Susan O'Donnell

Adjunct Professor




My research expertise includes: social, political and community aspects of digital communications, media and technologies; social movements and alternative media; settler colonialism and rural community development; telecommunications in remote and rural communities; media analysis; research ethics.

For the first half of my 25-year research career, I worked in Ireland and the European Union. In 2004, I returned to Canada and joined the UNB Department of Sociology as an Adjunct Professor. At the same time I joined the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Digital Technologies Research Centre on the UNB campus as a Senior Research officer in the Human Computer Interaction group. After 13 years at the NRC I retired in 2017 and continued as a researcher with UNB.

While a researcher at the NRC I was also the vice-chair of the NRC Research Ethics Board (2008-2017) and the President of the NRC Research Officers group of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) (2014-2017). In that role, I worked with other PIPSC federal government science group presidents to negotiate a scientific integrity clause, including a "right to speak," into the collective agreements of more than 15,000 researchers and scientists across the federal public service.

Since 2004, I have been the principal investigator on a series of research and outreach projects funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) with collaborators and partners across Canada. The First Nations Innovation project ended in 2018 and continues as a national non-profit policy advocacy organization, the First Mile Connectivity Consortium with Indigenous partners across Canada.

My current project, RAVEN (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment) is working with a dynamic interdisciplinary team of researchers at UNB and community partners and collaborators. Together we are creating and analyzing digital alternative media to support the voices of rural champions and activists in New Brunswick.

Over the years, many UNB graduate students and community partners have had the opportunity to work with me and my collaborators on research projects at UNB and at the NRC. Together we have produced more than 50 peer-reviewed publications on topics ranging from social media and community development to First Nation community perspectives on telehealth. I also participate on graduate thesis supervisory committees.


  • PhD (Dublin City University)
  • MA (Cardiff University)
  • BA (University of Ottawa)

Selected publications

O'Donnell, S. & Beaton, B. (2018). A “whole-community” approach for sustainable digital infrastructure in remote and Northern First Nations. Northern Public Affairs, October, 34-37.

O’Donnell, S. & Perley, D. (2016). Toward a Sociology of the Reconciliation of Conflicting Desires. Canadian Review of Sociology. 54(4) 474-481.

Beaton, B., Perley, D., George, C. & O’Donnell, S. (2016). Engaging remote marginalized communities using appropriate online research methods. In N. Fielding, R. M. Lee & G. Blank (Eds) The Sage handbook of online research methods (Second Edition). Sage, London. Pg. 563-577.

O’Donnell, S. (2016). Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society (Book Review). Information, Communication & Society. 19, 1770-1772.

Beaton, B., Burnard, T., Linden, A. & O'Donnell, S. (2015). Keewaytinook mobile: An Indigenous community-owned mobile phone service in northern Canada. In L. Dyson, S. Grant & M. Hendriks (eds.), Indigenous People and Mobile Technologies. New York, NY: Routledge. Pg 109-125.

McMahon, R., Gurstein, M., Beaton, B., O’Donnell, S., Whiteduck, T. (2014). Making Information Technologies Work at the End of the Road. Journal of Information Policy 4(1).

Molyneaux, H., O'Donnell, S., Kakekaspan, C., Walmark, B., Budka, P. & Gibson, K. (2014). Social Media in Remote First Nation Communities. Canadian Journal of Communication. 39(2) 275-288.

Whiteduck, G., Tenasco, A., O’Donnell, S., Whiteduck, T. & Lockhart E. (2014). Developing an e-Community Approach to Community Services in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation. Journal of Community Informatics, 10 (2).

Simon, J., Burton, K., Lockhart, E. & O’Donnell S. (2014). Post-secondary Distance Education in a Contemporary Colonial Context: Experiences of Students in a Rural First Nation in Canada. The International Review of Research on Open and Distance Learning. 1(15), 1-19.

Carpenter, P., Gibson, K., Kakekaspan, C. & O’Donnell, S. (2013). How Women in Remote and Rural First Nation Communities are Using Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). In W. Ashton & A. S. Carson (Eds.), [Special issue]. The Journal of Rural and Community Development, 8(2), 79-97.