650   Visual presentation

New approaches and formats for environmental reporting by a federal agency

Author: Alexandra Schulz
German Environment Agency , Germany

Successful environmental policy requires reliable information on status and development of the environment. The German Environment Agency (UBA) therefore makes every effort to provide this information. Our work centers around gathering data concerning the state of the environment, investigating the relevant interrelationships and making projections – and then, based on these findings, providing information to federal bodies, stakeholders, scientists and the public.

The urgency to answer environmental questions has increased rapidly. At the same time, the complexity and the amount of environmental data has strongly increased, currentness and accessibility become more important, expectations of different target groups vary widely – how should we address all these challenges as a federal agency? Additionally, the communication of environmental policy issues has its own unique challenges, such as the time gap between environmental pollution and the noticeable consequences for society.

The UBA website contains more than 1,300 items of data in the form of tables, diagrams, infographics, indicators and maps. How can we provide all this information in a useful way? How can we address different needs of users? How can we approach environmental topics in a systematic way to show all the relevant interrelations? How can we use cognitive psychology to present our information in a suitable way?

In recent years we have developed various products to increase the usability as well as the accessibility of our data, including a data search, interactive maps, storytelling, infographics and a prospective new format to present cross-sectional topics called “environmental atlas”.

We want to expand our role as an evidence-based source of information for policy makers and as an independent actor in the evaluation of environmental data. We can only succeed in this if we improve access to the data and are able to present complex topics in a comprehensible way.

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