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Lesley Watson

Pronouns: She/Her

Senior Research Scientist
Lesley specializes in evaluating pilot programs and developing end-user focused communications products.

Lesley is a senior research scientist in the Public Health department who is an expert in qualitative and mixed methods research and excels at rapport building, facilitation, and uncovering emergent themes in data. She has a background in sociology and social psychology, and applies her understanding of perceptions, group dynamics, and predictors of behavior to identify actionable information to improve public health programs and initiatives. 

Lesley conducts research on a range of topics, and her recent work focuses primarily on cancer and violence prevention. In the cancer space, Lesley leads several projects aiming to advance health equity and improve providers’ support for patients. For the Federal Cervical Cancer Collaborative, Watson and her team convened a roundtable series with experts from across the U.S., U.S. Territories, and Freely Associated States to inform the development of a federal opportunities report to increase interagency collaboration, and a toolkit to support safety-net settings of care in adopting evidence-based practices. In violence prevention, Lesley works for a range of federal clients to address topics including sexual assault, bullying, and intimate partner violence. For CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, Lesley led a team that conducted formative research on violence prevention topics to inform message development, and conducted online focus group discussions to test and refine messaging.

Prior to joining NORC, Lesley worked at the American Cancer Society as lead qualitative researcher in the Statistics and Evaluation Center. There she conducted process and outcome evaluations of pilot programs to establish and improve cancer screening referral programs in Federally Qualified Health Centers. She also led strategic planning efforts for the organization, and created communications collateral to translate the impact of organizational activities for a range of stakeholders, including legislators, volunteers, and donors. Lesley also worked as a research and evaluation consultant at ICF, serving as a qualitative methods technical leader and task lead on domestic and international projects.



Emory University


Emory University


University of Tulsa

Appointments & Affiliations

Advisory Board Member | 2016 - Present

Comparative Methods for Cross-Case Analysis Network

Honors & Awards

Evidence into Practice Award | 2019

Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators

Project Contributions

American Cancer Society Patient Navigation Capacity Building Initiative

Enhancing patient navigation services to reduce cancer health disparities


American Cancer Society

Evaluating the U.S. Military’s Sexual Assault Prevention Programs

Rigorous evaluation of five initiatives aimed at preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault


Department of Defense