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Using Data for Science Journalism


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Invited talk and workshop at the International School of Science Journalism, Erice, Italy, 10 May 2015 (with Jonathan Gray).

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Using Data for Science Journalism

  1. 1. Using Data for Science Journalism 10 May 2015, International School of Science Journalism, Erice, Italy Liliana Bounegru | | @bb_liliana! Jonathan Gray | | @jwyg
  2. 2. Jonathan Gray Liliana Bounegru
  3. 3. Ideas, inspiration, methods and approaches for using data in science journalism.
  4. 4. Menu of ideas/options + design your own
  5. 5. 1. A Brief Introduction to Data Journalism! 2. Using Data to Tell Stories in Science and Technology Studies (STS)! 3. Networks in Journalism
  6. 6. 1. A Brief Introduction to Data Journalism
  7. 7. Growing use of data and computational approaches in newsrooms.
  8. 8. Predecessors to data journalism -
 from social survey movement in 1900s to “precision journalism” in 1960s.
  9. 9. “Computer Assisted Reporting” (CAR) tradition in the United States.
  10. 10. Emergence of term “data journalism” in 2000s.
  11. 11. Wikileaks commonly cited as a turning point.
  12. 12. How to handle, explore, analyse and present hundreds of thousands of leaked documents?
  13. 13. Social and cultural “data turn”.
  14. 14. Rise of interest in potential of data and data technologies in many areas of life.
  15. 15. Use of data in the service of journalism.
  16. 16. Data Journalism Handbook:
  17. 17. Data Journalism Handbook:
  18. 18. Data Journalism MOOC:
  19. 19. School of Data:
  20. 20. Sources of data?
  21. 21. For example
 Governments (portals, FOI, leaks) Scientific research (open access, open data) Civil society organisations and companies User generated/citizen data Data extracted from digital media
  22. 22. Open access to scientific data and publications
  23. 23. Open Knowledge - Open Science Working Group
  24. 24. Panton Principles for Open Data in Science
  25. 25. OpenTrials:
  26. 26. Dryad Digital Repository:
  27. 27. Figshare:
  28. 28. Government data portals
  29. 29. Government data about…! ! • Public finance • Contracts • Campaign finance • Elections • Companies • Lobbying • Pollution • Environment • Events and crises
  30. 30.!
  31. 31.
  32. 32. Data Catalogs!
  33. 33. A selection of themes and topics from national! (UK and US) and local (Glasgow) open data portals
  34. 34. CCTV Camera Locations - Runnymede Borough Council!
  35. 35. CO2 emissions by different sub-groups in manufacturing sector, 2000 to 2008!
  36. 36. Open Data vs. Freedom of Information?
  37. 37. What kinds of projects?
  38. 38. A few examples…
  39. 39. Farm Subsidy:
  40. 40. Luxembourg:
  41. 41. Connected China:
  42. 42. Journalists collect and publish data too.
  43. 43. InfoAmazonia:
  44. 44. The Migrants Files:
  45. 45. New forms of journalistic collaboration around data?
  46. 46. Influence Mapping:
  47. 47. Questions or thoughts?
  48. 48. 2. Using Data to Tell Stories in Science and Technology Studies (STS)
  49. 49.
  50. 50. Some conceptual background…
  51. 51. –Tommaso Venturini, Controversy Mapping, “Controversy mapping was introduced by Bruno Latour as a teaching method to train students and future citizens to navigate socio-technical debates through the creative use of digital media.” ! “The political aim of controversy mapping is to provide innovative methods for approaching scientific and technical disputes. ”
  52. 52. – Richard Rogers, “Political Research in the Digital Age”, International Public Policy Review, 2014 “[Digital methods] refers to repurposing online devices and platforms (such as Google searches, Facebook and Wikipedia) for social and political research that would often have been otherwise improbable.”
  53. 53. – Bruno Latour & Tommaso Venturini, “The Social Fabric: Digital Traces and Quali-quantitative Methods”, Proceedings of Future En Seine, 2009 “The interest of electronic media lies in the fact that every interaction that passes through them leaves traces…”
  54. 54. - Duncan J. Watts, “A twenty-first century science,” Nature, 2007 “Data about Internet-based communication and interactivity could revolutionise our understanding of collective human behaviour.” !
  55. 55. – David Lazer et al., “Computational Social Science”, Science, 2009 “…[T]racing the spread of arguments, rumours, or positions about political and other issues in the blogosphere, as well as the behaviour of individuals ‘surfing’ the Internet, where the concerns of an electorate become visible in the searches they conduct.”
  56. 56. –Noortje Marres & Carolin Gerlitz, “Interface methods”, The Sociological Review, forthcoming ! “Social media data tend to be organised in ways that favour highly particular modes of analysis, such as the investigation of people’s ‘networks’, the ‘influence’ of actors, the ‘reach’ of content or the ‘currency’ of certain words at certain moments in time.”
