Fred Fonseca | College of Information Sciences and Technology
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Fred Fonseca

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  • Associate Professor of Information Sciences and Technology

  • Director, Center for Innovative Online Learning

  • Affiliate Assistant Professor of Geography, The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

E388 Westgate Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 867-4025
  • Ph.D., Spatial Information Science and Engineering University of Maine, 2001

  • M.S., Public Administration and Computer Science Government School of the Joao Pinheiro Foundation, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1997

  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil 1978


Fred Fonseca received his Ph.D. in Spatial Information Science and Engineering from the University of Maine in 2001. He has joined Penn State in 2001
as an Assistant Professor. His work on three areas of research, Geographic Information Science, Information Science, and Information Systems, led to many
journal papers, research grants from NSF and other agencies, and successful Master’s and Ph.D. students . He received the 2006 Researcher Award from the University Consortium of Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) for his foundational work on ontologies in GIS. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2007.
In his sabbatical leave (2008-2009) from Penn State he developed the project Global Forest Information Systems with Gilberto Camara at INPE and Clodoveu Davis at UFMG.
From January 2010 to June 2012 he was the Associate Dean for Education, and later Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.
He is currently the co-director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning.

Research Interests:

What drives my research is a desire to understand and facilitate communication among people who  have  different  perspectives  on  a  subject.  Specifically,  I  apply  philosophical  hermeneutics  to problems of information use and integration, taking into account diverse cultures and skill levels. I use   ontologies   from   the   software   engineering   and   the   philosophical   perspectives   to   create information-technology  solutions to these problems. The solutions I create using hermeneutics can be  seen  as  vehicles  within  whichdifferences  and  similarities  among  various  perspectives  are expressed and discussed. My main focus is on information systems that deal with scientific data, in particular,  data  related  to  geographic  features  and  the  environmentwith  a  focus  on  sustainability. My  research  contributions  enhance  the  way  researchers  share  information  even  when  they  have different conceptualizations of the phenomena under investigation.


Marcinkowski and Fonseca (2016). The conditions of peak empiricism in big data and interaction design. JASIST, 67: 1279–1288. doi:10.1002/asi.23497

Tiago H. Moura, Clodoveu A. Davis Jr., Fred Fonseca (2016). Reference data enhancement for geographic information retrieval using linked data. Transactions in GiS,  10.1111/tgis.12238

Grace, R. & Fonseca, F. (2016). Networked pedagogy: exploring asymmetries in the structuring of distributed learning networks. Paper presented at iConference 2016. Philadelphia, PA.

Information Flow and Hermeneutic Play in Perception and Dialogue (2010) James Martin  & Frederico Fonseca Pages 254-268 Journal Ecological Psychology, Volume 22, 2010 - Issue 4: Distributed, Dynamical, and Dialogical: New Coordinations for Language.

Fonseca, Frederico and Martin, James (2007) "Learning The Differences Between Ontologies and Conceptual Schemas Through Ontology-Driven Information Systems.," Journal of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 8 : Iss. 2 , Article 4.

Fonseca, F. (2007), The double role of ontologies in information science research. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci., 58: 786–793. doi:10.1002/asi.20565

Research Keywords:

  • Philosophy of Information
  • Ontology
  • GIS
  • Philosophical implications of Big Data