Demography and the Post-2015 Data Revolution

Paris, France, 9-10 October 2014


The IUSSP, in collaboration with the Population Association of America (PAA), with the assistance of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, convened an Expert Group Meeting on Demography and the Post-2015 Data Revolution, in Paris, France 9-10 October 2014. The meeting brought together 22 prominent population scientists to discuss how demographers, and demographic skills, could contribute to a data revolution. 



The call for a data revolution emerged in 2013 from a United Nations High Level Panel established to provide advice on the global development agenda beyond 2015. The High Level Panel’s report called for a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to decision-makers, researchers and citizens, building upon rapid advances in data and software that have occurred in recent years. Given demographers' specific expertise in analysing population data, the IUSSP was called upon to mobilise the global community of demographers and population scientists to contribute to this revolution. 


This initiative is important for the IUSSP membership because the United Nations is currently drawing up the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The data revolution is part of this process. Many IUSSP members are probably aware of the impact the MDGs have had on research and data collection, particularly for developing countries whose statistical offices and researchers were challenged with the task of collecting and analysing data to measure progress on specific MDG indicators.  The MDGs also focalized funding for development and research on specific priority issues such as maternal and child health and education. Given the likely impact the SDGs and data revolution will have for the work of many IUSSP members, it is important to engage early in the process to ensure population is included and indicators can be adequately measured, that there is support for collection and analysis of quality population data, and training to assure capacity to analyse and use this data. 


The IUSSP expert group meeting was organized around plenary and brainstorming sessions designed to bring participants to a general consensus of what a data revolution might entail and how demographers could best contribute. Participants came to the meeting from diverse perspectives. Several participants were already involved in the process, while others had never heard of the “data revolution”. Some were critical about the top-down UN led process and its potential outcomes, and others were hopeful about its potential to develop new areas of research drawing on new sources of data (i.e. Big Data), leading to better evidence-based policy. The meeting was facilitated by fellows from the Overseas Development Institute who led the discussion groups that focused on issues of data quality, data interoperability, and principles upon which a data revolution should be based, viewed from the demographic perspective. 


One immediate outcome of the meeting is a statement and recommendations that emerged from the discussions, which were sent to the UN Secretary General's Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development in mid-October. This statement is posted on the IUSSP website and IUSSP members are invited to contribute their views to the discussion.


The IUSSP will continue to pursue its efforts to draw greater attention to the expertise population scientists can bring to the data revolution through the upcoming activities: 


  • Several participants from the first meeting will attend the “Cartagena Data Festival: Better data for a better tomorrow” to be organized 20-22 April in Cartagena, Colombia. This conference will bring together a number of organizations and UN agencies that have been active in the Data Revolution discussions.

  • The IUSSP will organize a session on “Demography, Demographers and the Data Revolution” at the Annual Meeting of the PAA (San Diego, 30 April-2 May), chaired by Sunita Kishor (DHS Program, ICF International).

  • The IUSSP has engaged Stephane Helleringer (Columbia University), to review several population-related indicators proposed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


¨ Contribute online to the discussion


¨ Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of the statement. 


¨ For more information on the data revolution, please read the background document