  57. 57. “… A holistic understanding of digital social research, which recognises that its analytic capacities derive from the assembly of methods, data, tools, user practices, context of application and so on.” –Noortje Marres & Carolin Gerlitz, “Interface methods”, The Sociological Review, forthcoming
  58. 58. Richard Rogers and Saskia Kok, 2015
  59. 59. Some examples…
  60. 60. New York Times (2014) “The Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State”
  61. 61. New York Times (2014) “The Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State”
  62. 62. Mapping climate change adaptation
  63. 63. Climaps (2014). Available at:
  64. 64. Climaps (2014). Available at:
  65. 65. Findings! Both adaptation and mitigation are highly visible in negotiations. Mitigation has been a top priority from the beginning. 
 Adaptation received less attention in the beginning with the exception of adaptation financing Adaptation becomes more important in the second phase of the negotiations.
  66. 66. Climaps (2014). Available at:
  67. 67. Notable stability in presence and intervention of countries. Most active are China (representing G77), United States and Europe. Notable exceptions include Bolivia and Philippines who are becoming more prominent in recent negotiations. Countries tend to be more active when they host the negotiations.
  68. 68. “…the negotiations on climate change have moved from mitigation to also include adaptation, an issue which could in principle be seen as a national responsibility.
 Here it becomes particularly acute to justify which countries should receive aid and why. A much debated method for doing so is the assessment of vulnerability to climate change.” ! -
  69. 69. ND-GAIN Index. Available at:
  70. 70. DARA Climate Vulnerability Model.! Available at:
  71. 71. Who is vulnerable according to whom? Climaps (2014). Available at:
  72. 72. Findings • Vulnerability indices tend to disagree in their assessment of different countries. • Very few countries (7) are among the most vulnerable according to all three indices. • Quite a few countries (25) are simultaneously assessed to be most vulnerable and least vulnerable according to different indices. • The assessment of climate change vulnerability by means of indicators continues to be a contentious issue divide in both policy and academic communities.
  73. 73. Wired Italia (2014) “Cambiamenti del clima: 20 anni di conferenze”. March 2014. No. 60.
  74. 74. Wired Italia (2014) “Cambiamenti del clima: 20 anni di conferenze”. March 2014. No. 60.
  75. 75. Wired Italia (2014) “Cambiamenti del clima: 20 anni di conferenze”. March 2014. No. 60.
  76. 76. Wired Italia (2014) “Beautiful Information, in mostra le migliori infografiche di Wired”.
 Available at:
  77. 77. Wired Italia (2014) “Beautiful Information, in mostra le migliori infografiche di Wired”.
 Available at:
  78. 78. Mapping the influence of climate change sceptics
  79. 79. BBC News (2007) “BBC switches off climate special”. Available at:
  80. 80. – Richard Rogers, Digital Methods, MIT Press, 2013 “The skeptics were increasingly at the top of the news. […] Are the skeptics at the top of the web too?”
  81. 81. Climate Sceptics! ! S. Fred Singer Robert Balling Sallie Baliunas Patrick Michaels Richard Lindzen Steven Milloy Timothy Ball Paul Driessen Willie Soon Sherwood B. Idso Frederick Seitz
  82. 82. Climate Sceptic Organisations! ! American Enterprise Institute American Legislative Exchange Council Center for Science and Public Policy Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow Competitive Enterprise Institute Frontiers of Freedom Marshall Institute Heartland Institute Tech Central Station
  83. 83. Digital Methods Initiative (2007) “Climate Change Sceptics”.
 Available at:
  84. 84. Climate change sceptics appeared to have disproportionate influence in the media relative to their influence with other prominent climate science organisations on the web.
  85. 85. TerraEco (2010) Kit de Survie pour un Diner avec des Climatosceptiques
  86. 86. Are climate skeptics mainstream or fringe in climate science? Do the skeptics and their co-authors publish articles in the same disciplines and journals as other climate scientists?
  87. 87. Sabine Niederer, “‘Global warming is not a crisis!’: Studying climate change skepticism on the Web”, Necsus, 2013
  88. 88. Findings • Sceptics are part of the mainstream of climate change science research. • Skeptical climate science is not positioned outside the field but is part of climate science (ecology, meteorology and atmospheric sciences, environmental sciences, plant sciences, agronomy, etc.) • The skeptics publish in the top climate journals including Nature and Science.
  89. 89. Mapping climate publics on the web
  90. 90. How may we map debates around socio-technical issues with the web?
  91. 91. Climate change policy and activism organise distinct publics Digital Methods Winter School (2015)
  92. 92. Mapping the rise of the far right in Europe with the web and social media
  93. 93. The Guardian (2013) “The rise of far right parties across Europe is a chilling echo of the 1930s”.
 Available at:
  94. 94. Huffington Post (2014) “Sudden Rise of Far Right Groups in EU Parliament Rings Alarm Bells Across Europe”. Available at: _b_5512961.html
  95. 95. New York Times (2014) “Populist Party Gaining Muscle to Push Britain to the Right”.
 Available at: britain-to-the-right.html
  96. 96. What are the recruitment methods
 of far right groups?
  97. 97. Are current recruitment counter-measures proving effective?
  98. 98. What kinds of issues are most active amongst far right groups?
