The climate crisis is probably the biggest story of our time and, at Dataharvest Digital, we are always following the relevant story – across the borders and fields.
This is why we’ve decided to “follow the pipeline”, and make the energy sector’s impact on climate the focus of Dataharvest 2020.
We have dedicated a number of sessions, spread over two weeks in September and November, to different aspects of investigative, in-depth, data and cross-border coverage of the climate and energy sector.
We will be looking into the lobbying mechanisms and their impact of the European climate policies; we’ll track climate deniers, across the countries and on Twitter, and get an overview of the available datasets related to climate and energy by relevant data providers. We’ll explore the world of the VAT fraudsters on the energy market and look into fraudulent carbon credits, and see how big business can sometimes turn green energy dirty.
Dataharvest digital is also conceived as an online meeting place that will bring together (investigative) journalists working or interested in the field of climate and energy to exchange their experiences, network and brainstorm on future stories.
Join 13 weeks of online learning, networking and discussion – register here:

We slowly faced the fact over the late spring: We could not responsibly plan a Dataharvest conference in November in Mechelen, not knowing if a second wave of the virus was underway, not knowing if international travel was possible. We, like so many others, had to plan an online conference. So we set sails for unknown waters.

Dataharvest Digital is a first for us, and things may change as we get wiser. We have set-up a direct line for any good ideas for change or improvement:

Networking at the 2019 Dataharvest – can we re-create the good networking online? (Drawing by Pieter Fannes)

Here is what we have planned:

Tracks have turned into thematic weeks: At the Dataharvest conferences, we usually have many tracks – investigative method, digital security, FOI etcetera. We have turned the tracks into theme weeks, of course with several weeks on the areas that we care most intensely about: Crossborder collaboration and investigative method and the topic of the year: Climate & Energy, we also dubbed it “Follow the pipeline”.

Traditional formats turned digital: Dataharvest would usually have a variety of formats: presentations, panel debates, networking roundtables and hands-on sessions. We have attempted to transform them all to the online format, so you during a morning can for example listen to an inspirational presentation, then participate in a hands-on session to learn the tools used and finally have a networking session with colleagues over a digital lunch to discuss further actions.

Strong speakers and panelists: Fortunately, almost all speakers we have asked to join the online conference have accepted! You will meet investigative journalists, research experts and colleagues with long experience in collaborations, and there will be plenty of time for discussions and Q&A.

Professional atmosphere: Dataharvest is a working conference, where investigations are planned, and investigative teams meet. We hope that this can be taken online as well, so participants leave Dataharvest with new ideas and connections for the next investigation. In all sessions, participants will have to register, so we know who is invited to the room and who isn’t. Some of our presentations will be recorded and made available for a day or two, but our discussions and chats will not be recorded. Our considerations on technical security? – we will devote an entire post to that shortly.

Networking sessions: Do you want to get started on a crossborder investigation? We have planned some sessions to kickstart potential crossborder networks on different topics. If you have ideas, don’t hesitate to contact us! Networks can start at Dataharvest Digital and continue their work on our collaboration platform, based on Discourse.

A learning experience: Dataharvest is the place to learn data skills on all levels. The devoted data trainers have put their heads together and come up with a plan for data learning in the afternoon during several weeks – find your headset and get ready to learn!

The Belgian beer after hours – well, that is the most difficult thing to take online. But we will meet for some more relaxed sessions to discuss and share experience, and you are encouraged to bring a drink (coffee is also okay 😊) – more on that to come!

Stay tuned – we are working frantically to finish the program and will publish the first version on Monday August 10!

See you online for Dataharvest Digital! Register here!

Best regards,
The Dataharvest team

Would you like to participate in Dataharvest Digital, but don’t really have the money? If you are from Central, Eastern or Southeastern Europe, you may be in luck: We have grants that cover your participation fee. Apply and join the fun!

We have 200 grants to give out, and we will distribute them between as many countries as possible. We also strive for balance between young and experienced journalists, male and female, with and without cross-border experience.

Apply here


Did you buy a ticket for the 2020 Dataharvest conference in Mechelen? The conference has now changed to an online event, and you have 3 options for your ticket:

  • Change your ticket to a gift card/value voucher that you can use for Dataharvest Digital in September-November 2020 or for the Dataharvest conference in Mechelen in May 2021.
  • Cancel your ticket and make a donation of your choice to help us through the coming months.
  • Cancel your ticket and get the full amount back.

