In April 2019 Dutch Platform Authentieke Journalistiek (PAJ) and Follow the Money started the “Shell Papers”: a joint research project into the ties between the Dutch government and Royal Dutch Shell.

At the start of the project PAJ filed a total of 17 FOI requests demanding copies of all Shell-related documents from nine ministries, three provinces and five municipalities. PAJ asked the governing bodies to disclose all their documents related to Shell—the country’s largest multinational—from the past fourteen years.

The journalists developed an innovative digital tool to engage the readers and put pressure on the government  during tough negotiations with the Dutch government. At Dataharvest Digital,  Bas van Beek and Roger Vleugels focus on the use of strategy within politically sensitive FOI procedures.

Bas van Beek, what’s the most interesting point of your presentation?

“Even the most seasoned FOI users are experiencing ever more elaborate legal obstructions from government institutions to stop them from gaining access to sensitive government documents. But instead of countering this on a purely legal basis, journalists can use public transparency as a strategic asset.”

What are you yourself looking forward to bring home from the conference?

“Learn new and exciting ways of how to engage and make the audience part of FOI procedures.”

Dataharvest Digital has 4 weeks of Investigative method sessions. The FOI theme week begins on September 22.

The big challenge with an online conference is how to socialise! Can we have fun together online? Cross-border collaborations in Europe are based on journalists meeting. Many such meetings have happened over the years at the Dataharvest conferences – or in the bars of Mechelen. The need is still there. Can we develop formats to meet anyway and get an impression on who is who?

We suggest the Dataharvest Thursday Bars – and we would be happy if you help us set the agenda. We have already tagged some sessions “Thursday Bar” – but we have many more Thursdays to fill.

For the Dataharvest Thursday Bars, we have decided to choose something to talk about. This can be a quiz, it can be a collection of the nerdiest FOI requests you ever sent or the most ridiculous answer you ever got, it can be laughing about mistakes you made and learnt from.

Do you have ideas for what to do at a Dataharvest Thursday Bar? Join us on the 3rd of September and let’s discuss. Or send your suggestion here, so we’ll include it. The online form is available here


By Benedikt Hebeisen

When we decided to turn Dataharvest into an online conference, we had to face a lot of new questions. One of the these questions was which technical tools we would need, and after some time of research and a lot of discussions we decided to use BigBlueButton and edudip.

Many of us deal with sensitive topics, material and sources from day to day. WIth Dataharvest being a conference about investigative journalism it is important to use safe, secure and privacy-friendly tools whenever possible. When we were looking for software for our online conference we made it a priority to use open source software where possible and to have our own infrastructure with full control of the data.

Of course there might have been easier ways such as just putting streams on Youtube – which many of the online conferences do. But Dataharvest has always been a place of networking, discussions, meeting people so we need online formats that allow us to interact with each other.

Others do this by using Zoom. Nearly everyone has used Zoom in the past months, but there have also been also a lot of discussions about the data privacy of the software. In July, Berlin’s commissioner for data protection published an review of video conferencing services which covered the legal and technical aspects – most of the reviewed tools failed to be be GDPR compliant.

We started researching online conference tools, had a lot of discussions, learned from others (thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge!) and tested different tools. In the end, we decided to use the web conferencing system BigBlueButton for Dataharvest Digital. The software is widely used in schools and universities and has many features which meet our needs: It has interactive workshops rooms where we can have presentations and show videos, a digital whiteboard, and the possibility for participants to interact with each other via chat or video. BigBlueButton is open source software which runs on our own encrypted server (kindly hosted by ColloCall).

But BigBlueButton has limitations, sessions with more than 100, 150 participants should be avoided, so we decided to add the commercial tool edudip for the larger sessions. Edudip is run and hosted within the EU and complies with GDPR. The system was also used by Netzwerk Recherche for their annual conference which was also organised a an online conference.

Both, BigBlueButton and edudip run from the browser, it is not necessary to install additional software, and they work also on mobile devices. We’ll add more technical information on how to use the tools and best practices both for speakers and participants in the next days.

If you’re dealing with online conferences and you’re interested in hearing more from our research just drop us a mail – we’re happy to share our experiences.

