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What if forest scientists collaborated with Investigative Journalism?

Behind the scenes of a journalistic research process at #IFPM4

Registration to the #IFPM4 is open here!

Many scientists wonder what the destiny of their research outside the scientific community is. Among the typical fears of researchers, these questions often occupy their minds: Who will ever read my paper? Will my findings be understood by a broader public? How can my research have an impact in the practice? 

Good news is that science-based investigative journalism is on the rise, and it is opening pathways for public information on science. “As digitalisation continues, the media industry started to value scientific sources more than ever before to tackle misinformation. Investigative journalists also increasingly use scientific data as part of their research and to tell stories through interactives and visualisations. Yet, we often encounter situations where the perspectives of forest scientists are not being picked up in today’s media reporting” says Rina Tsubaki, Communication Manager at the European Forest Institute (EFI). With the wish of taking “the first important step toward bridging the knowledge gap between these two communities”, Rina Tsubaki and Yitagesu Tekle (Senior Researcher at EFI) will co-host the virtual investigative journalism panel session at the 4th International Forest and Policy Meeting, taking place on 28th of April at 9:45 am CET. 

Who will join the panel?

The session will feature Alexandra Heal, a reporter in the Financial Times’ Visual Storytelling Team, and Madeleine Ngeunga (InfoCongo and 2022 fellows of Rainforest Investigations Network at the Pulitzer Center), an investigative journalist from Cameroon. Formerly with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK, Alexandra Heal worked on the impacts of global industrial agriculture. Alexandra was involved in a series of collective investigations on the link between agricultural commodity trade and deforestation in the Amazon with The Guardian and Reporter Brasil. Madeleine Ngeunga´s work focuses on forest management and policy, land-use conflict and other issues in the Congo Basin region. She was also a Global Forest Watch fellow in 2019, using data-driven stories to highlight the political, social, and environmental factors causing forest loss across Cameroon. 

The invited investigative journalists will share the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of their journalistic research process and the challenges they have been facing. The panel will be an opportunity to uncover how they have worked with scientists and explore how these two communities could collaborate better to ensure that more evidence-based information is provided to the public.  

Bridging different worlds: How can forest scientists better collaborate with investigative journalists? 

Different challenges appear when scientists and media work together to make science accessible. Journalists may find themselves lost in complex scientific language. Scientists may lose trust in media and find it hard to relate with the reduced accuracy and simplification of their findings. Continuous exchange and effective communication between these two communities are key to enable a good collaboration1. Producing innovative and engaging narratives can provide accurate information and – at the same time – increase the needed awareness on forest related issues. The right channel to gain visibility is also an important factor. In fact, media and NGOs are already gaining visibility through social media, directing people to specific information and shaping forest- related public narratives2

The panel will reflect upon different approaches and perspectives from the two communities. Learning from each other and finding new ways to effectively connect scientists and journalist is key to improve public engagement around forests. To join the session and the conference, you can register here 

The full programme of the #IFPM4 (27th-29th of April) is available here 

Georg Winkel (former Head of EFI's Governance Programme") being interviewed by journalists
Georg Winkel (former Head of EFI’s Governance Programme”) being interviewed by journalists

1 Driving Scientific Research into Journalistic Reporting on Forests, Environment and Climate Change. Handbook for Scientists.  
2 What does social media engagement around the Amazon rainforest fires tell us about public narratives? – Takeaways from our analysis.



Featured image: Photo by kbk8196 via Pixabay


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