Please act before August 15! After that date, the conference will be closed, while we focus on Dataharvest Digital.

Your support is important to us. When you choose a gift card or to give a donation, it shows our donors that the community around Dataharvest values the  conference and the work done there, and that helps us make sure we can  come back with an even better Dataharvest every year. So if you decide to make a donation for us, we are more than grateful!

To cancel or change your ticket, use the link in the confirmation email you received upon registration. It will look something like this, where the Xs are your order number. Scroll to the button for the cancellation options (this will also take you to the options of changing to a gift card/value voucher). If you have paid with a bank transfer, have problems or questions, please contact  

See you online – and in Mechelen in May 2021!

Or: Why we decided to claim a fee for an online conference

Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism Conference 2020 – is going online because of the coronavirus and is now Dataharvest Digital 2020. We hope that the investigative journalism community will join us on these unknown waters!

We do this at a time, when many conferences move from real life to digital meeting places, and some do it for free. At Arena, we have considered carefully how to go about participation fees for an online conference: Should participation be free or for a fee?

We have decided on a participation fee – for several reasons:

  • Because training and knowledge sharing are valuable. We do not want to depreciate the fabulous gifts by our speakers and trainers by giving their contribution away for free.
  • Many on the investigative and data journalism community are freelancers and cross-fund their journalism by teaching and training. We don’t want to undermine their possibilities by giving away training for free.
  • In some countries, mid-career training is a functioning infrastructure, for example supported by labour agreements between journalists’ and publishers’ associations. We do not want to endanger these well-working systems.
  • The underlying concern is, of course, how publishers gave away online news in the 90ies in the quest for clicks. We have seen the decade-long struggle to ensure funding for good journalism after that move. We do not want to repeat that mistake.

Still, we want to make Dataharvest Digital accessible for all. The fee is much lower than the usual conference fee, there are no travel and hotel costs and the program is flexible over several months. We have reduced fees for freelancers and students, and we have managed to fundraise for participation stipends for colleagues from countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

The fees will be:EmployeesFreelancers/Students
Full conference€90€60
2 months€75€45
1 month€40€25

Like the Dataharvest Digital itself, the participation fee is an experiment. Please comment on our choices – we will gather all comments and include them in our evaluation. All feedback on practicalities, presentations or principles is important, because we hope to use the experience from the Dataharvest Digital 2020 to learn for future digital networking between the real-life conferences.

Inviting a lot of precious colleagues is a pleasure. Particularly since we all are craving for contact with peers and pals, to chat without a screen between us or to just have a cup of coffee or a good old Belgian beer.

Still, we have decided to turn Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism Conference 2020 into a digital gathering altogether. And we are going to make the best of it: we will distribute as much of the conference as possible over three months from September to November 2020. We will offer trainings, workshops, network meetings, individual advice as well as a social gatherings online.

Welcome to Dataharvest Digital 2020!

The reason is obvious. In the efforts to limit COVID-19, two activities are considered particularly dangerous: large gatherings and interregional/international travel. Both apply to the in-person meeting at Dataharvest, a meeting we all were looking forward to, but which is highly insecure.

The path forward is trying out new formats, that will allow us to offer the professional knowledge-sharing and training as well as some of the networking that happens at the real-life conferences. Over the years, the feedback from participants has given us great inspiration, though two points have given recurring criticism – the quality of the conference coffee and the fact that we had too many parallel sessions which made it difficult to choose. This year, we will distribute the sessions over three months for everybody to choose a good moment, and the coffee quality is all up to you yourself.

We have also decided that the digital conference will not be offered free of charge. Our speakers and trainers are top journalists and lecturers donating their time to the community; digital meeting spaces cost money and organising a series of high quality presentations and trainings takes lots of time and work. You can join in for one, two or three months and a discount price for students and freelancers. Furthermore, we have been able to obtain participation grants for colleagues from Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Read more on fees

When the coronavirus restrictions were introduced, many had already registered for Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism Conference in Mechelen. Registered participants can to get a voucher for the value of their ticket to use for the 2021 conference, get a full refund or make a full or partial donation to run the conference 2020 and prepare the conference 2021 (if you registered, further instructions will be in your mailbox later today).

We are grateful to all our speakers and trainers donating their time for the online programme. And we are grateful to all our funders for allowing us to adjust to the coronavirus situation.

Now we are looking forward to meet good colleagues for the Dataharvest Digital 2020 from September to November! Ticket sales begin this week, the preliminary program will be published August 10th at the latest.

