Dataharvest is not just a productive journalistic get-together. It is now also the subject for academic studies, done by German Annett Heft from Freie Universität in Berlin and published in the latest edition of the journal Journalism Studies. Her aim was to see how and why journalistic collaboration sprang up from the ground outside of the big networks – and did so by asking Dataharvest participants and Hostwriter members.

Heft’s study asks why journalists choose to collaborate, how they do it and which advantages and challenges they see. She concludes that “bottom-up collaborations contribute to a normalization of the practice through small-scale, less institutionalized, and less binding forms that enable a gradual transition towards a new mindset in the broader field”, and says about Dataharvest and Hostwriter: The “pioneering platforms foster a developing network of open-minded and multicultural practitioners.”

Read the full report here

We have to face it, though with a heavy heart: There is no responsible way to have a European gathering in May 2021. The vaccines will not be fully rolled out yet, and travel may still be restricted. So we have taken the difficult decision to take Dataharvest 2021 online.

What is the main characteristics of Dataharvest? For us, the keywords are networking, sharing of experiences, inspiration, learning from each other. All that is possible online. Of course, another very important characteristic is “coming together”. That, alas, will have to wait util 2022 (but what a conference we will have then!).

Until then, we hope that you will join us online for presentations of new investigations, new data skills training and for a 3-week online conference in late May-early June. Let’s keep networking and collaborating around new investigations to present and discuss, once we can meet again.

Do you have ideas for the online conference? Things you need to learn, people you would like to hear? Tell us about it!

Arena and Dataharvest will have a series of online meetings and training opportunities from March to June. The detailed program will be ready around March 1 – please follow the website, our Twitter account and the Dataharvest Facebook Group to stay informed!

Happy New Year – more Dataharvest is coming your way! And this marks a new start for Arena for Journalism in Europe!

Are you going to set up a new team for a cross-border investigation? Reality probably is, that you don’t have a big newsroom or big money behind you – but you know that you need to agree on digital security procedures and use safe tools. How do you do it, which software do you choose? On Tuesday January 12 at 10 am, get advice and tools from Arena’s IT manager Benedikt Hebeisen – for free!

The session is going to give you a toolbox. We’ll discuss which tools you can use for your daily work, how you can share your results and investigations with your colleagues, and which tools you can use for communication – of course with a focus on privacy and security.

The link to join the session will be published in the Dataharvest Facebook Group and on Twitter one hour before the session.

This session was postponed in November. Now instead, it marks the beginning of a new initiative from Arena for Journalism in Europe: We will regularly offer pop-up sessions where you can learn tools and techniques for your journalism and collaborations. More online activities will follow to supplement the Dataharvest conference. Join the Dataharvest Facebook Group or follow us on Twitter to stay updated!

After a conference, we send out evaluation forms (as does everybody else after a conference). We do not do it to fish for your praise or because we think you love questionnaires. We do it because your opinion matters to us, and it is not just a marketing phrase.

When you fill out the evaluation sheet and give us your ideas, you show that you care about Dataharvest and the investigative community. Every active participant makes it easier for us to write convincing applications to the funders that make the conference possible.

We know that some of the evaluation sheets have ended up in spam folders and may have been deleted. If you want to share your thoughts with us, please find the evaluation sheet here.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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 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 ( if you want to know more!

Following things and materials between countries is a big part of crossborder journalism – and that is what this week is all about!

We begin tomorrow with OCCRP’s Dada Lyndell and Lawrence Marzouk teaching us how to track ships and planes and how it can be used in your investigations. After that, Knack’s Kristof Clerix and freelancer Staffan Dahllöf tell how they used international conventions and followed the paper trail to find illegal arms and pesticides.

On Wednesday, Cécile Schillis-Gallego from Forbidden Stories will show how she followed minerals from mines in Guatemala, Tanzania and India to the mobile phone in our pockets, and Ben Heubl will then teach you how to use open-source satellite images and tools to track illegal activities in the environment.

Thursday we have a double session on how reporters from Stern Magazine, ARD, BBC and Bellingcat followed European arms being exported illegally to the war in Libya. Hans-Martin Tillack, Philipp Grüll and Ben Strick takes you through the steps.

And finally, the Thursday bar: Which funny, strange or creative methods have you used in your research? Have you gotten results from gadgets used in a new way? Share your stories in the Thursday bar! Marcus Lindemann and Minna Knus-Galán get the discussion going at 5 pm!

Drawing: Pieter Fannes

The Dutch are the biggest national group in this year’s Dataharvest Digital. Then come Germany, United Kingdom and France – and then a surprise: The fifth biggest national group is Russia – a new big country in Dataharvest statistics! Welcome, friends, Добро пожаловать, дорогие друзья – it is so nice to see how investigative journalism is also gathering interest and momentum in Russia!

The Dataharvest participants are of course an international crowd. We have participants from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, from Mexico and Costa Rica, from India and China. Many move around for work, studies or love – 1 in 6 live in another country than that of their nationality.

In these modern times, many do not give their gender – but of those who do, 48 per cent are women and 30 per cent are men. So a female majority this year?

Among the speakers there is gender equality – 50-50 of male and female. Well done, guys!

Finally, 52 per cent of us have full time jobs in media or other organisations. 42 per cent are freelancers – a typical status for investigative journalists and journalists as such in many countries. And 5 per cent are students, who hopefully via Dataharvest Digital get a head start into the profession.

Trans Alaska Pipeline

The climate crisis is probably the biggest story of our time – and climate and the energy sector’s role in climate change is the focus of this year’s Dataharvest. Two weeks are dedicated to the subject, and we begin on Tuesday September 15!

We have dedicated numerous sessions to different aspects of investigative, in-depth, data and cross-border coverage of the climate and energy sector. The second climate crisis week is in November.

We will be looking into the lobbying mechanisms and their impact on the European and the UK climate policies; we’ll track climate deniers across Europe and beyond; we’ll explore the world of the VAT fraudsters on the energy market and look into fraudulent carbon credits. Our speakers will share the methodology they employed in their investigations on fossil fuel subsidies, pension funds and open their databases to us. We’ll hear how big businesses sometimes benefit from green energy boost;  learn from experts who investigate shipping and aviation industry and find out why it’s so expensive and (politically) complicated to phase out of coal.

Data scientists from OECD, the European Environmental Agency and Copernicus (European Union’s Earth observation program) will sharethe data they have in store with us, explain how they collect it, where to find the relevant datasets and how to make the best use of them.

We have also prepared hands-on sessions during which you can learn how to track climate deniers on Twitter and during which you’ll be able to ask all the silly questions related to climate and energy you might have.  We hope you’ll get inspired by climate and energy reporting veterans who’ll discuss  what they’ve learnt while covering climate change, what are the topics to cover next and how to do it in a more constructive way.

You will find more sessions that can help you hone your reporting skills in the field of climate, energy and the environment outside of the two weeks dedicated solely to this topic. Join us in late September to learn how journalists used freedom of information requests to obtain documents about the ties between the Dutch government and Royal Dutch Shell; how one can get access to environmental information at the national and international level or how to track minerals; and come over to discuss possible ways to collaborate across borders in order to investigate investments in fossil fuels.

At Dataharvest 2020, we’ll also launch Arena’s Climate and Energy network that aims to enable a better cross-border coverage of climate and energy stories and facilitate information flows between journalists covering these topics at local and national levels. We believe that such collaborations ultimately lead to more relevant stories being published.

Join us for 13 weeks of online learning, networking and discussions – register here