Bibliographic and Online Resources
BIBLIOGRAPHIC AND ONLINE RESOURCES
For many years, demographers and other social scientists with population interests considered themselves fortunate to have available the annotated bibliographic journal Population Index, which was published from 1937 to 2000. With early computerization, Popline and Medline also provided useful easily searchable bibliographies. As high-speed Internet access became available, researchers could routinely draw on a much wider array of bibliographic resources and other research tools. The power of this technology derives from the speed at which information can be transmitted, the low costs involved for end users, the relative ease with which content can be updated or revised, the seemingly limitless amounts of information that can be carried, the superior graphic possibilities offered by electronic displays as compared to paper, and the scope for interactivity between user and information. Users have masses of information at their fingertips, albeit together with similar masses of dubious or tendentious material that libraries might have screened out. The new ways of accessing, processing, and disseminating information and data that the Internet allows are having a notable effect on the way researchers work and interact–in what is likely to be just the beginning of a long-term, technology-driven process.
Various categories of online resources are relevant to demographic research. Practically every major population training and research center and many statistical offices throughout the world have web sites giving information about their activities and often providing access to their publications. Software for various demographic procedures and computations can be downloaded, often without cost. Vast amounts of demographic data are also obtainable from remote locations. Such data may come in the form of files that can be downloaded and archived in the user's computer for further processing, or in the form of interactive databases presenting data that can be tailored to meet the user's needs. Bibliographic resources are increasingly abundant–from the online catalogs of major libraries around the world to online libraries containing the actual texts of publications, including books. Nearly all demographic journals and newsletters have an Internet presence–a web site that shows at least the table of contents, usually an abstract, and in some cases the full text of articles.
Given the volume of demographic material available, users face an increasing problem of identifying and retrieving data and information in an efficient way. There are essentially two strategies to extract information from the Internet: "searching" and "browsing." Searching works best when what is being sought can be conceptualized with a distinctive keyword. A search engine such as Google can then mine the Internet for occurrences of that keyword. (There are a large number of search engines. A survey of them and discussion of search-engine technology and use can be found at a site called Search Engine Watch, which is maintained by Internet.com.)
A critical factor in the success of any search is the formulation of the query–the key word or phrase should not be conceptually too broad or too narrow. In 2002 the keyword "population" by itself yielded some 15.9 million documents on Google–far too many to be of practical interest. Adding another keyword–say, a country name–in a Boolean search procedure might be needed to trim the total to manageable numbers.
But in many cases, users may be looking for something that cannot be easily indexed in keywords. Like a reader leafing through interesting parts of a book rather than perusing the index, the Inter-net user may prefer to browse relevant sites and survey what is available before narrowing the search in a particular direction. Some sites that might be used in this fashion are noted below, grouped in three categories: portals, databases, and content-rich sites.
The pioneer portal in the population field was the Demography and Population Studies section of the World Wide Web Virtual Library, maintained by the Demography Program of the Australian National University. Popnet, which describes itself as "the directory for global population information" is another high-quality population portal–comprehensive, well-organized, and attractively presented. It is maintained by the Population Reference Bureau, which has population information as its core mandate. DemoNetAsia offers another comprehensive repertory of online resources of particular interest to demographers.
In addition there are a number of more specialized portals. The Population Information Network (POPIN), maintained by the United Nations Population Division, aims to provide access to population information on the web sites of the entire United Nations system. In the area of reproductive health, Johns Hopkins University manages the Reproductive Health Gateway and the United Nations Population Fund sponsors a Population and Reproductive Health portal in the Development Gateway web site. In the area of migration, the Migration Policy Institute runs the Migration Information Source.
Both bibliographic and statistical databases should be noted. Among the bibliographic databases, Popline, which contains several hundred thousand records and is maintained by Johns Hopkins University, provides citations with abstracts of the worldwide literature in the field of population, with an emphasis on family planning and related health issues. Population Index, as mentioned, for over six decades was the primary reference tool on the world's population literature. Its database covering the years from 1986 to its demise in 2000, containing almost 50,000 records–many in subject areas not well covered by Popline–is available online from Princeton University's Office of Population Research and is a valuable tool for literature searches pertaining to that period.
Online statistical databases present demographic indicators and projections for individual countries or regions, as well as data in the broader field of population and development. The main demographic databases are those of the United Nations Population Division and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Notable among the numerous databases covering aspects of population and development is the World Bank's World Development Indicators Data Query. The DemoNetAsia web site offers a list of databases and databanks (noninteractive statistical data archives in population and closely related subjects). The Internet Crossroads maintained by the University of Wisconsin and the Virtual Data Library of the University of North Carolina's Carolina Population Center cover a broader range of the social science data resources that are available online.