Let’s make the very best of this and see if we can use this extraordinary situation to develop new ways of networking for journalists – this just may be the moment for developing something new and useful for the future!

Until soon!

The Arena conference team

Thank you for your work on the quiz questions – some were more difficult than they looked! Several hundred took a look at the quiz; in the end, we had to draw lots between a Belgian and a German contestant with 100 per cent correct answers, and we have a winner:

Claudia Jentsch gets a free masterclass at the next Dataharvest conference! Congratulations!

Here are the correct answers:

1.) Please find a chronological list of the heads of state of the USA.

You can find a lot of these lists, but the first hand source is The White House. Library of Congress  is also a credible source.

2.) What was the cargo of this railroad car when the photo was taken?

The railroad car is carrying trichlorosilan – which can be found by searching for the orange numbers on the sign on the side. They refer to the United Nations ADR treaty, that regulates transport of dangerous goods and give all dangerous substances a 4-digit number.

3.) Which company operates the copiers at the University of Applied Sciences (HAW) in Hamburg?

That was a tricky one! To find the answer, you have to search Tenders Electronic Daily to find the original tender for the university copiers. In that you will find different facts to use as your next search terms, for example the number of the tender: 2015/S 137-252970. Searching for that you will find that the contract was won by Ricoh Deutschland GmbH.

Yes, there are also public copy shops on the campus for the students to use, and they are run by the Elbe Werkstätte and Sönke Kruse GbR.

4.) The Internet company Yahoo has scanned the accounts of its users on behalf of US secret services. So what did Edward Snowden recommend via Twitter?

Snowden recommended to close Yahoo accounts in protest. The full tweet was “Use @Yahoo? They secretly scanned everything you ever wrote, far beyond what law requires. Close your account today.”

5.) Who is depicted here, and where does this statue stand?

The statue depicts Albania’s national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, and it is placed in Peshkopi, Albania, which can be found by a reverse picture search. The goat helmet also led some to the answer. The metadata in the picture says that it is Djengis Khan, but this guy doesn’t look very Mongolian, does he? Metadata can be faked too.

Thank you to all who participated – and to Albrecht Ude in Berlin, who crafted these conundrums.

Win a free masterclass at the next Dataharvest conference!

This Friday at 10 am we were supposed to open the 10th Dataharvest conference – but, alas, the coronavirus came in the way. Let’s get together in another way this week – and take a little quiz challenge. Use your research skills, send in your answers before Friday morning at 9 am, and we will draw a winner at 10, when the conference was supposed to open. The prize is a free master class of your choice at the next Dataharvest conference. And if several have the same number of correct answers, we will draw lots.

The questions are crafted by none other than Albrecht Ude from Netzwerk Recherche – thanks for the help! And you can send in your answers to

Here we go:

1.) Please find a chronological list of the heads of state of the USA.

2.) What was the cargo of this railroad car when the photo was taken?

3.) Which company operates the copiers at the University of Applied Sciences (HAW) in Hamburg?

4.) The Internet company Yahoo has scanned the accounts of its users on behalf of US secret services. So what did Edward Snowden recommend via Twitter?

5.) Who is depicted here, and where is this statue placed?

Have fun! And don’t forget to send your answers to before Friday 15 at 9am!


Let’s get something good and useful out of lockdown! Easter holidays are coming up, and we can’t see family and friends to the extent that we would like to. So what to do with all that time? Here are some ideas from the Arena and Dataharvest team:

Nils Hanson, chairman of Arena for Journalism in Europe:

I would like to recommend a forgotten book, written many years ago, but still relevant today for all investigative journalists: ”Investigative reporting and editing” by Paul Williams. It was released in 1978, a few years after investigative journalism got its breakthrough through the Watergate story. And I can’t think of a better read for anyone who wants to gain more insights into the nature of investigative journalism.

It is a work that all subsequent handbooks should be compared to. And the fact is that no other book has so far been able to compete with this one. Paul Williams did a lot of research, he interviewed 99 investigative reporters and editors, and managed to go deeper than anyone else, before and after, into the structure of the investigative project. He described the various stages of an investigative project, from feasibility study and Read more

We have decided to postpone Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism Conference because of the restrictions on travelling and gathering introduced by European health authorities. We fully support the purpose of these measures: to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead, the conference will be held in Mechelen from November 5th to 8th, 2020. Read more