This is what will happen when Journalists, Coders and Scientists Work Side by Side

The effort to unite researchers, journalists, photographers and programmers in a digital community will bring benefits to everyone (especially to the public)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Ana Cotta

The Brazilian researcher Leandro Juen, an expert in ecology, entomology and statistics, wrote the following scientific article: Insecta Odonata as the indicators of ecological condition of small streams in the eastern Amazon. You can find the text in scientific online libraries, but let’s be honest about this: Will you look for it? Unless you have a very specific interest, a whole range of scientific knowledge will never reach your mobile. The main idea behind Ambiental, the news platform we are developing in Brazil, is that scientific knowledge is underused (and you gonna love it when that content reaches your news feed).

Now, let’s return for a moment to Leandro’s paper. What if, while scrolling through your timeline over Facebook, you see one journalistic article published with an outstanding picture of a colorful dragonfly and this headline: What dragonflies can teach us about Global Warming? Would you click on that? Even if you are not a big fan of insects, chances are much bigger now: The content is relevant (Global Warming!), the information is easy to understand and it is presented in a compelling, sexy webpage. Beyond insects, try to imagine how much other relevant information is produced by researchers and not accessed by society.

By creating a non-profit news platform called Ambiental, my team and I are working to address existing demands in Brazil today: We’ll offer attractive high-quality free content to the public while also providing media tools to researchers interested in expanding the results of their work’s scope. As you know, most of the scientific findings have a narrow audience: Other scientists. However, many of them are aware of the necessity to spread knowledge among a general audience and, beyond that, they want to share their discoveries.

However, Ambiental is more than a media outlet. It’s also a digital community where scientists, journalists, programmers, developers, photographers and video makers can join forces to generate reliable free unique content. The idea is that programming, design and content contribute optimally to the storytelling and the best user experience. As for the products, we want to create data visualizations, video stories, short articles written by scientists (and edited by journalists), photo essays and investigative reporting. We are still working in our home page, but you can see a beta version here:

Though there is no thematic limitation in our website (all-embracing, such as science), Ambiental has a strong environmental inspiration, especially when it comes to issues related to the Amazon Forest and to the Global Climate Change. We believe that the largest rainforest of the planet hosts extremely important events with immediate impacts for local people (the vast majority, living apart of the digital world) and later consequences of global relevance. Scientists nows today, for example, that the Amazon Forest plays an essential role on the planet's climate when it comes to the level of moisture: The Amazon “sweats” 20 trillion liters of water daily — to have an idea, the Amazon River, the biggest one in the world in water volume, flows 17 trillion liters of water daily in the Atlantic Ocean.

Our expectation is that this joining of forces between media and Academy will not only benefit Journalism, but the society as well. Beyond the journalistic content, we are planning public events where coders, photographers and everyone else interested in our topics will be able to interact. We expect that, from our community, researchers and journalists can discover common interests and create other projects by themselves, with or without Ambiental’s participation. The reason for this approach is that, for a Brazilian journalist, a very disturbing feeling is that there are more stories to tell than journalists performing their coverage.

As a reporter, I had the privilege to work for National Geographic Brazil magazine and for a Brazilian magazine called TERRA (Earth, in Portuguese), a pioneering publication about expedition, science and the environment. These past opportunities allowed me to travel as a reporter to 19 (out of 26 total, plus the Federal District) Brazilian states and to many places in the Amazon region.

My last position in the print market was as Director in a small publishing company, where I earned a good income, but did so without any opportunity to do serious journalism. My dream was to continue to work as a reporter in the Amazon, but what’s the point of spending a lot of energy to write one article, if I can help create a community that will allow so much more information to be spread? Journalism in Brazil needs much more than well-done articles: We need means to produce consistent quality work without the ties that the mainstream media deals with. We can do this kind of relevant work at Ambiental. Where else would you learn practical things from beautiful dragonflies?