May 27, 2019 | News | Workshop Announcement

Demographic Research with Web and Social Media Data

© Davidpradoperucha /

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) and the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) invite to the workshop "Demographic Research with Web and Social Media Data” taking place at the International Conference on Web and Social Media in Munich on June 11th, 2019.

The spread of the internet and online communities provide unprecedented opportunities for studying global population dynamics such as fertility, mortality, migration, and health. Internet users do not only leave ‘digital traces’ of their existence - the online world also influences their  behaviour, from daily decisions (like commuting patterns and kin interactions) to major life events (like childbirth and migration). Computational social scientists have long employed innovative methodologies and data sources to study social phenomena but demography has been slow in incorporating digital approaches, in spite of being a historically data-driven discipline. Demographers have only recently moved into the ‘digital realm’, but collaboration between demographers and computationally-oriented scientists remains limited. This workshop aims to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange between these two communities by focusing on the applications and implications of web and social media data for demographic research.

There are clear benefits inherent in connecting demography and data science. Demographers can help identify and answer research questions relevant to the social sciences using well-established analytical and theoretical frameworks. Data scientists possess invaluable technical and computational understanding of digital phenomena needed for this task. Despite the great potential of these interactions, communication between population researchers and data scientists has been very limited so far.

Topics that are relevant for the workshop include, but are not limited to:

  • Nowcasting demographic processes (migration, fertility, mortality, etc.)
  • Online experiments, surveys and simulations for demographic research
  • Inferring age, gender and interests from text and images: recent developments
  • Limitations of social media and internet data and how to overcome them
  • Monitoring population health using social media data
  • Inference from biased or non-representative samples
  • Implications of the digital revolution on demographic behaviour
  • Demographic change, human mobility and disease dynamics
  • Combining traditional sources with Web data
  • Other…


Workshop: Demographic Research with Web and Social Media Data

Munich, June 11, 2019

08:30 - 08:40     Welcome & Introductions (Emilio Zagheni)

08:40 - 09:20     Keynote 1: Tracking of Health Misinformation on Social Media (Yelena Mejova, ISI Foundation)

09:20 - 09:35    Interactive Activity: Speed dating

09:35 - 09:50    Short Presentation: Use of Facebook data for demographic research (Sofia Gil)

09:50 - 10:15     Long Presentation: More Than Money: Correlation Among Worker Demographics, Motivations, and Participation in Online Labor Markets  (Wei-Chu Chen)

10:15 - 10:45     Workshop Coffee Break

10:45 - 11:10     Long Presentation: Computationally Inferred Genealogical Networks Uncover Long-Term Trends in Assortative Mating (Eric Malmi)

11:10 - 11:25     Short Presentation: Linking crowd-sourced genealogies and national register data for demographic analysis (Diego Alburez)

11:25 - 12:05     Interactive Activity: Online Data Access, Privacy, and Use

12:05 – 12:30    Long Presentation: Towards a Total Error Framework for Users’ Digital Traces On the Web (Indira Sen)

12:30 - 14:00     Lunch

14:00 - 14:40     Keynote 2: Internet Access and Family Formation (Maria Sironi, UCL)

14:40 – 14:55    Short Presentation: Quantity versus Quality: Changes in online social engagement and online social support seeking following breast cancer diagnosis (Jude Mikal)

14:55 - 15:15    Interactive Activity: Name-dropping

15:15 - 15:30     Short Presentation: Automated Prospect and Customer Profiling in  Arabic Social Media (Anis Charfi)

15:30 - 15:45     Short Presentation: Possibilities of studying pendulum migration according to cellular operators (Valeriy Yumaguzin)

15:45 - 16:15     Workshop Coffee Break

16:15 - 16:30     Short Presentation: Urban-Rural Inequalities through Facebook Ads  (Yelena Mejova)

16:30 – 16:45    Short Presentation: The (Mis)Representativeness of Twitter Data for Population Research  (Guangqing Chi)
16:45 - 17:15     Closing Activity: Working with your Academic Match


All abstract and paper submissions to be made via email ( Questions, comments, or suggestions can also be sent to

Participants who would like to present must send an extended abstract (2-4 pages) or a full paper to by April 1, 2019 with the subject “Paper Submission” (see important dates). The submissions will be evaluated by the Organizing Committee on the basis of quality and fit to the workshop theme. Accepted abstracts and papers will be presented as short presentations. All submissions and presentations must be in English.

