UU Open Source Investigations Lab (OSINT Lab)

Working together with societal partners across disciplines and levels, this project combines digital innovation with new media literacy in order to train students to identify, document, verify, analyse, evaluate, and report on human rights and environmental abuses to drive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) progress.


Open-source information is defined as publicly available information that anyone can observe, purchase or request without requiring special legal status or authorized access. Globalization and the growth of digital technology has meant that knowledge and information can spread like never before. Individual citizens can now gather, share, and analyse publicly available online data including satellite imagery, videos, photographs, social media posts, and other material. This means that disinformation and fake news can also spread like never before.

With disinformation and fake news on the rise, it is more important than ever that students develop skills of critical inquiry that cross disciplinary boundaries and learn to work effectively together with societal partners. Proficiency in open-source investigations has become a critical skill that is highly sought after by employers and relevant for all students. UU students will need appropriate training in this area.

Goal and set-up

Working together with societal partners across disciplines, this project seeks to establish an Open Source Investigations Lab here at Utrecht University, making it one of the first universities establishing such a lab on the European continent.

The project will be arranged in 5 work packages (WPs) carried out over a 3-year period:

Intended results

The project will experiment and inspire through the piloting of new university-wide course offerings for BA, MA, and LLL students. The project will also collaborate for scale and impact by working with partners such as the CEL Program Team, Utrecht Data School and UGlobe to spread knowledge across programmes and curricula. A key aspect of the project will be promoting knowledge exchange within and beyond the university. As such, in addition to blogs/op-eds and teaching tools, the project will result in three joint, academic publications: (1) evaluating the project in light of the role of universities in addressing key SDGs; (2) evaluating the project in light of interdisciplinarity and (3) evaluating the project in light of community engaged learning. Finally, the plan is to deliver three (inter)national talks to inspire other universities and teachers to take up similar projects. Together, these outputs will result in both scholarly and societal impact.