It’s over! Next week there is no Dataharvest Digital. Last night the final session said goodbye and see you – somewhere, somehow – in 2021!

It is almost sad for us at Arena – but at the same time we are happy and proud. We have had what Arena chairman Nils Hanson called “probably the longest investigative journalism conference ever”. 13 weeks of lectures, panels, presentations, demonstrations – a total of 149 sessions. And as opposed to a ‘normal’ Dataharvest conference, none of them were parallel – those who wanted to, could follow every single session of the conference.

The final number of participants was 593 – a record number, though we are hesitant to compare the online conference with the physical one. They were of 55 nationalities and lived in 53 different countries. And in spite of time zone differences we had participants from China and Kyrgyzstan as well as from the US and Latin America.

186 speakers volunteered their time to speak and discuss – thank you very much for that! Without that contribution, there would be no conference!

So what is ahead in 2021? We cannot say but will decide in January whether it is safe to have a physical conference in Mechelen or if we will be online again in 2021. In any case, we have learned a lot about meeting online, so we promise that there will be pop-up meetings and presentations online throughout the year 2021.

Online or IRL, we hope to present the best investigations, new and old data tools, tips and tricks to make your investigations better and your data skills more refined. Do you have ideas for the conference? Do you know a tool that you would like to present for others? Are there super-interesting investigations in your country that should be known to a wider public? Write your ideas in our call for proposals, and we will get back to you!

This year’s Dataharvest included a lot of data skills training. Our fantastic trainers have lifted the veil on spreadsheets analysis, cleaning data, explored caveats in visualizing data. We have asked basic questions – what is data, what does it look like and how to even start a data research? However, we have also challenged our participants with some programming – there was Python, R, SQL, regex and Neo4j. We have introduced some robust software for investigations such as Aleph and QGIS, but also simple tools to scrape websites or read PDFs. We have shown how to think as a data scientist, statistician, and open source researcher. But what now?

It’s time to find a project. Cementing the skills by putting them into practice. For the first time ever, Dataharvest offers you, on top of the skills training, also a possibility to practice these skills. In a so-called Data Sprint our participants will have the opportunity to collaborate with others and create their own stories.

Our participants will be working with the recently released European COVID-19 spending data by OCCRP in a cross-border teams of 3 to 4. There are many potential stories in those data – for many different countries and media. There are also quite some challenges in cleaning them!

We have 12 spots in this course! Do you want to secure one and make your own story together with others and under guidance of experienced data trainers? Write to adriana@journalismarena.eu and make space in your calendar as described here

If you register for one of the limited spaces on this mini-project, you commit to downloading and looking at the data before the first session, and so to joining that session with some ideas of what you would like to do with the data.

If more than 12 register for the data sprint, the participants will be selected to give the best representation of gender, countries and experience. Participants that have regularly attended the data sessions will get a priority. The participants will be informed about the selection on Friday 20th. 

Dataharvest 2020’s focus has been climate and energy. In early September, we zoomed in onto the networks of climate deniers, looked in fossil fuel subsidies across the EU and discussed the future of climate journalism. This upcoming week, we’ll learn more about how carbon credit frauds work, who the big energy lobbyists in Brussels and the UK are, and what climate-related stories we should follow next (check out the full schedule here).

We’re also very much looking forward to launching the Arena Climate Network – a community of investigative journalists and researchers working on topics related to climate change.

The Arena Climate Network’s aims

  • to follow the stories beyond national borders
  • to facilitate information flows between journalists covering climate at the local, national and EU level 
  • to tell impactful (and often under-reported) stories

Our network will provide its members with a forum-like tool enabling a multi-channel, non-hierarchical communication; an open-source, open-access knowledge base featuring relevant journalistic pieces, reports and databases, and the necessary secure collaborative space to share information and collaborate across borders.

Moreover, Arena for Journalism in Europe is a proud recipient of Digital Whistleblowing Fund grant (a project by Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights and Renewable Freedom Foundation), supporting grassroot organisations to integrate a secure leak infrastructure to their online platforms. Through this platform, we will be able to receive, in a secure and private manner, leaks (information and documents) touching upon environmental wrongdoings, frauds in the energy sector and impacts of the climate crisis provided by whistleblowers from different countries.

Spread the word, follow the Arena Climate Network on Twitter, and get in touch with the network’s coordinator Jelena Prtoric (jelena@journalismarena.eu) if you want to know more!