Tag Archives: demography

Paper published in Revue Quetelet

Daniel Courgeau, Jakub Bijak, Robert Franck and myself have just had a paper published in Revue Quetelet entitled Are the four Baconian idols still alive in demography?  The full PDF of the paper is available for free at the link.

I very much enjoyed contributing to this paper; as a relative newcomer to the field of demography, it is not often that one gets to pontificate on the past and future of a 450-year-old discipline with much more senior researchers.  Abstract follows, in French and English:

Cet article examine les quatre sortes d’idoles qui selon le Novum Organon de Bacon (1620) affectent l’esprit humain. Il s’agit des idoles de la Tribu – qui résultent de la croyance «que le sens humain est la mesure des choses» ; des idoles de la caverne – qui sont propres à chacun de nous ; des idoles du forum – «qui prennent naissance dans le commerce et la communauté des hommes», et des idoles du théâtre – «introduites dans l’esprit par les divers systèmes des philosophes et les mauvaises méthodes de démonstration». Nous examinons si ces idoles sont toujours présentes dans les sciences sociales contemporaines, et examinons plusieurs exemples affectant la démographie – la génétique du comportement, la théorie postmoderne, l’héréditarisme et l’herméneutique moderne. L’analyse de ces exemples suggère fortement que la démographie doit rester fidèle à la méthode scientifique lorsqu’elle recourt à de nouvelles approches et inspirations.

In this paper, we examine the four Idols that beset human minds according to Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620). These are: Idols of the Tribe – false assertions resulting from the belief that «the sense of man is the measure of things»; Idols of the Cave – peculiar to the individual people; Idols of the Market Place – resulting from «the intercourse and association of men with each other», and Idols of the Theatre – stemming from «dogmas of philosophies and… wrong laws of demonstration». We aim to see if these Idols are still alive in contemporary population sciences, and look at several examples from the fringes of demography – behaviour genetics, postmodern theory, hereditarianism, and modern hermeneutics. The analysis of these examples strongly suggests that demography needs to remain faithful to the scientific method whilst looking for new insights and inspirations.

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Attending Alife 14 in New York

I’m pleased to say that another recent paper, this one titled Advancing Social Simulation: Lessons from Demography, has been accepted to the Alife 14 conference in New York.  I’ll be giving an oral presentation on this work, which was a joint project with Jakub Bijak, Daniel Courgeau and Robert Franck.  This is an early version of a rather complicated set of ideas that we hope to publish in a larger journal paper sometime down the line.

Abstract follows:

Previous work has proposed that computational modelling of social systems is composed of two primary streams of research: systems sociology, which is focused on the generation of social theory; and social simulation, which focuses on the study of real-world social systems. Here we argue that the social simulation stream stands to benefit from recent methodological and theoretical advances in demography. Demography has long been an empirically focused discipline focused primarily on mathematical modelling; however, agent-based simulation have proven influential of late as demographers seek to link individual-level behaviours to macro-level
patterns. Here we characterise this shift as a move toward system-based modelling, a paradigm in which the scientific object of interest is neither the individual nor the population, but rather the interactions between them. We first describe the four successive paradigms of demography: the period, cohort, event-history and multilevel perspectives. Then we examine how system-based modelling can assist demographers with several major challenges: overcoming complexity in social research; reducing uncertainty; and enhancing theoretical foundations. We propose that this new paradigm can enhance the broader study of populations via social simulation.

I’ll upload the full paper once the final corrected version is done and submitted.  The conference proceedings will be open-access in MIT Press.

Hope to see some of you in NYC!

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Giving a talk at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing

If anyone happens to be in Oxford this Wednesday, I’ll be giving a talk at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing from 12.30PM – 2PM which is titled “Agent-Based Models in Demography: Modelling the Ageing UK Population”.  Here’s the abstract:

Agent-based models are becoming increasingly popular in demography, due to their potential for studying the links between micro-level behaviour and macro-level population change.  In this talk I will discuss the implementation of two agent-based models as part of the EPSRC-funded Care Life Cycle Project, which is focused on studying the impact of the ageing of the UK population on the supply and demand of health and social care.  As well as presenting these models and their results, I will also outline the underlying motivations behind our choice of methodology, and describe some of the conceptual and practical challenges that we have encountered while constructing these models.

I’ve set myself a big task here to get through all this in 45 minutes, but I think I can just about make it!  Do come along and join the discussion if you have a chance.

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Article forthcoming in Revue Quetelet

As you may have seen in a previous post I was involved in two submissions to the recent Chaire Quetelet Seminar at the Université catholique de Louvain.  Our paper titled “Are the four Baconian Idols still alive in Demography?” has now been accepted to the Revue Quetelet journal after passing peer review, and should appear soon once we do some minor revisions.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the actual seminar at the time due to UK visa problems, but I heard from my colleagues that it was a very successful and stimulating event.  I should note that all three of my co-authors speak French, so I suspect the French-language portions of the seminar would have been much more difficult for me, but still I trust their feedback 🙂

I’m very pleased to be involved in such stimulating papers and to be publishing for the first time in a bilingual English/French journal!  Please do click the paper title to read our submitted version for now, and look forward to our revised version which will then appear in Revue Quetelet later this year.

