By Sharon Atieno

InfoNile, a network of cross-boarder journalists from 11 countries across the Nile region, has launched an online platform, Nilewell which connects journalists and scientists working on water, biodiversity and environment across the region.

According to Fredrick Mugira, InfoNile co-founder, the platform has been developed to enhance co-production of knowledge to bridge the gap between scientists and journalists who though, working on similar issues were working in isolation.

“Our objective is to promote science-based environmental journalism in the Nile Basin by facilitating collaboration between journalists and scientists,” he said.

Apart from providing direct linkages between scientists and journalists, the platform also includes collaboration programs for both scientists and journalists, monthly online scientist /journalist highlight events to share updates on research and stories, data journalism training and mentorship, and science communication training for scientists and journalists among others.

Annika Mcginnis, Infonile co-founder noted that baseline surveys were conducted which formed the basis of developing the platform, saying: “We took into into account all of the challenges and all of the solutions when we were prototyping and designing the platform.”

Some of the solutions that journalists had proposed in the surveys include creating access to information and availability of publications, training on data journalism, building trust between journalists and scientists as well as promoting networking among others.

On the other hand, some suggestions from scientists included journalists and media houses taking more interest in publishing and translating research to general public, more contacts/close linkages with journalists, organized platforms where they could communicate and set agenda among others.

The platform, according Dr. Maha Abdelraheem Ismail, Groundwater project team lead, Nile Basin Initiative, is a potential source for creating knowledge-oriented journalists who will reflect not only on personal understanding to the problem but will encourage and enhance critique and in-depth investigative practice.

“It is a win-win situation where the science wins and the media wins for the benefit of humanity and creating a well-informed society which has an impact on decision-making and accountability from the public to the government,” she said.

Matthew Casetta, Chief Executive Officer, JRS Biodiversity Foundation, recognized that the Nilewell has incredibly enormous potential for reporting and information sharing, noting that putting scientific evidence to stories supports the credibility and the impact of reporting which is very important.

He called upon journalists and scientists to take advantage of the resources which have been brought together by the platform such as the opportunities for training and to access data as well as to learn about grant prospects.