Humboldt Communication Lab

A conversation between science and the media: twice a year, ten Humboldt Fellows and ten journalists get together with the aim of learning from one another.

Logo des Humboldt Communication Lab for Exchange between Research and Media
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild


Dr Stephanie Siewert
Programme Director
Communication Lab
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Berlin Office
Markgrafenstr. 37
10117 Berlin


Communication Lab for Exchange between Research and Media

Twice a year, ten Humboldt Fellows meet up with ten journalists from around the world. The ten journalists are selected by the International Journalists’ Programmes organisation (IJP e.V.). In teams of two they develop a piece of cutting-edge science journalism. Highly qualified mentors supervise the process. During four-day workshops, participants discuss what they expect from one another, how close cooperation works, and what constitutes good research communication.

The third ComLab addressed the field of tension between sustainability and social justice; the potential of sustainable innovations and the conflicting goals that (can) ensue from the economic and social interests of the Global North and the Global South.
The participants of Comlab #6 say goodbye

  • Join the ComLab network and be part of a specialist community of science communicators. 
  • Share ideas with fellow scientists and journalists from all over the world. 
  • Discuss current global issues with international experts in politics and civil society. 
  • Learn innovative storytelling techniques from excellent trainers and mentors.
  • Work on a compelling piece of science communication based on your own research.

Events and results

Welcome to the Future: After three years of digital exchange, it is finally time to meet face-to-face with the ComLab alumni, friends, and supporters of the programme. The Communication Lab – a joint project of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the International Journalists’ Programmes – holds its first in-person event and networking carousel in Berlin: ComLab#Live Event in Berlin, 8 September 2023, 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. (CEST)

With new space missions and fast developments in bioengineering, ComLab#7 aims to explore the research that will fuel our expectations in 2023. What are the new frontiers in research and how can or should scientists and journalists tell the story of the next big bang that is already fundamentally happening but has not yet arrived in everyday reality? At the same time: Can too much attention at an early stage harm further developments in research, especially in terms of public acceptance? With the seventh ComLab we want to light out the territory for the next scientific revelation whilst also discussing the underlying cultural norms that affect how new research is implemented and perceived in different countries.

Rising oil and grain prices, dwindling wood and water reserves: Current geopolitical developments and climate change are making it increasingly clear how dependent we are on stable resources and reliable trade routes. Resource scarcity has far-reaching economic, social and political consequences. What is striking is that the repercussions of the current energy and food crises are being primarily discussed from a national perspective, although they are subject to global interdependencies and have a particularly severe impact on the world’s poorest regions. ComLab#6 will examine the following questions: Which ecological, political and economic aspects do we have to take into account when dealing with resource scarcity? What alternatives are available with respect to the cultivation, use and transport of resources that are currently overexploited? Which trailblazing, innovative methods have been generated by international research that could help us to cultivate our planet in sustainable ways and establish fair trade conditions?

Without sharing ideas, goods and common human values around the world, our lives would be much poorer and even endangered. The global movement of people, raw materials and innovations changed our lives for the better and continues to do so. Yet, the pandemic, political upheaval, and resource dependencies pose new challenges to the idea of a collaborative international community. Science and the media can point the way to innovative approaches and best practices for our future global community.

Artificial intelligence, robotics and new digital technologies are changing our lives. To which extent, benefit or at which cost is often hard to grasp for regulators, civil society and media. While transformative technologies hold great potential in medicine, industry, logistics or urban planning, there are hardly any other scientific fields that spark so much speculation.  From automated mobility to biorobots and intelligent implants: The relationship between humans and machines is characterised by promise, but also by misunderstanding and ignorance.

Sustainable change also means social change. The third Communication Lab therefore addresses the tension between sustainability and social justice; the potential of sustainable innovations and the conflicting goals that (can) ensue in the Global North and the Global South. Science and journalism can help to highlight the social interactions inherent in sustainable transformation. They are also multipliers for forward-looking ideas and best-practice examples of sustainable development.

Climate change is a particular challenge for people all over the world and thus for science communicators, too. The second round of the Communication Lab therefore addressed the European Green Deal and the issues involved in successfully communicating climate change and its impacts. The award-winning projects dealt with the loss of biodiversity, the effects of climate change on indigenous communities and traditional ways of life as well as the role of permafrost in global warming.

In order to enable as many people as possible to access current research findings and enhance their understanding of the way scientists are working during the Corona crisis, effective, well-researched journalism is essential. The first Communication Lab thus focused on the Corona pandemic. The award-winning articles included a biographical reportage on the occupation of a virologist, a children’s book on the way bacteria work, and a reportage on the dangers of zoonoses.

Listen to our ComLab Podcast "Bench Talks – A Conversation between Science and Media"

Two people on a bench. Somewhere in Berlin. A researcher and a journalist discuss current world events and the state of science communication.

Participants about the ComLab:

Eduardo Queiroz Alves, geochemist, Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Brazil)
Being a participant of the last ComLab was a very rewarding experience. It taught me, among other things, how to convey my research to a broad and diverse audience.

Dr Khondokar Kabir, agricultural scientist, Climate Protection Fellow (Bangladesh)
ComLab, to me, is a platform for caring and sharing about your society through the interplay of science and journalism. You should aim to get into ComLab since it will mentally prepare you to be more socially responsible.

Priya Goswami, German Chancellor Fellow (India)
Collaboration is the very fabric of the program. Participants can expect rich first-hand takeaways of learning more about the process of dissemination while also learning about ground-breaking science from their peers. The experience is unique and priceless, not to forget the need of the hour in these times of fake news and yellow journalism.

Alexandra Eul, journalist, IJP alumna (Germany)
The in-depth exchange with such a diverse group of journalists and scientists from all over the world was informative, inspiring and entertaining – and made it clear once again how crucial technology reporting beyond stereotypes is for a better understanding of our present and our future.

Dr Natalia Ruiz Morato, legal scholar, Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Colombia)
As a legal scholar working with small farmers and indigenous people, my work needs to have an impact in policymaking. Thanks to Comlab, I learned science is communication as well. You can even rap science! Alexander von Humboldt was a pioneer in science communication, in that spirit, as researchers we must innovate our communication.

Fabio Fornari, tourism researcher, German Chancellor Fellow (Brazil)
ComLab was one of the most exciting and interesting programmes I have ever been part of. The format is truly engaging and gave me the opportunity to learn from experts from all over the world during workshops, as well as working with a great journalist. When I first learned about ComLab I had no idea that just a few months later I would be working alongside an experienced journalist and would see our work together being printed in a real newspaper. As a researcher, this programme has completely changed my perspective and trajectory. It was a deeply impacting experience to be part of ComLab and I definitely recommend it for everyone out there who might be wondering whether they should apply for it. I am very grateful to have been part of this exciting and challenging programme and I hope to see many more ComLabs in the future. Researchers, journalists and the world definitely need more of them!

The programme is financed by