Sara Lafia's blog

Scholarly Communication and Geographic Information: First Impressions of FSCI

During my week at the 2019 FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI) at UCLA, I was reminded of why I wanted to pursue graduate study in Geography at UC Santa Barbara: I want to lower barriers to general access and reuse of geographic information. From improving the discoverability of research data to advocating for free and open-source software (FOSS), the goals of the FORCE11 community align with my own. Participating in FSCI proved to be a formative experience. 


FSCI introductory comments

I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend FSCI, which allowed me to connect with a global network of scholars active in the areas of scientometrics, e-Science, and science communication. I also enjoyed spending time at UCLA, a sister campus to my home institution of UC Santa Barbara, and connecting with researchers there. Highlights of my week included participating in a reception held in the main reading room at Powell Library and giving a lightning talk about my research on spatial data discovery in the Carnesale Commons.

At FSCI, I had the opportunity to develop skills that will make my research aspirations concrete. My morning course on “FAIR Data in the Scholarly Communications Life Cycle” lead by Natasha Simons (Associate Director, Skilled Workforce, Australian Research Data Commons) and Liz Stokes (Senior Research Data Skills Specialist, University of Technology Sydney) presented a set of guiding principles intended to make data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR). This course helped me move from a basic understanding of how to evaluate the “fairness” of the data that I consume and publish toward a more comprehensive understanding of metadata quality. Detailed discussions of data registration and licensing processes, accompanied by inspiring examples of institutional interoperability work brought FAIR principles to life. I also appreciated a deeper dive into linked data technology, which is motivating and enabling data “FAIRness”. I have come away from this experience with an understanding that the promotion of FAIR principles in my own research is both sensible and achievable!

UCLA campus at nightI also enjoyed afternoon courses on “The Scientific Paper of the Future”, led by Yolanda Gil (Research Professor of Computer Science and Spatial Sciences, USC Viterbi School of Engineering) and “Citation Context Analysis: Findings and Lessons for Scholarly Communication Development”, led by Sergey Parinov (Chief Researcher, Central Economics and Mathematics Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences) and Victoria Antonova (Professor of Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow). These sessions encouraged me to interrogate the context of the publications that I cite and properly link them in papers that I will write. 


Reflecting on my week at FSCI, I feel motivated to continue increasing the visibility, intelligibility, and usability of tools that I create for a broader audience, not just for other researchers. I am energized to bring a geographic perspective to the creation of novel ways for people to discover and share knowledge that aligns with a broader vision for scholarly communication.

Sara Lafia

FORCE11 Member since August 6, 2019


Sara Lafia is a graduate student in the Geography Department at UCSB. She works in partnership with the UCSB Library and the Center for Spatial Studies on improving the spatial discovery of research data and documents. Her research addresses the question of how to spatially enable the discovery of connected data and publications in a setting that allows for mapping and analysis using a Geographic Information System. She is also interested in the application of spatialization frameworks to non-spatial data, such as text, to gain new insights about themes of contents across data formats. Her background is in Urban and Regional Planning. She has experience working on projects in collaboration with the U.S. EPA Region 10, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, applying GIS to assess social issues while also improving the accessibility of spatial tools for civic and community use.