From Our Journals

A Note from the New Editors of Population and Development Review

This is an exciting time for demography. Many of the pressing public issues at the forefront of the public’s imagination are, at their core, demographic ones. 

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic the nuances of mortality metrics such as life expectancy at birth and excess mortality became household topics as the world grappled with basic questions surrounding the deadliness of the virus and the appropriate public response. And, unfortunately, misunderstanding and misapplication of such metrics taught us all how crucial it is to have consistent and clear science communication. Additionally, the recent resurgence of nationalism has its roots in changing demographic structures, particularly the persistence of very low fertility in the high-income world, and conflicts and poverty driving large increases in international migration from the global South to North.

Demographic research has also become more relevant in addressing both emerging global phenomena such as climate change and digital transformation, as well as traditional global challenges such as conflict and food security. Studies on these issues are now more feasible than ever thanks to the availability of high-quality new data sources—both traditional (e.g., geo-referenced demographic surveys, longitudinal surveys, and harmonized cross-national data) and nontraditional (e.g., digital trace, genetic, and satellite data). The advancement in computing power has also led to an explosion in computational demography and innovative methodological tools. These developments provide an unprecedented opportunity to produce research that matters for policy and society at large, and we encourage authors to explore and exploit these new opportunities to tackle the complex and interconnected pressing issues of our time.

The content of—and interest in—outputs of demographic research are not the only rapidly changing aspects of our work. The production and dissemination of research is also changing. The early days of the pandemic revealed the inherent brokenness of the current model of academic publication. Due to excessively long publication lags, traditional demography journals were all but bypassed in favor of preprint services. This can hurt both the researchers and the public at large, since trusted, peer-reviewed articles were not available in a timely manner, contributing to a vacuum of reliable information for misinformation to fill. In addition, many rapid turnaround journals have high open-access fees, so those in low-resource settings who rely on more traditional outlets were less able to compete in this rapidly evolving research environment. We are exploring options to enable PDR to publish high-quality work more quickly, while also prioritizing an equitable and inclusive approach to publishing.

Stay-at-home orders drastically shifted the distribution of available time for parents to work on research—and for mothers in particular. A short-term burst of research among those with newly available research time led to a surge in submissions and the rapid advancement in the academic careers for some, while those with child-rearing responsibilities could only watch from the sidelines. These developments have the potential to reinforce preexisting hierarchies and privileges in the production of research—particularly along the dimensions of gender, affluence, and nationality. We are cognizant of these risks.

Going forward, we will be even more focused on diverse representation of research and researchers within the pages of PDR, not only along the margins of research topics and geographic spread, but also in other aspects of the research production process, like referee selection. We also hope to make the journal even more accessible. 6,000+ lower-income country institutions currently have free or low-cost online access to our journals through Research4Life. Our goal in the years to come is to make our content accessible to the widest possible audience.

We are excited to promote and expand into new and exciting fields of research, but we also fully intend to honor PDR’s historical areas of interest, emphasis on big ideas, and clear and compelling writing. We emphatically, enthusiastically, and passionately believe in the unique role PDR has played in the constellation of demography and population science journals. We are excited to help guide the journal as it confronts the current and changing research landscape while also carrying on the spirit of PDR which has been forged by the highly experienced colleagues who came before us. We are honored to be given this opportunity to push forward the frontiers of demographic science—together with the wider demography community—in our new roles.

Raya Muttarak and Joshua Wilde are the editors of Population and Development Review, a journal of the Population Council.