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




Good mornings came in from Stockholm, Brussels, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Madrid, London, Aylesbury, Stari Grad, Berlin, Oslo, Ekaterinburg, Aarhus, Barcelona and more, when we opened Dataharvest Digital this morning. Plus from Belgium, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria and Italy. Dataharvest Digital has taken off and had a good start (if we may say so ourselves).

Our tech wiz, Benedikt Hebeisen, of course made a data visualization of the cities (we know we didn’t get them all, but still…)

It’s tomorrow! We open at 10 am! This year, marked by Covid-19, Dataharvest, the European Investigative Journalism Conference, holds its 10th edition by becoming a fully digital conference: #Dataharvest2020!

Three months of training, talks, workshops and networking about all things data, investigative and collaborative journalism.

More than 120 sessions spread over 13 weeks from September to November 2020, where Europe’s top data and investigative journalists and trainers meet.

And we are happy to present the Dataharvest Digital 2020 Intro Video we will use to open those online sessions:

The video was created by Andrés Koeneke with music from the song “We Are Heading to the East”, by Springtide.

We like how in just a few seconds this video manages to embody much of what Dataharvest is about: ambition, energy and the drive to move forward and do good things together.

Dataharvest opens tomorrow morning at 10 am! See the full programme and register for the conference here.

Health has been a main global focus in the last months, and many journalists had to jump at warp speed into a complex field of investigative reporting. The corona crisis forced journalists worldwide to get on speed with medical jargon and a perfect storm of stats and models in a rather confusing news environment.

Dataharvest Digital is here to help! In the second week the theme is Public health, and with the support of experienced medical reporters and scientists we’ll give you the tools to understand how to independently assess the evidence, analyze government policies, spot inaccuracies thus avoid pitfalls, and dig deeper on tenders and procurements.

Training will be interlaced with what we know, based on the best available evidence, on Covid-19. And will provide hints for brand new investigations in the health sector. The week is organized and moderated by Italien-Swiss investigative and health reporter Serena Tinari.

See the program

Register for Dataharvest Digital

Robots write articles, select news, edit pictures. They research, they personalize our front pages and target them to the individual. How can we put robots – or artificial intelligence – to the best use and make sure that our ethical standards in journalism are still respected and maintained?

Andreas Marckmann Andreassen

Danish digital journalist Andreas Marckmann Andreassen has spent a year researching this, and his book “How automatization will change the media” hits the streets on September 14. It also hits the mail service, because it is considered so important that the Danish media industry funds that it will be distributed to all of 18,000 members of the Danish Journalists’ Union.

The book builds on Andreas’ international research and travel, including more than 70 interviews with media people, scholars and technologists – from New York Times to local media houses. An English version of the book will be published in 2021.

At Dataharvest Digital, Andreas will share his 9 principles for ethical automation. How do we safeguard journalistic ethics in automated journalism? How do we ensure transparency and avoid bias, how do we secure checks and balances in the system, and how do we take responsibility when it fails? Who needs to understand the system – and what about privacy?

Charlie Beckett

We are also proud to announce that the moderator of the session is professor Charlie Beckett of London School of Economics, founding director of Polis, the think-tank for research and debate around international journalism and society in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE.

The data journalism weeks begins on September 29 – register for Dataharvest Digital here! We open on Tuesday September 1!

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.