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Paper published in Demographic Research

Just had another publication pop up online!  This one is an examination of paradigm change in demography and an argument for developing a new sub-field around the history of population science.  I’m pleased to say this one is also in Demographic Research, an open-access journal with some of the most cheerful and helpful editors around.  This paper’s called Quantifying paradigm change in demography and was written by Jakub Bijak, Daniel Courgeau, myself, and Robert Franck.

Our paper for Population and Development Review is still being looked at, but with luck we may hear about it soon.  In the meantime take a look at this one, and do support Demographic Research if you publish in this area — we should all be supporting high-quality open-access journals as much as we can.

Here’s the abstract:

Background: Demography is a uniquely empirical research area amongst the social sciences. We posit that the same principle of empiricism should be applied to studies of the population sciences as a discipline, contributing to greater self-awareness amongst its practitioners.

Objective: The paper aims to include measurable data in the study of changes in selected demographic paradigms and perspectives.

Methods: The presented analysis is descriptive and is based on a series of simple measures obtained from the free online tool Google Books Ngram Viewer, which includes frequencies of word groupings (n-grams) in different collections of books digitised by Google.

Results: The tentative findings corroborate the shifts in the demographic paradigms identified in the literature — from cross-sectional, through longitudinal, to event-history and multilevel approaches.

Conclusions: These findings identify a promising area of enquiry into the development of demography as a social science discipline. We postulate that more detailed enquiries in this area in the future could lead to establishing History of Population Thought as a new sub-discipline within population sciences.

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Paper Submitted to Population and Development Review

Another collaborative paper is now under review — this one a lengthy discussion of the future of demography called “From the past to the future of demography”.  There were four of us on this one: myself, Jakub Bijak, Daniel Courgeau and Robert Franck.  We submitted it to Population and Development Review — first we have to undergo a two-month-long preliminary review process, followed by a full review that could take several more months!  Hopefully the demography community finds it to be worth the wait 🙂

Abstract follows:

This paper aims to contribute to the debate on the future of demography. First we call attention to the developments of the discipline since the XVIIth century, and we describe its four successive paradigms related to the period, cohort, event-history and multilevel perspectives. We argue that these paradigms are complementary and that demography, since its beginnings, has subscribed to the classical scientific research programme launched by the promoters of modern science. Next we examine how simulation modelling may respond to three main challenges: how to overcome complexity in social research; how to reduce its uncertainty; and how to reinforce its theoretical foundations. We sketch a new paradigm for demography, system-based modelling, looking at interactions between various population systems. We then show how this new paradigm might conform to the classical scientific research programme, in order to take advantage of its benefits. We conclude with a tentative programme for the future of demography.

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New papers submitted to Chaire Quetelet 2013

I’m excited to be involved in the upcoming Chaire Quetelet 2013, a seminar focusing on changes in the field of demography over the last 50 years and how we see the field changing in the next 50.  Many well-known faces from the field will be present for the discussion — some speaking in English, others speaking in French! — and it will certainly be a stimulating and challenging forum.

I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating on two papers for the seminar with Daniel Courgeau, Robert Franck, and Jakub Bijak.  We’ve recently submitted the final papers and you can access them in PDF form here:

Quantifying paradigm change in demography

Are the four Baconian Idols still alive in demography?

Feel free to download, ponder and send your comments!  They’re available on my ResearchGate and Academia.edu pages as well.

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Book review in press

My colleague Jakub Bijak and I recently put together a book review on Daniel Courgeau’s 2012 book for Springer ‘Probability and Social Science‘.  Jakub is a demographer and I’m an agent-based modeller with interests in social systems, so we decided to put our heads together and do an interdisciplinary book review for Daniel’s volume.  Spoiler alert: it’s a very good book.

Our review is in the journal Population Studies and will be available online soon — we just received information on how to make it open-access today 🙂

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Submitted a paper to IUSSP

Just yesterday my colleagues Jakub Bijak and Jason Hilton and myself submitted a paper (4-page extended abstract, with a paper to follow if accepted) to the XXVII IUSSP Population Conference, to be held in Busan, South Korea next August.  The paper is titled “Statistical Individuals and Simulated Individuals: Analysing Agent-Based Demographic Models with Gaussian Process Emulators“, which is a very long title… need to take a rest after saying all that.  The content is essentially a distillation of our recent work on agent-based models for the study of population dynamics, with an emphasis on the potential impact of this type of simulation methodology on event-history analysis.

The conference is run by the IUSSP, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, based in Paris.  The attendees will be 2-3,000 demographers across all areas of the discipline, so this will hopefully be my first opportunity to be on hand to present our recent work to the demography community.  I’m very interested to see how these conferences work; my field is quite small in comparison, and our big conferences are perhaps 1/10th the size of this one!

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Paper for WCSS 2012

I’m pleased to say I’ll be presenting a paper at the 4th World Congress on Social Simulation, to be held in Taipei, Taiwan from 4-7 September 2012.  My paper is a multidisciplinary simulation effort incorporating substantial demographic expertise from my colleagues Jakub Bijak and Jason Hilton.

View/print the paper from my Google Docs repository here:  Semi-Artificial Models of Population: Connecting Demography with Agent-Based Modelling

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