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Fred Fonseca

by Betsy VanNoy Aug 23, 2019
Fred Fonseca

Associate Professor of Information Sciences and Technology

Director, Center for Innovative Online Learning (COIL)

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

E388 Westgate Building

University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 867-4025


  1. Ph.D., Spatial Information Science and Engineering University of Maine, 2001
  2. M.S., Public Administration and Computer Science Government School of the Joao Pinheiro Foundation, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1997
  3. B.S., Mechanical Engineering Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil 1978


Faculty Fellowship Project 2019 - 2020

“Did the Data Win After All? Looking for a More Reflexive Data Science” by Fred Fonseca

Abstract: Data-driven science seems to proffer a return of the view of the primacy of data but with the twist that the data is being used as if it was a-theoretical although it might actually be hyper-theoretical. If science can be done without coherent models or theories then there is no way to evaluate the ethical impact of science. We are proposing to study and develop a hermeneutic and anti-positivist direction to suggest a new understanding of science. Using Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”, we are looking for a new understanding of reality incorporating both the values of the “old” science and the current view of data science. This is part of the needed new critical approaches to Big Data in what is being called “Data Ethics”. We are trying to create a foundation that let scientists use the a- and hyper-theoretical Big Data in a thoughtful way, creating a more reflexive data-driven science, one which is still effective but also deals with the impact that theories have on human life.

Fred Fonseca is an Associate Professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. He has served as Associate Dean for Education in the College of Information Sciences and Technology and as founding director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL). In 2018 he received the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Dr. Fonseca’s research is driven by a desire to understand and facilitate communication among people who have different perspectives on a subject. He applies philosophical hermeneutics to problems of information use and integration, taking into account diverse cultures and skill levels. He uses ontologies from the software engineering and the philosophical perspectives to create information-technology solutions to address these problems. The solutions can be seen as vehicles within which differences and similarities among various perspectives are expressed and discussed. His main focus is on information systems that deal with scientific data, in particular, geographic and environmental data. His research contributions enhance the way researchers share information even when they have different conceptualizations of the phenomena under investigation.