The web sites of many population research and teaching institutions are essentially electronic versions of traditional brochures, designed to present information about the institution rather than as a resource to support the work of others. The sites of the various professional associations in the population field are mainly services for their members. There are, however, notable exceptions: institutions whose web sites are rich in documents and other resources, such as software, databases, and repertories of links. These include: INED, France's Institut national d'études démographiques (National Institute of Demographic Research); the Population Research Institute of Pennsylvania State University; the Carolina Population Center of the University of North Carolina; and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. An Internet application of particular interest concerns distance learning. For demography, the Distance Advancement of Population Research project at the Carolina Population Center is a pioneering effort in this area.
Most demographic journals also have web sites. Some, such as International Family Planning Perspectives or the Population Reference Bureau's Population Bulletin, make their full contents available on-line, but the majority either limit themselves to tables of contents and abstracts or restrict online access to subscribers. Demographic Research, a free, peer-reviewed journal, is published exclusively on-line. A comprehensive list of population periodicals available online is offered by DemoNetAsia.
A major storehouse of past population research is the contents of the main English-language population journals compiled by the JSTOR (Journal Storage) project. The full text of every issue of nine population journals (Demography, 1964–; Family Planning Perspectives, 1969–; International Family Planning Perspectives, 1979–; International Migration Review, 1966–; Population: An English Selection, 1989–; Population and Development Review, 1975–; Population Index, 1937–1985; Population Studies, 1947–; and Studies in Family Planning, 1963–), from first publication up to the volume several years before the current year, is available online, in searchable form. Hard copies of individual articles can be printed. (Numerous other journals in the social sciences and humanities are also included.) Access to JSTOR is typically through institutional subscription by universities or major libraries.
Many of the advantages of the Internet can turn into problems and sources of inefficiency. The ease with which web sites can be started and revised results in a low degree of stability; in addition, as web sites age and expand, maintenance becomes increasingly time and resource consuming and is often neglected. Quality control is frequently poor. In a number of countries, inadequate telecommunication infrastructures and sometimes explicit policies discourage users and limit the Internet presence of their institutions. As a result, Internet use for research can sometimes be frustrating.
Nevertheless, the Internet has established itself as an essential utility in workplaces and homes throughout most of the world, radically changing expectations about how easy it should be for researchers to gain access to and disseminate information and to interact with other researchers regardless of geographical distance. As its use spreads further, it will revolutionize the way demographers and others work and collaborate–very much as computers did in the 1970s and 1980s.
See also: Journals, Population.
Demographic Research. 2002. <http://www.demographic-research.org>.
DemoNetAsia. 2002. "The DemoNetAsia Links Directory." <http://demonetasia.org/links.htm>.
——. 2002. "DemoNetAsia Links: Databases." <http://demonetasia.org/links/linksdbases.htm>.
——. 2002. "DemoNetAsia Links: Population Journals." <http://demonetasia.org/links/linksjournals.htm>.
Google. 2002. <http://www.google.com>.
Institut national d'études démographiques. 2002. <http://www.ined.fr>.
International Family Planning Perspectives. 2002. <http://www.agi-usa.org/journals/ifpp_archive.html>.
Internet.com. 2002. "Search Engine Watch." <http://www.searchenginewatch.com>.
——. 2002. "Reproductive Health Gateway." <http://www.rhgateway.org>.
JSTOR (Journal Storage). 2002. <http://www.jstor.org>.
Migration Policy Institute. 2002. "Migration Information Source." <http://www.migrationinformation.org>.
Pennsylvania State University. Population Research Institute. 2002. <http://www.pop.psu.edu>.
Population Reference Bureau. 2002. "Popnet." <http://www.popnet.org>.
United Nations. Population Division. 2002. Population Information Network (POPIN). <http://www.un.org/popin>.
——. 2002. "World Population Prospects Population Database." <http://esa.un.org/unpp>.
United Nations Population Fund. 2002. "Population and Reproductive Health." <http://developmentgateway.org/node/146526>.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2002. "International Data Base." <http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbnew.html>.
University of North Carolina. Carolina Population Center. 2002. <http://www.cpc.unc.edu>.
——. 2002. "Distance Advancement of Population Research." <http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/dapr/dl>.
——. 2002. "Virtual Data Library." <http://www.cpc.unc.edu/dataarch>.