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Laureate 2012 Graziella Caselli

IUSSP Laureate 2012


The IUSSP Council voted Graziella Casselli to be the 2012 Laureate. Her nomination received 55 letters of support from members in twelve countries. Supporters cited Graziella’s numerous contributions to the field of demography as a researcher and teacher, her enthusiastic and active participation in the Union, and untiring service to a large number of demographic institutions. The award was presented to Graziella during the European Population Conference in Stockholm, Sweden on 14 June 2012. 
Graziella Casselli 
Nomination Letter for Graziella Caselli

We would like to nominate Graziella Caselli as a candidate for the IUSSP Laureate. An active member of the IUSSP since 1979, she has been for several years one of the most outstanding figures in the field of population studies worldwide: for her publications, for her relentless attention and encouragement towards the younger generations, for her participation in the most outstanding demographic associations, very often in positions of responsibility, for her organizational and fund-raising capabilities, and, recently, for her editorial activity of "Genus", one of the oldest demographic journals in the world.

Let us briefly review her academic career. She graduated relatively late, in 1972, at the age of 33, in Statistics and Demography, at the University of Rome (formerly “La Sapienza”, now simply "Sapienza"). Why so late? Because she started a family, and was about to become an ordinary housewife, like many other Italian women of her generation (and, actually, also subsequent generations). But, when her child started to grow up, she realized that she wanted more from life, and back she goes to books and University - at the rather unconventional age of 29. But she was destined to make up for the time she had, surely not "wasted", but let us say used otherwise, in "applied demography".

Immediately after her degree, she was appointed by her University (Sapienza) to work and teach as a demographer: firstly as a Researcher (1972-86), then, for a short time, as an Associate Professor (1986-1989), and, finally, as a Full Professor (1989-2010). She was recently forced to retire (age limits are rigid in Italy), but she is not yet resting, as we shall see shortly.

Although her academic career has been centered in Rome, she has travelled all over the world, and has been a visiting fellow in several outstanding research institutes: e.g. the Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques-INED, Paris; the  International Max Planck Research School for Demography, Rostock, Germany; Princeton University, USA; the Institut de Démographie, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, Louvain, Belgique; the Institute for Applied System Analysis-IIASA, Luxemburg, Austria; the VID-Vienna Institute of Demography, Austria.

She has been Head of the Department of Demography in Rome twice in her career: this makes 10 years, overall. She has worked for the Italian government, in several committees and panels of experts; she has been President of two EAPS Scientific Committees, in charge of two European Population Conferences (the Hague, 1999, and Warsaw, 2003); she has chaired the IMPRSD-International Max Planck Research School for Demography in 2000-2001.

She has participated in, or directed, so many national research projects that it is impossible to list them all here; and, needless to say, she has been member or director of a few international research projects, mostly centered on survival and longevity, that culminated in the project called “Demographic Analysis of Sardinian Longevity”, 2004-2007, - funded by the National Institute of Aging (NIA) – Duke University, U.S.A and by Max Planck.

She is currently Honorary President of the European Association for Population Studies-EAPS, after having served initially (1995-1999) as a Secretary General and Treasurer and later (2000-2003) as a President. As for the IUSSP, she has been a member of the Council (2002 - 2009), has chaired the Working Group on “Teaching Demography” (1999-2009), and has been a member of the Panel on “Adult Mortality” (1989-1993).

Not surprisingly she has received a few awards: for instance the Medal “Professor Jerzego Z. HOLZERA”, from the Warsaw-Poland University (August 2003), and she has lately been included in the “List of stars” (Le Stelle della Sapienza), i.e. a short inventory of the most prominent professors of the University “Sapienza”, in Rome.

She is a member of the most important demographic and statistical associations, both at the international level (IUSSP, EAPS - European Association for population Studies, PAA - Population Association of America, ISI - International Statistical Institute) and at the national level (SIS - Italian Society of Statistics; SIDES -  Italian Society of Historical Demography, SIEDS - Italian Society of Economics, Demography and Statistics).

