Last week, the first workshops of the #CitSciComm Labs with Data and Science Journalists were conducted in Italy, Spain and Portugal. The citizen science projects involved in the other NEWSERA Labs had the opportunity to learn from data journalist experts why data can be an interesting communication resource and how they create data-driven news stories. This is the first step to create innovative communication strategies that involve journalists, an often-overlooked – or hard to reach – stakeholder.

Often, citizen science projects and the media speak different languages. While CS practitioners have a strong interest in spreading the word about their project or the issue it addresses, journalists (both at the local and international level) need to find elements that make a project, a research or an event newsworthy. Data can become a shared asset to create a common language between the two fields and help to communicate results.



The round of workshops started in Italy on July 8, with a a three-hour workshop held online that included most of the projects involved in the other Italian Labs; a total of nine projects took part in this workshop. They were introduced to the world of data journalism and visualisation from the most basic concepts – how to read, edit and organize data – to examples of ambitious projects in major newspapers. Their guides were formicablu’s Elisabetta Tola and Marco Boscolo, both experienced data journalists in Italy and part of the NEWSERA Consortium, and Clara Attene, digital trainer, data journalist and Head of content at Good Morning Italia.

Elisabetta Tola commented “It was a very lively and participated event, and we dealt with a lot of interesting issues raised by participants about the best ways to convey their data into a journalistic product”.



Happening on July 13, the lab in Spain was also open to citizen science projects outside the ones already involved in the NEWSERA Labs; about 40 people attended the workshop, 15 of which were new to NEWSERA. Partipants were joined by three data journalists based in Spain: freelance journalist Michele Catanzaro; Laura Aragó of La Vanguardia; and Eli Vivas of Storydata.

After a brief presentation of the NEWSERA, by the project’s coordinator Rosa Arias, the data journalism experts explained what it means to find a story in a dataset, and when a story is newsworthy. Then, they focused on  data: how it is validated and collected, and then stored or shared; moreover, they talked about ownership and privacy issues, and the concept of open data. Last, the importance of data visualisation and choosing charts that are functional to a story or allow a meaningful story or process to be conveyed, but also how they are sometimes used to create false narratives. During the presentations, participants were encouraged to contribute with questions, and special attention was regarded to the topic of how to contact and talk with journalists.

See the video of the Lab in Spain on our YouTube channel 



In Portugal, the first workshop of the Data and Science Journalists Lab also took place on July 13, with the presence of ten of the twelve citizen science projects involved in the NEWSERA Labs. The experts involved in this session were Vera Novais, science journalist at Observador, Rui Barros, data journalist at Público, and Ana Figueiras, research scientist at iNova Media Lab (NOVA FCSH) and data visualization expert. 

The workshop started with Vera Novais showing a series of recent examples of data journalism in Portuguese media, and detailed how it is possible to make citizen science newsworthy, giving some tips to the projects. Then, Rui Barros explained the importance of organising and cleaning datasets before analysing the data, stressing as well the need to provide open access to datasets. Finally, Ana Figueras provided an overview of various resources for data visualization, so the participants learnt how data visualization software can be a powerful tool to make their data more accessible to larger audiences. At the end of the session, there was a very fruitful discussion among all the participants, opening the door for the next session to follow.



Cover photo by Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels