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Bridging the gap: How to deal with scientific reports and scientists as journalists

Impacting contents, driving actions and better stories stretch from facts and evidences-based claims. InfoNile via its reporting on rivers and biodiversity in the Nile Basin workshop shared tips and hints on how to fully get and interpret scientific documents for stories.

Today, the media has changed to digital which has made easier the accessibility of data and scientific components.

Journalists are bound to give facts-based stories not opinion, said Fredrick Mugira, InfoNile Co-Founder.

Therefore, accessing a range of science documentations strengthen the storytelling. Data and Information can be used to cover rivers and biodiversity stories, enforce to curb illegal activities in protected areas, restoration of degraded areas, minority the status of biodiversity, engagement and involvement of indigenous people.

Along the process, journalists can use data and outputs for media as journalists including Data journalism, drone journalism, infographics, Data such as graphics, animation, visuals, Open data, sources from the books.

Here are tips shared by Jossy Muhangi, Communication and Outreach officer of Uganda National Council for Science.

Utilizing research data and outputs for media

  • Data journalism has sprouted due to is availability of research data in digital form.
  • Involves :Employing tools and services to be informed about breaking news and current events.
  • Applying a variety of tools and applications to prepare and disseminate articles (multi- media)
  • Drone journalism, infographics, visualization and data management tools
  • Data is not only a source of information but a tool with which stories are told(graphics, animation, visualization)
  • Journalists have to be meticulous in the Process of extracting information from massive data to compile and publish stories with impact on society and livelihoods.
  • Open data: can be freely used and redistributed by anyone as long as its is attributed
  • Sources like InfoTrack-academics, health-reference data bases full text articles and citations
  • Sources of data and information
  • Peer reviewed Journal publications
  • Books and book abstracts
  • Conference proceedings
  • Institutional annual research reports
  • Institutional Repositories
  • Research policy briefs
  • Survey reports
  • Know your MDAs and Mandates
  • Local, national and global Organizations
  • Conventions, Treaties
  • Legal and regulatory frameworks
  • Collaboration arrangements such as transboundary organizations
  • National and institutional repositories

Strategies to utilise research publications data

  • Researchers are accessible and love to talk about their work (approach them)
  • Develop a database/list of researchers and their areas ,create a rapport with them
  • Attend research dissemination events and get their hard copies and electronic copies of their work
  • Seek for interviews for them to elaborate their research work in terms of methodology, findings, discussion of findings and recommendations
  • Spend little time on the abstracts and concentrate on key findings(results section),discussions, conclusions
  • Evaluate the studies by making comparative analysis and engaging other researchers in related fields
  • Check facts and consider possible conflict of interest depending on the researchers or funders of the studies
  • Have in-depth interviews with Interview subject mater specialists such as commissioners (water resources, planning and regulation)
  • Read widely
  • Make it a regular beat
  • Invest some money to access restricted data/publications
  • Know your MDAs/CSOs mandate and collaborative arrangements
  • Look out for Sector investment reports

Approaches/strategies Mapping critical audiences

  • Define problem specifically to get accurate information/Identify the topic
  • Define the objective- advocacy, awareness, policy influence, eliciting public opinion etc
  • Define the direction-do you want an overview, in-depth information, background or key statistics
  • Develop framework /outline of you want your article to flow
  • Break down /Unpack the key jargon such as Per capital water availability, climate variability
  • Get the relevant images and graphic illustrations
  • Challenges
  • Ambiguity of science research
  • Restricted access to publications
  • Phobia: Suspicion by researchers that journalists might distort the information
  • Rigidity by scientists who desire to wait for the tail end results
  • Lack of interests in Natural sciences by reporters, editors and media owners

Useful links and institutions

  • Lexis Nexis
  • ProQuest
  • Newspapers
  • Journals
  • Peer reviewed academic journals
  • Public libraries
  • Research Institutions such as Economic Policy Research Centre
  • Uganda national Council for Science and Technology (Resource Centre)
  • State of the Nile River Basin (annual)
  • Investing in forests and PAs for climate smart development (Project)
  • Aquatic ecosystem changes in global diversity hotspots
  • National Research Repository of Uganda(

• National conservation agencies such as UWA-free access libraries

Espoir Iradukunda
Espoir Iradukunda
Data Investigative Journalist


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