Storylines for practice: a visual storytelling approach to strengthen the science-practice interface

Vivian Juliette Cortes Arevalo*, Laura N.H. Verbrugge, Anneke Sools, Marcela Brugnach, Rik Wolterink, R. Pepijn van Denderen, Jasper H.J. Candel, Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
74 Downloads (Pure)


A growing number of scientific publications is available to promote sustainable river management. However, these publications target researchers rather than water management professionals who are responsible for the implementation of management practices. To bridge this science-to-practice gap, we conceptualize and propose a series of steps to prepare effective storylines targeted at a practitioner audience. We developed this approach within a research program that supports integrated and collaborative river management. We prepared three storylines, each based on one scientific publication. The storylines combined text and interactive visuals using the ESRI StoryMaps tool to make them available online. Via focus groups with 44 participants from research and practice, we evaluated the perceived usefulness of and engagement with the content and design. We collected feedback from participants using a survey as well as via audio and screen recordings. Our findings show that we should narrow down the audience of the storylines by tailoring them to the needs of project managers rather than specialized advisors. Therefore, the content should offer more than a visual summary of the research by showing examples of the management application. A more engaging sequence with a clear protagonist is further required to better relate to the problem and the potential application. Although visuals and interactive elements were considered attractive, a multi-disciplinary editorial team is necessary to better complement the visuals’ design to the text. The level of detail of participants’ feedback shows that involving project managers to co-create storylines can be an important step for improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1013-1032
Number of pages20
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Environmental management
  • Narrative visualization
  • River research
  • Science communication
  • User-centered design
  • Effectiveness evaluation


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