  99. 99. How are far right extremist groups connected to populist right and other right wing groups?
  100. 100. Profiles for 13 European countries.
  101. 101. 1. List of links per country 2. Analyse links between them 3. Study issues and actors
  102. 102. Findings
 New issues (e.g. environment, anti- globalisation and rights), principles and recruitment techniques. 
 Counter-measures are outdated. ! Islamophobia is located primarily in the North.
  103. 103. Greece: blood and soil and organic markets
  104. 104. Rogers, R. et al (2013) “Right-Wing Formations in Europe and Their Counter-Measures: An Online Mapping”. Digital Methods Initiative.
  105. 105. Hungary: horse and yurt recruitment festivals
  106. 106. Rogers, R. et al (2013) “Right-Wing Formations in Europe and Their Counter-Measures: An Online Mapping”. Digital Methods Initiative.
  107. 107. Taking back the yurt?
  108. 108. Counter-Jihadist groups on social media
  109. 109. The Guardian (2012) “Far-right anti-Muslim network on rise globally as Breivik trial opens”. Available at:
  110. 110. Hope Not Hate (2012) “Counter-Jihad Report”.
 Available at:
  111. 111. Are different Counter-Jihadist groups in Europe connected? If so how?
  112. 112. Digital Methods Initiative. “Counter-Jihadist Networks: Mapping the Connections Between Facebook Groups in Europe.”
  113. 113. Digital Methods Initiative. “Counter-Jihadist Networks: Mapping the Connections Between Facebook Groups in Europe.”
  114. 114. Findings
 Facebook is an important medium for extremist groups. ! Three main clusters based on geographical proximity. ! European Counter-Jihadist groups are networked and transnational.
  115. 115. Digital Methods Initiative. “Counter-Jihadist Networks: Mapping the Connections Between Facebook Groups in Europe.”
  116. 116. Who are the new leaders?
  117. 117. Findings! ! Offline leaders are active on Facebook. ! There are also new emerging online leaders. ! New technique for identifying online leaders.
  118. 118. Questions or thoughts?
  119. 119. 3. Networks in Journalism
  120. 120. The rise of networks
  121. 121. Mark Lombardi’s “Narrative Structures” (1990-2000)
  122. 122. Josh On’s “They Rule” (2005)
  123. 123. Muckety:
  124. 124. Little Sis:
  125. 125. Networks have yet to have their
 “breakthrough moment” in journalism
  126. 126. “Follow the Networks” project at! Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University.
  127. 127. How are networks concepts and analysis being used in journalism?
  128. 128. A proposed classification of narrative functions for networks in journalism
  129. 129. Five different ways in which networks have been used in journalism
  130. 130. 1. Showing networks around a single actor
  131. 131. Washington Post, “Top Secret America” (2010)
  132. 132. Thomson Reuters, “Connected China” (2013)
  133. 133. 2. Revealing hubs or authorities (key actors)
  134. 134. New Scientist, “The Stem Cell Wars” (2010)
  135. 135. JoongAng Ilbo, “Park Young-joon at the Center of! President Lee Myung-bak’s Human Resources Network” (2002)
  136. 136. 3. Showing scale, complexity and topology of a network
  137. 137. Thomson Reuters, “Connected China” (2013)
  138. 138. New York Times, “Among the Oscar Contenders, a Host of Connections” (2013)
  139. 139. 4. Showing alliances and oppositions
  140. 140. Le Monde, "2007-2011 : la cartographie de la blogosphère politique" (2012)
  141. 141. Global News, “Visualizing the split on Toronto City Council” (2012)
  142. 142. 5. Showing evolution of networks over time
  143. 143. Le Monde, "2007-2011 : la cartographie de la blogosphère politique" (2012)
  144. 144. Global News, “Visualizing the split on Toronto City Council” (2012)
  145. 145. How might networks concepts and analysis be used in journalism in the future?
  146. 146. Functions of network analysis in the newsroom! ! • Presentational or storytelling device • Story discovery • Exploratory analysis of complex networks and big databases • Newsroom knowledge management • Internal reference resource
  147. 147. Opportunities ! • New insights into large and complex systems • More network analysis, rather than just network mapping • New data and methods for tracing networks using social media and hyperlink analysis • Identifying new sources for interviews • Researchers and journalists collaborating to tell stories about complex topics
  148. 148. Challenges ! • Lack of awareness • Lack of flagship projects • Time, resource and budget constraints • Lack of technical capacity and tooling • Speed of tools and methods • Lack vocabulary for talking about network analysis
  149. 149. Questions or thoughts?
  150. 150. Ideas for data sources, methods, approaches and narrative structures.
  151. 151. Design your own!
  152. 152. If you’re interested in learning more…
  153. 153. Digital Methods Winter/Summer Schools
  154. 154. Join the School of Data (online or offline):
  155. 155. School of Data Journalism at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia
  156. 156. Data Journalism Mailing List:
  157. 157. #ddj hashtag on Twitter
  158. 158. Thank You! Liliana Bounegru | | @bb_liliana Jonathan Gray | | @jwyg