life sciences, medicine, physical sciences, engineering and social sciences. To see the complete list, go to the institute’s website at isihighlycited.com.

Rossi, a professor of psychology and director of research at URI’s Cancer Prevention Research Center, is credited with 145 journal articles.

He is the third researcher at URI ‘s Cancer Prevention Research Center to be placed on the list. He joins Prochaska who directs the center and his colleague Wayne Velicer who were named to the most-cited list in 2004. Rossi’s inclusion now means that seven researchers at URI are now among the world’s most highly cited.

Rossi’s work in health psychology and quantitative research methods helped produce a revolutionary model of stage-based behavior change that is recognized internationally as one of the most promising approaches to health promotion.

“The model is a very nice intersection of how quantitative methods and substantive theoretical work in an area like health come together,” Rossi says.

“The model has an intuitive appeal and is one of the reasons for its success. But underlying all the interventions lies a very rigorous basis of quantitative methods that is certainly part of the reason the model is so successful.”

One of Rossi’s students researched the use of the model and discovered more than 150 published studies in seven languages. It has been applied to more than 50 behaviors.

Rossi teaches statistics and health psychology in addition to his research. He has studied sun exposure behavior, as well as diet and exercise.

“We are putting more and more emphasis on multiple behaviors. The model is very adapted to handling more than one behavior at a time because it doesn’t ask people to change behaviors right away, it assesses where they are and gets them to try the next step,” the researcher says. “We’ve now done three or four studies that are published or in press that show you can change more than one behavior at once without any one behavior suffering as a result.”