The Lookout Station

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The Lookout Station offers a space where journalism and science communities can meet and connect for digital storytelling and communication around the topic of climate change.

Through a number of projects, the initiative aims to (re)build trust between scientists and storytellers by tackling challenges that prevent collaboration.

Having spoken with 50+ scientists and journalists, we have identified the opportunities to connect these two communities through digital innovation. Everyone is excited about the new storytelling formats and technology, including immersive videos, data visualisation and social media-friendly contents. Yet, there are a number of issues for journalists when it comes to reporting about climate change. It requires time, expertise, and other investments that put a hurdle for the media to cover the topic accurately in an innovative way. Scientists are also challenged in breaking the jargon barrier to be able to communicate their scientific findings to the general public.

To share some of the findings:

  • With no surprise, journalists are hugely challenged with covering climate change. It’s complex, time-consuming and often expensive. Reporters are interested and eager to cover the topic, but also encounter issues when it reaches the editorial level.
  • Many journalists see the opportunities with reporting climate change with data and videos. While they would like to try, they rarely get a chance to explore new ways to tell climate change stories.
  • Many scientists are also excited about new ways of digital storytelling, but many of them also did not see the point in speaking to journalists.
  • Science is all about facts, data and evidence. Scientists are worried how scientific data and facts are used in stories produced by the journalists.
  • There is a huge “trust” issue between journalism and science communities. Many scientists were quite skeptical in collaborating with journalists because of how they cover scientific topics.
  • Journalists need data and story ideas to be able to report about the topic. Scientists have hard time articulating the information journalists need.
  • There are many great science-media initiatives already in place, but we can do more with putting the topic on digital storytellers’ agenda.
  • Both science and journalism communities saw video as the most engaging medium for digital media. Digital journalists, especially those with data and graphics background were excited about science-based reporting.

This is the reason why the Lookout Station offers programmes to both science and media. It supports storytellers to produce engaging science-based stories about climate change with new tools. It also helps scientists simplify their communication so that the storytellers can accurately report about the topic with scientific facts, data and evidence.

We focus on closing the gap between science and media, so that the wider public gets evidence-based information in the digital environment.

The importance of Science-Media interface in the 21st century

Marc Palahí, Director, European Forest Institute

This century is characterised by accelerated changes and unprecedented global challenges: climate change, water, energy and food security, migration crisis and biodiversity loss among others. These challenges are in one way or another related to the defining issue of our time: how to decouple economic growth from social and environmental degradation.

In a globalised and interconnected world, decision-making increasingly requires a good understanding of diverse aspects in very complex settings. Many of the issues tend to be cross-sectoral, cross-disciplinary, and global. A good example is climate change.

In this rapidly evolving and complex environment the role of science becomes more important than ever. Not only to foster innovation but to ensure the knowledge base for wise and effective policies, business decisions and citizens’ participation in the hyper-connected democracies of the 21st century.

In this respect, we are facing a paradox. Never before in human history have there been so many scientists and so much scientific knowledge available. We have the means to understand many of the challenges we are facing, yet we need to admit that post truth politics as well as contradictory media and science messages are also abound.

Therefore, science needs to partner with media to have impact - and together put emphasis on the synthesis and contextualisation of information, bringing together scientists and media experts from different disciplines and building appropriate national to international science-policy interfaces. In addition, the right fora, timing, and formats are of crucial importance when communicating scientific information.

In this context, the European Forest Institute (EFI) is continuously developing its operations and structures to be an effective pan-European science-policy-media platform.

We also want to emphasize that the 21st Century is also an era of opportunities. Many scientists call it the century of biology. This is because advances in bioscience, biotechnology and bio-infrastructures offer great opportunities in many areas, especially in helping to transform our existing fossil-based economy into a low-carbon one – a knowledge-intensive, sustainable and bio-based bioeconomy.

European forests can help address threats like climate change or biodiversity loss, and provide renewable resources. Such multifunctional role will become increasingly important in the coming decades, in a context of growing competition for land and natural resources resulting from an escalating global population.

Let me finish my intervention with a quote by Albert Einstein: 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”
Albert Einstein

About EFI:

The European Forest Institute (EFI) is an independent international science organisation which generates, connects and shares knowledge at the interface between science and policy. EFI has 28 member countries who have ratified the Convention, and 115 member organizations in 37 countries, working in diverse research fields.

Are you interested in collaborating with us? Please contact Rina at info@thelookoutstation.com

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