The scientific programme of the Union is carried out mainly by its Scientific Panels, which are each responsible for a programme of work. These panels are established by the IUSSP Council to address an emerging or critical population issue or to develop and improve training and research in the population field. They consist of a small international group of high level experts. To allow for flexibility and innovation, Scientific Panels are set up for a limited period of time.
Depending on the subject matter, context and organizational considerations, the working methods of IUSSP Scientific Panels may vary: these include organizing seminars, cyber-seminars, expert meetings or training workshops, developing training materials and other useful tools for population scientists, and authoring policy papers on critical population issues. Increasingly, activities and tools are internet-based as this allows a larger number of members to participate in and benefit from these activities.
These small meetings are organized on a topic with the aim of providing scientific, state-of-the-art answers to critical population questions. Researchers from different disciplines and from all regions are invited to present papers that address the topic from multiple perspectives. Participants may be invited on the basis of their expertise on a specific topic, but most participants are selected competitively through a call for papers disseminated to IUSSP members and others working in the topic area. Twenty to thirty participants are invited to attend the meeting, present their findings, and participate in the discussion of the papers, both from a scientific perspective and in terms of policy implications. When possible seminars also provide an opportunity for junior researchers and local policy-makers to attend as observers. The three-four day duration of these seminars and the limited number of participants encourage intensive discussion on the research topic.
Some panels, such as the Population-Environment Research Network, operate almost exclusively through the Internet, by organizing cyberseminars. These internet-based meetings allow a large number of members to participate and keep abreast of recent developments in topical area and at no cost for participants.
Some Panels such as the Network on Strengthening Demographic Training in Francophone Africa have been set up to focus on training and capacity building and organize training workshops (as well as other training tools).
Some Panels may consider setting up new internet-based activities to share population information or recent research with other members. Recent examples include the Demopaedia’s Collaborative Online Multilingual Demographic Dictionary, or the online distance-learning tools such as the Tools for Demographic Estimation or the courses on Population Analysis for Policies & Programmes.