Her appointments have been several and prestigious. For instance:

  • Scientific Advisory Board of the “Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung Rostock”, Germany 1999-2010;
  • Editorial Board of the International Journal “Demographic Research”;
  • Scientific Council at the INED-Institut National d’Études Démographiques, Paris, France, 2006-2009;
  • Scientific Council of the “Paris School of Economics”, 2006-2008;
  • IMPRSD-International Max Planck Research School for Demography Consortium, Rostock, Germany;
  • Council of the EDSD- European Doctoral School of Demography
  • Advisory Board of European Studies of Population, EAPS and Kluwer Academic Publishers;
  • Scientific Committee of “UNESCO CHAIR in Population, Migration and Development”, University of Rome “La Sapienza”;
  • Research Panel on “New Data for an Ageing World”, Committee on Population and Committee on National Statistics, National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 1999-2001.

Now, at a time when most others would have considered retiring and resting a little bit, she has accepted to become the editor of Genus, and has transformed it into an online review. There is an editorial board, of course, but she reads whatever is submitted to the review, discusses with authors and reviewers, encourages the young, stimulates the less young, and complains that the mature are not doing enough—by her standards, of course!

One wonders where on earth such an active woman would find the time to do research and publish. And still, she has written (or co-written) 64 articles for journals, including some of the most prestigious ones: Population Studies, Demography, Population, Demographic Research, European Journal of Population, Genus, Labour, Historical Methods, Experimental Gerontology, Evolution and Human Behaviour, Immunity & Ageing, Annals of the New York Academic of Science, Social Insurance Studies, Annales de Démographie Historique, Population Review. Then there are 82 chapters in multi-authored, edited books (or proceedings of conferences); 9 books that she has authored (or coauthored), and another 17 that she has edited (or co-edited), including two of the Oxford University Press (the former, prestigious IUSSP series).

Her research interests are varied: health, longevity and ageing rank first, with the development of mathematical models for the analysis of socio-economic differences in mortality; the analysis of the role of socio-demographic factors on the future of the welfare state; the study of elderly health and survival; the elaboration of models to disentangle the impact of demographic variables on ageing. She has proposed methods for forecasting mortality by cause; devised demographic models for longitudinal analyses; focused on heterogeneity. Lately, cases of longevity in selected areas of Sardinia (Italy) have attracted her curiosity.

Together with a couple of distinguished colleagues, in the period 1995-2006, she embarked in the monumental task of collecting the summa of the demographic knowledge of the world in the well-known Treatise of Demography, published in two languages, French and English (and partly also in Italian). This was a titanic effort for the three of them (8 volumes, 120 chapters, five preparatory conferences followed by their proceedings, ...), but one that it was worth making, and that will leave a durable mark in the field.

An impressive accomplishment, no doubt. And still, those who know Graziella personally would be somewhat discontent by this rather arid inventory of her achievements. What strikes most, in Graziella, is her energy: meet her at a party, a holiday, or on a cultural trip, and try to see if you can stop her from discussing her most recent work, or an interesting session that she has happened to attend in some never-heard-of conference, or a model that could profitably be applied to a new dataset to test this or that theory. She is a perennial stimulus to those who surround her, be it a young and inexperienced PhD student who hesitates as to how to pursue his/her studies, or a mature colleague who runs a statistical office, or heads a scientific committee: she has original ideas and suggestions for everybody. And there is no self interest in the uninterrupted flow of propositions that she generously distributes to whoever wants to listen to her: if someone wants to involve her in the analysis originated by of one her thoughts, she is ready to cooperate; if not, she is just happy that "something is moving" here, or that "something new is emerging" there. She is perennially striving for new funding, new scholarships, new job opportunities: and never for herself, but always for the (several, indeed) young scholars that surround her.

She is original and unconventional: she started the study of differential mortality (and notably of excess mortality of industrial and manual workers) in times when this topic was almost taboo in Italy; she practically forced all the young who ever worked with her to spend long periods abroad, recently especially at the European Doctoral School of Demography, which, thanks to her dedication, has become a compulsory passage in the formation of so many PhD students, in Italy and, more generally speaking, in Europe.

She loves demography, and all demographers should love her. Her passion, her dedication have never withered and have produced fruits that go much beyond those that directly bear her name, and that can be traced in the work of entire generations of young scholars - not only in Italy. And it is especially for this seed, for her investment in the future of demographic studies that we think that Graziella Caselli deserves the IUSSP 2012 Laureate award.

Gustavo De Santis
Jacques Vallin