I am a Research Fellow at the University of Michigan's Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). My research is focused on: 1) measuring the impact of curation activities on data reuse; 2) studying community formation around shared scholarly resources; and 3) enhancing data discovery services. My research is currently supported by an NSF project, Transforming Data Discovery Through Behavior Modeling and Recommendation, which is investigating the potential to connect researchers with relevant data through recommender systems.

I hold a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Santa Barbara. My interests also include spatial analysis, information visualization, and Semantic Web technologies.

Imagery Credit: UCSB Aerial Photography Collection (San Gabriel Mountains, 1952)


Detecting data citation communities

Retrieving informal data references

Predicting data curation activities

Mapping multi-disciplinary research

Recommending surf locations

Spatializing research objects

Increasing GIS usability

Discovering open civic data

Validating damage proxy maps


    Fan, L., Lafia, S., Wofford, M., Thomer, A., Yakel, E., and Hemphill, L. (accepted). Mining Semantic Relations in Data References to Understand the Roles of Research Data in Academic Literature. In Proceedings of the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL).

    Lafia, S., Thomer, A., Moss, E., Bleckley, D., and Hemphill, L. (2023). How and Why do Researchers Reference Data? A Study of Rhetorical Features and Functions of Data References in Academic Articles. Data Science Journal. doi:10.5334/dsj-2023-010

    Lafia, S., Million, A. J., and Hemphill, L. (2023). Direct, Orienting, and Scenic Paths: How Users Navigate Search in a Research Data Archive. Proceedings of the ACM on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR). doi:10.1145/3576840.3578275

    Thomer, A., Akmon, D., York, J., Tyler, A.R.B., Polasek, F., Lafia, S., Hemphill, L., and Yakel, E. (2022). The Craft and Coordination of Data Curation: Complicating Workflow Views of Data Science. Proceedings of the ACM on Human Computer Interaction (PACM HCI). doi:10.1145/3555139

    Lafia, S., Fan, L., Thomer, A., and Hemphill, L. (2022). Subdivisions and Crossroads: Identifying Hidden Community Structures in a Data Archive's Citation Network. Quantitative Science Studies (QSS). doi:10.1162/qss_a_00209

    Lafia, S., Fan, L., and Hemphill, L. (2022). A Natural Language Processing Pipeline for Detecting Informal Data References in Academic Literature. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). doi:10.1002/pra2.614

    Hemphill, L., Pienta, A., Lafia, S., Akmon, D., and Bleckley, D. (2022). How do properties of data, their curation, and their funding relate to reuse? Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST). doi:10.1002/asi.24646

    Lafia, S., Thomer, A., Bleckley, D., Akmon, D., and Hemphill, L. (2021). Leveraging Machine Learning to Detect Data Curation Activities. In Proceedings of 17th IEEE eScience 2021, Innsbruck, Austria, September 20-23. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). doi:10.1109/eScience51609.2021.00025

    Lafia, S., Zhu, R., Regalia, B., and Kuhn, W. (2021). Reimagining GIS Instruction through Concept-Based Learning. AGILE: GIScience Series, 2, 1-7. doi:10.5194/agile-giss-2-6-2021

    Hervey, T., Lafia, S., and Kuhn, W. (2020). Search Facets and Ranking in Geospatial Dataset Search. 11th International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience 2021). Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik. doi:10.4230/LIPIcs.GIScience.2021.I.5

    Lafia, S., Last, C., and Kuhn, W. (2019). Enabling the Discovery of Thematically Related Research Objects with Systematic Spatializations. In 14th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2019). Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik. doi:10.4230/LIPIcs.COSIT.2019.18

    Lafia, S., Xiao, J., Kuhn, W., and Hervey, T. (2019). Talk of the Town: Discovering Government Data via Conversational Voice Assistants. In 14th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2019). Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik. doi:10.4230/LIPIcs.COSIT.2019.10

    Seltmann, K., Lafia, S., Paul, D., James, S., Bloom, D., Rios, N., ... and Davis, E. (2018). Georeferencing for Research Use (GRU): An integrated geospatial training paradigm for biocollections researchers and data providers. Research Ideas and Outcomes, 4, e32449. doi:10.3897/rio.4.e32449

    Lafia, S. and Kuhn, W. (2018). Spatial Discovery of Linked Research Datasets and Documents at a Spatially Enabled Research Library. Journal of Map and Geography Libraries, 1-19. doi:10.1080/15420353.2018.1478923

    Coggins, B. L., Lafia, S., and Torghabeh, B. V. (2018). Dramatic change in North Korea: Instability and human flight propensity. North Korean Review, 14(1), 49-70. ISSN:1551-2789

    Lafia, S., Turner, A., and Kuhn, W. (2018). Improving Discovery of Open Civic Data. In 10th International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience 2018). Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik. doi:10.4230/LIPIcs.GISCIENCE.2018.9

    Allen, C., Hervey, T., Lafia, S., Phillips, D. W., Vahedi, B., and Kuhn, W. (2016). Exploring the Notion of Spatial Lenses. In International Conference on Geographic Information Science. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45738-3_17

    Lafia, S., Jablonski, J., Kuhn, W., Cooley, S. and Medrano, F. A. (2016). Spatial discovery and the research library. Transactions in GIS, 20: 399–412. doi:10.1111/tgis.12235

    Golubovic, N., Krintz, C., Wolski, R., Lafia, S., Hervey, T., and Kuhn, W. (2016). Extracting Spatial Information from Social Media in Support of Agricultural Management Decisions. In Proceedings of the 10th Workshop on Geographic Information Retrieval. ACM. doi:10.1145/3003464.3003468

    Lafia, S. and Staehli, L. (2016). From Research Objects to Research Networks: Combining Spatial and Semantic Search. In SDW @GIScience: Proceedings of the Workshop on Spatial Data on the Web (pp. 35-40). ISSN:1613-0073


California Geography
Introduction to GIS


KCSB-FM Public Radio

Spatial Lightning Talk

UCSB Graduate Slam Semifinals

ESIP Raskin Scholarship

ArcUser Summer Article

SAP + Esri Spatial Hackathon


Sara Lafia

slafia at umich dot edu
ICPSR, 2116 Perry
Ann Arbor MI 48109-1248, USA

Interactive Campus Map