Jennifer “Jenny” Preece (1949 – ) is a professor and former Dean of the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She dedicates her research to online communities, specifically identifying what makes such communities successful and how usability factors impact social behaviors online.
In the early 1990s, Preece began to focus on the design and management of digital social media. She became fascinated with determining the motives behind participation in social media and examining the relationship between usability and sociability. During her research, Preece observed a high level of empathy in some online communities – particularly patient support spaces – for which she coined the term “empathic communities.”
Beginning in 2009, her focus shifted to the study of how technology could foster citizen science. She studied the collecting, documenting, and archiving of biodiversity data using technology to leverage the efforts of the public. Preece aims to understand and harness various motives for long-term citizen engagement and to support diversity in public participation in science.
Preece joined the University of Maryland, College Park’s College of Information Studies as a professor in 2005 and soon became the College’s Dean. In June 2015, after serving as Dean for 10 years, Preece decided to return to teaching and research. She also serves as principal investigator of a citizen science environmental education projected funded by the National Science Foundation.
I first met Jenny in 1991, when she sought to interview me at a conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia for her influential HCI book. Then, when I saw her again at the CHI 1993 Conference in Amsterdam and told her about my sad divorce story, she replied that she was in the same situation. That led to longer discussions and a deepening relationship. She moved to the US in December 1996, and we were happily married in 2001. She’s continued writing her HCI books, plus her pioneering book on Online Communities, so we have common ground for discussions, but we mostly work to help each other, rather than to collaborate. She was Dean of the iSchool at the University of Maryland (2005-2015, the Provost called her an “Outstanding Dean”) and her current research is breaking new ground in HCI for citizen science. It’s been a wonderful time together. – Ben Shneiderman
- Ph.D., Open University, Institute of Educational Technology (1985)
- Honors Degree in Biology, University of Ulster (1971)
- Professor, University of Maryland, College Park, College of Information Studies (2015)
- Professor and Dean, University of Maryland, College Park, College of Information Studies (2005 – 2015)
- Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Information Systems Department (2002)
- Professor and Department Chair, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Information Systems Department (1997)
- Professor of Information Systems and Human-Computer Interaction and Director of the Research Center for People and Systems Interactions (1994)
- Faculty Member, Open University (1979)
- Researcher and Developer, Computers in the Curriculum Project, University of London (1975)
- Head of High School Science, The Study, Wimbledon (1974)
- High School Teacher, Faraday Comprehensive School, London (1972)