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Ethical Open Source Investigation: A deep dive into key skills - Online


Course Information


Ethical Open Source Investigation: A Deep Dive into Key Skills is a two-part methodology course which teaches open source skills whilst foregrounding a critical and reflexive approach to open source investigations. You will learn practical skills to evaluate social media content, online databases and satellite images, whilst integrating considerations of ethics, care and power.

This material is developed from the University of Cambridge’s Open Source Investigation for Academics course (which was co-designed by Dr Ella McPherson, Ray Adams Row Farr, Nik Yasikov and Laetitia Maurat) and inspired by the university’s collaboration with Amnesty International as part of their Digital Verification Corps - an international network of universities where students trained in open source investigation contribute to Amnesty’s human rights fact-finding. It brings together long-standing academic considerations of positionality, reflexivity and ethics with a practical introduction to the methodologies of open source investigation. It’s taught by Ray Adams Row Farr, an open source investigator for Amnesty International’s Evidence Lab. She has been researching, training and teaching open source investigation in a human rights context for the past five years.


Over the two days of this first part of the course, you’ll develop your understanding of what open source is and learn the stages involved in the research. On day one, drawing from relevant case studies, you’ll be introduced to open source research, its potential applications and how to engage with your own wellbeing as a researcher. On day two, we’ll build on this ground work by diving into the stages of an open source investigation, split into discovering and verifying content.

Topics covered:

  • What is Open Source Research
  • Vicarious Trauma
  • Discovery
  • Verification (chronolocation, reverse image search)


Over two days in this second part of the course, you’ll build on and deepen the practical and theoretical skills learnt in Part 1 by learning geolocation, archiving and data curation, digital footprints and ethics more broadly. On Day 1 you’ll build on your practical skills verifying content by diving into chronolocation and geolocation, before moving on to consider how to structure and archive content in an open source investigation. On Day 2, we’ll broaden the discussion and bring together all methodological components discussed so far, to think about ethics in the context of open source investigations.

Topics covered:

  • Geolocation
  • Satellite imagery
  • Data Curation
  • Archiving
  • Digital Footprint
  • Ethics


This exciting opportunity to engage with Open Source Investigation is open to anyone, whether a PhD student, Early Career Researcher, researcher in the field, academic or interested in using OSI in any part of your work. This is an intensive four day course and there is preparation and follow-up work expected from you. Please note that you are required to attend both parts of this course, the dates are as follows:

Part I: Thursday 20th July 2023 and Friday 21st July 2023

Part II: Thursday 27th July 2023 and Friday 28th July 2023

This short course will be facilitated online


Course Code


Course Leader

Ray Adams Row Farr
Course Description


As places are limited we are asking everyone interested in participating to submit a short application.

Applications should be made by email to Dr Billie-Gina Thomason at [email protected] by 12 noon on Monday 15th May 2023.

Once your application has been received you will get a confirmation email and some information on the next steps. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application by Monday 17th June 2023.

Please use the following headings in your application:

Personal details

  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Current Job Title/Role, Department/School/Faculty/Institution
  • Discipline

If applicable: PhD Information (please note a PhD is not a requirement)

  • Year your PhD was awarded or PhD year (if currently doing a PhD)
  • Title of your PhD
  • Department/School/Faculty/Institution your PhD was based in
  • Was your PhD ESRC funded?

Why are you interested?

  • Please provide details of your research history, including current position and research (200 word limit)
  • Do you have prior experience / knowledge of / engagement with open source investigation? If yes, please provide details (Please note that prior experience is not required)
  • Please explain how this course will be of value in your current or future research or practice (200 word limit)
  • Publications (Please note that this will have no bearing on the outcome of your application)

Any questions should be sent to [email protected]

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