The Population Research Group at the University of Victoria is an interdisciplinary research group consisting of twelve faculty members having an interest in demography and population related issues.

Group Objectives

The key objectives of the group are fivefold: (1) promoting interdisciplinary research; (2) providing a consortium of academic expertise that will serve to train students, especially graduate students, in the quantitative and analytical methods used by demographers and social scientists with a population focus; (3) creating a visible unit on campus that can network with other population programs in Canada and in other countries and can sponsor seminars and workshops with a population focus; (4) forging a unit that can spearhead the acquisition and management of population related databases on campus; and (5) potentially provide consultation services to various governmental and community organizations. Let us discuss each of these goals in a bit more detail.

Interdisciplinary Research

One of the characteristics of population studies is that it tends to reach across disciplinary boundaries, drawing together scholars from a variety of academic disciplines, and professions from a variety of fields (e.g.: actuaries, health specialists, and demographers projecting future demand for educational and utility services.) Given the fact that a critical mass of scholars on the campus interested in population has developed over the last decade or so, it seems to us that the time is ripe to bring together these scholars in order to promote interdisciplinary research on campus. Our group includes a cluster interested in modeling (Burch, Engineer); a cluster interested in cross cultural issues of family, health and the spread of contagious diseases (Butt, Cloutier-Fisher, Engineer, Roth, van den Driessche, Wu); a cluster interested in demographic aspects of quantitative social and economic history (Baskerville, Mosk, Sager); a cluster interested in policy questions involving health, family and aging (Cloutier-Fisher, Jansson, Penning, and Wu); and a cluster interested in family and household (Baskerville, Burch, Mosk, Sager and Wu.) In addition Mosk is involved with the RIIM (Centre of Excellence: Immigration Policy) that deals with policy questions concerning immigration. We are confident that these clusters will generate research projects that make use of the talents and skills of the members of the group, and will help foster an interdisciplinary approach to research on the campus.

It goes without saying that we aim at promoting interdisciplinary research on campus by encouraging clusters and/or the group as a whole to secure research grants that will involve interdisciplinary research teams. It should be noted – and can be seen from the homepages of the faculty members listed in the next section – that individual members of the group have been successful in obtaining various forms of external support for their research.

Training Students

Our second aim is to provide teaching services and advice to students on the campus. Increasingly one hears of a great divide in the ranks of students, undergraduate and graduate alike, between those with strong skills in writing and analysis of literary sources, and those enjoying mathematical ability and a quantitative focus. One the ways our group can serve the students on campus is to teach mini-courses in the basic skills needed to work with the growing number of databases, domestic and international, that are appearing either online or as CD-ROM’s. As the number of these databases proliferates, almost daily it seems, the demand for academically trained professionals who can work with them increases. Thus, one of our goals is to enhance the capacity of students - especially in fields like Anthropology and History where quantitative skills are not necessarily emphasized in the curriculum – to work with these databases. A related goal is to bring to the attention of our students the growing linkages between computer modeling and social science theory, an area of particular interest to Burch.

Visibility

Our third objective is akin to flag waving. We would like the national and international community of demographers to know that University of Victoria is “on the map” in the population field, that it is a force promoting population related research in Western Canada. To this end we will be operating a seminar series that involves both on-campus and off-campus speakers. And we expect to host workshops and conferences involving population related issues.

Databases

We have already touched on the issue of databases, in the context of training students in their use. As a unit we would also expect to be actively involved in sponsoring the acquisition of new databases and on helping to inventory and advertise their contents for scholarly use on campus and elsewhere. Coordinating information is a serious problem: often professors in one department are ignorant about the existence of data sets used or created by their colleagues in other departments. If they know about some databases, they would be able to direct their students to these potential data sources. One of our goals is to coordinate the use of these databases, thereby increasing the use of these datasets assembled at great cost by various governmental agencies and academic groups.

Potential Resource for Governments Requiring Expertise in Population Related Issues

Our fifth goal is practical: in our view, it is a shame that the expertise of our putative community of population specialists is not consulted with greater frequency by the federal government, by the provincial and municipal governments of our province. Governments are interested in projecting demand for hospital beds, old age homes, utility use, and enrollment in schools ranging from elementary to university. Demographers have expertise that these organizations may want to tap. For example, the freshly created Island Medical Program may wish to make use of our services, both in a teaching and a consulting capacity. It is expected that our group, given official status on campus, will become more visible to these organizations.