Dataharvest has always been a great place to network and discuss ideas that then turn into real collaborative projects.

This year’s Dataharvest Digital is not going to be different in that respect – there’s  a whole week devoted to kickstarting cross-border networks.

We start on Tuesday 13 October from the beginning: how to go from an idea to an actual collaboration? We’ll discuss that question with speakers who have hands-on experience in cross-border collaborations and who have researched the best ways to go from concept to reality.

Then, in parallel with this year’s focus on Climate & Energy, we have a workshop to brainstorm possible cross-border collaborations around the issue of European pension funds and investment in fossil fuels.

The next day we’ll discuss what Arena’s experience with the Housing Project teaches us about the possibilities and challenges of topic-based open collaborative networks.

And we will follow up on that by getting our hands into data and working on one of the projects supported by the Arena Housing network: mapping empty homes across Europe.

On Thursday, we’ll hear from journalists who have been investigating the far right in Europe, and we’ll discuss how to launch cross-border collaborations about that topic.

We are planning to have “Lightning Lunches” on those three days. These will be lightning talk sessions, and here you can pitch a lightning talk to share your idea for a collaboration or to show off your project at Dataharvest.

And we’ll finish the week on Thursday evening with a social session, “Funny cross-border collaboration moments”, where we’ll share those awkward and funny situations we’ve found ourselves in when collaborating with colleagues from other countries and used to other ways of doing things

Read more about the “Cross-border: kickstarting networks” week here, and go and register for #Dataharvest2020 before more workshops get sold out!



More than half of the 2011 participants on the roof of the conference building. Most are still Dataharvest regulars. Among the faces are (front row) Stefan Wehrmeyer, Mar Cabra, Jan Gunnar Furuly, (middle row) Delphine Reuter, Nils Mulvad, Stanimir Vaglenov, Staffan Dahllöf, Miranda Patrucic, Margus Järv, (back row) Smári McCarthy, Friedrich Lindenberg, Anders Pedersen, Per Anders Johansen, Jack Thurston, Tommy Kaas, Brigitte Alfter, Lars-Marten Nagel and John Bones.

Dataharvest – isn’t that a strange name for a journalism conference? Why not the “Arena conference” or something equally obvious? Well, there is a reason – of course.

It all began in 2009 when a small group of journalists and data developers from around Europe got together in the project, where they compiled and compared data about the beneficiaries of the EU’s generous farm subsidies. They formed a network that worked for better transparency of the EU farm subsidies – and met again the year after to harvest the new data.

By 2011, the meeting was opened to other investigative and data journalists and data developers, and the conference began to take its current form (at least when there is no COVID-19) moving from the project to the Fonds Pascal Decroos/Journalismfund.

35 journalists came to the first open conference – all in the field of European, cross-border collaborative, investigative and data journalism. The working atmosphere from the early years was maintained as the number of participants kept growing. In this atmosphere, many large and important investigations have been hatched over coffee at Dataharvest.

By 2018, there were almost 500 participants. And over the years, the team behind experimented with the fact that title event was becoming the biggest European Investigative Journalism Conference. So should it be Dataharvest & EIJC or any combination of the two or only the Dataharvest – or only the European Investigative Journalism Conference?

Now run by Arena and despite the fine abbreviation of EIJC, the Dataharvest name stuck. “Are you coming to Dataharvest?” or “See you at Dataharvest!” were the words everybody used to talk about the conference. So we embrace it. These are our roots: we came from cooperation across borders and a fight for transparency in Europe about farming, still a hot topic of European politics. Today our reach is much wider, and we dig down into new areas every year to create journalistic networks – from algorithms to climate. But Dataharvest it is. For the time being.


Let’s keep the fire burning inside – avoid burnout!

Investigative projects come with all kinds of pressures that influence your physical, mental and emotional well-being – and ultimately your ability to sustain and increase your potential and the work you most care about. We know that a number of investigative colleagues have suffered from burn-out and stress, often debilitating them for months. Therefore, we offer this special course in stress management with a total of five sessions over a month because if you want to change a habit, it takes practice. Change requires practice over time.

This program will support participants to better understand the mechanics of stress, how to relate it in a healthier way and what changes they can make to create a healthier working environment. 

