Me elsewhere and in other formats:

Hello! I am an assistant professor at the University of Arizona School of Information.

I conduct interdisciplinary research in the areas of:

  • scientific data practices and data(base) curation,

  • the maintenance and evolution of knowledge infrastructures,

  • metadata and the conceptual foundations of information organization.

The overarching questions driving my research are: how do people work with scientific data? And: how are data and knowledge infrastructures maintained, contested, and changed over time? I am especially interested in long-term knowledge infrastructure sustainability, database curation, integrative data reuse, and the mobilization of natural science data.

I welcome mixed methods approaches and interdisciplinary collaborations. I tend to take a collaborative approach with the scientific communities I study, and am as likely to publish in journals like Remote Sensing or ZooKeys as I am JASIST or CSCW. My goal is to conduct research that is impactful in these communities, as well as in the information sciences.

I have a number of on-going (and funded!) projects, and excellent PhD students.

I previously worked at the University of Michigan School of Information. My doctorate is from the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign (2017). Prior to grad school, I dug up fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits. When not professoring, I try to get outside and explore, or stay inside to take up messy and overly complicated art or cooking projects.

Recent news

Nov 1, 2022: New paper presented at ASIST 2022! Maintaining Repositories, Databases, and Digital Collections in Memory Institutions: An Integrative Review. https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.755 More work from this project hopefully appearing soon....

Sept 6, 2022: New paper led by Sara Lafia out in Quantitative Science Studies: Subdivisions and Crossroads: Identifying Hidden Community Structures in a Data Archive’s Citation Network

Apr 22, 2022: I'm thrilled to share that I'll be joining the University of Arizona iSchool this fall! UMSI has been a great place to work and I'll so miss my Michigan friends, but I'm excited to make this move, and join a growing department with such strengths in biodiversity informatics.

Feb 8, 2022: New paper out in JASIST: Integrative data reuse at scientifically significant sites: Case studies from Yellowstone National Park and the La Brea Tar Pits! This paper summarizes some of the core findings from my dissertation, notably that we must curate data about natural sites in order to support the later integrative reuse of data from these sites.

Jan 12, 2022: My and my PhD student Alli Rayburn's poster, "The craft of database curation: Taking cues from quiltmaking," won the best poster award at iConference!

Mar 18, 2021: Just launched another new citizen science project on Zooniverse: Angling for Data on Michigan Fishes! We (Karen Alofs (PI), Hernan Lopez-Fernandez, Randy Singer, Justin Schell, Kevin Wehrly, Michael Lenard + students Kartik Tharwani, Calla Beers, Faye Polasek) will use this historical data to study how climate and other ecological changes have impacted the fish populations over time. This project was funded through a MIDAS PODS grant, and we are very excited about it! At some point we will need to write up a blog post on how COVID-19 totally disrupted our plans, and how we recovered thanks to our dilligent students. More details on the project here.

Feb 27, 2021: I had a lot of fun writing this response to Leigh Alexander's "The Void" as part of Slate's Future Tense Fiction series. This series aims to explore how learning experiences — of all kinds — will be shaped by technology and other future forces, along with the moral, ethical and social challenges this will entail. ASU hosted a discussion between me and Leigh, available here.

Jan 20, 2021: We just launched Sedimental Values: Digging In To La Brea's Past on Zooniverse! This is a new community science project, transcribing 50+ years of field data at La Brea. Working with this messy data is basically what sent me to grad school. Help us transcribe it to make curation at La Brea more efficient, and to contribute to studies of taphonomy and paleoecology! Bonus, once this data is curated I'll feel like I can retire in peace.