Oil palm is a hotly debated issue in both national and international media and it represents two sides of a coin. There have been numerous initiatives for sustainable palm oil in recent years, but little evidence-based reporting on the issue.
Amid this controversy, oil palm research needs more space in the media. Research can provide valuable data, so journalists can have a more in-depth understanding in field reporting and gain new perspectives and capital in developing stories. Research, for instance, can be used to assess whether policies prepared by the government are evidence based or only consider economic interests.
Moreover, journalists need to pay greater attention to research as not all research is objective. In addition to covering research, journalists could also underline its limitations and provide critiques. Accordingly, in covering oil palm forest fire policies or cases, for instance, journalists could look at whether the research or surveys used as the bases for claims are trustworthy.
In order to be able to use research to support news reports on palm oil, journalists need to have the capacity to read and evaluate research and its methodologies. In addition, journalists need to network with scientists conducting research on palm oil with their varied views to facilitate verification processes or process differences of opinion. This “Palm Oil Science” series of webinars aims to build this fundamental capacity.
In this context, as part of the Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL) project, CIFOR, in collaboration with the Society of Indonesian Science Journalists (SISJ), is organizing a series of webinars and a fellowship addressing palm oil issues from a scientific viewpoint.