This program is for you if:

  • You are concerned about your stress levels and overall physical and mental health;
  • You are recovering from exhaustion or burn out; or
  • You just want to improve your ability to deal with the ongoing disruption and uncertainties of our times in a more supportive way.

The webinar and weekly meetups offer a basic introduction to stress management. You can expect to learn to recognize when you are off balance and practice methods to help you get back into balance and integrate them into your daily life.   

The webinar will be practical and participatory. During the meetups you can share your experiences and challenges. You’ll also get the opportunity to deepen your self-awareness and practice self-regulation techniques with the support of the trainers and your fellow colleagues. Though the meetups are not mandatory, we recommend that you attend them. Just like journalism skills, stress management skills require both time and practice.

Kick-off webinar Tuesday September 22 from 16:00 – 17:30 CET

The webinar will cover the following topics:

  • The health and wellbeing of investigative journalists. Should we be concerned? What about and why? What might make a positive difference?
  • The landscape of stress.  What is stress and when is it healthy and unhealthy?  What happens to our body, mind and emotions when we experience an unpleasant or otherwise challenging situation?
  • Self-awareness. How do you know you have reached an unhealthy stress level? What are the key stress factors in your work and/or life right now that generate stress? How can you avoid going over your physical and mental limits?
  • Self-regulation. How do you come back into balance when you’re feeling off balance?

A recording of the webinar will be available throughout the duration of the program.

During the meetups, we will dive into the following themes:

  • Meetup 1 – Tuesday September 29 from 16:00 to 17:00 CET: Self-awareness and Self-management – understanding your body, mind and emotions under stress and what helps you get out of unhelpful habits.
  • Meetup 2 – Tuesday October 6 from 16:00 to 17:00 CET: Self-awareness and Focus – managing distractions and maintaining your mind’s ability to focus and manage attention.
  • Meetup 3 – Tuesday October 13 from 16:00 to 17:00 CET: Self-awareness and Choices – how to make choices and set boundaries in a world of deadlines.
  • Meetup 4 – Tuesday October 20 from 16:00 to 17:00 CET: Create habits that make you a more resilient journalistCultivating a positive mindset to help integrate what you have learned further into your life.

The meetups are not mandatory. However, we recommend that you attend as many as possible. You are able to sign-up for them separately. The meetups will not be recorded.

One-on-one coaching session.  A one-hour free coaching session to address your personal challenges. There are only 10 spots available, first come, first served. Once all free spots have been filled, you will still have the opportunity to sign-up for a fee of €25. Sign up for individual coaching here.


Kim Brice (US/Netherlands), originally an anthropologist, who has experience as an activist and organizational consultant with non-profit organizations in the media freedom, freedom of expression and broader human rights and social justice sectors. She has supported a number of national and international investigative journalism groups. She is also a personal leadership, mindfulness and stress reduction coach and trainer. She has coached a number of investigative journalists through post-burn out and other professional and personal challenges.
Robin van Raaij (Netherlands) is a coach and trainer with vast management experience having held executive positions in both the commercial and public sectors. His experience with organizational change management enables him to address issues such as teamwork and business development challenges. He is an associate with the Kairos Project which provides social and environmental organizations affordable and accessible coaching-based learning and development. As a coach, he supports clients with both personal and professional challenges.

Wouldn’t it be nice to meet old and new colleagues at the Dataharvest conference in charming Mechelen? Well, this year it is not possible. But the Dataharvest Digital allows us to look for new formats of socialising with colleagues from all over Europe. So we invite you to take a digital sundowner with colleagues Thursday afternoons (coffee is okay too)!

Naturally, video conferences need more structure than a quick “nice-to-meet-you-where-are-you-from” over a conference cup of coffee.

So we try out formats such as quizzes (using data journalism skills), lessons-learnt (from mistakes we now can laugh about with others) and excessive nerdiness (comparing the funniest, weirdest, most outrageous freedom of information requests).  

And who knows, what can come out of such meetings? We have the meeting rooms, let’s try it out from here. If you have ideas, do share them on

Welcome to Dataharvest Digital as a meeting place – typically over lunches and for the Thursday afternoon from 16:30 or 17:00 to 18:30.

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