Participants who are interested in attending but do not submit a research paper or an extend abstract should submit a paragraph by May 1, 2019 (see important dates) explaining why they are interested in participating, what they would gain from participation, and how they can contribute to the workshop. Participants who have submitted these paragraphs will be given priority to attend over walk-in attendees in case the workshop is full. These paragraphs should be submitted by email to with the subject “Attendance Only” and they will not undergo formal evaluation.

There will be no formal Proceedings for the abstracts and papers submitted. However, authors of high quality submissions will be invited to submit their paper to a special issue on Social Media and Demographic Research of the open access, peer-reviewed journal Demographic Research - one of the top journals in the field.  The issue would include a selection of papers presented at workshops organized in collaboration with the IUSSP Panel for Digital Demography.

Important Dates

April 1, 2019 -  Deadline for abstract/paper submissions for presentations (in English). Submissions via email: (subject: “Paper Submission”).

April 2, 2019 - Notification of acceptance of submissions for presentations.

May 1, 2019 - Deadline for informal paragraphs outlining interest to attend. Submissions via email: (subject: “Attendance Only”).

June 11, 2019 - Workshop to be held in Munich, Germany. Priority to attend will be given to presenters and participants who had sent in a paragraph by email before.

Financial support

Please note that participants are expected to make their own travel and hotel reservations and to cover these costs.


This workshop is organized by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in partnership with the IUSSP Panel for Digital Demography.



Diego Alburez-Gutierrez (main organizer and contact person), MPIDR Research Scientist, Laboratory of Digital and Computational Demography

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez (PhD in Demography, London School of Economics 2018; MSc Social Research Methods, London School of Economics 2014) is a demographer with an interest in multigenerational processes in demography. Diego is currently using crowd-sourced online genealogical and genomic data to study long-term changes in demographic behaviour around the globe. His work complements internet data with established demographic sources (e.g. censuses and population registers) to evaluate and adjust the online data produced in a non-systematic way. Diego is an advocate of open science and works to bring technical advances from computer science, such as high-performance and parallelized computing, into the social sciences.

© Beatriz Sofia Gil

Beatriz Sofía Gil Clavel, Ph.D. Student, MPIDR, Laboratory of Digital and Computational Demography

Sofia Gil (M.S. in Computer Science, CIMAT 2017; B.S. in Actuarial Science, UNAM 2014) is a computer scientist who is committed to use computational and numerical tools for demographic research. Currently her research  is focused on Migrants’ Cultural Assimilation and Age Stratification. She studies these topics through the use of social media data, Twitter and Facebook respectively. Sofia was head of the Demographic Analysis Department of the National Population Council in Mexico (CONAPO), where she used numerical approaches to estimate infant mortality rate at municipal level.


Emilio Zagheni, MPIDR Director, Head of the Laboratory on Digital and Computational Demography, Affiliate Associate Professor at University of Washington, Seattle

Emilio Zagheni (PhD in Demography, UC Berkeley 2010; MA in Statistics, UC Berkeley 2008) is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany and Affiliate Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is also a Data Science Fellow of the eScience Institute. Zagheni is a demographer who uses mathematical, statistical and computationally-intensive approaches to study the causes and consequences of population dynamics. Motivated by the ambition to improve people's lives through the scientific study of our societies, he is consolidating a portfolio that leverages interdisciplinary approaches to monitor demographic change, to explain population processes, and to predict future demographic outcomes. He is best known for his pioneering work on using Web and social media data for studying migration processes. In 2016, he received the Trailblazer Award from the European Association for Population Studies for his pivotal role in developing the field of Digital and Computational Demography. Emilio Zagheni has published in top journals in Demography (e.g.Demography,  Population and Development Review, Population Research and Policy Review) and Statistics (e.g., Journal of the American Statistical Association, Biostatistics)as well as in computer science conference proceedings (e.g. WebSci, WWW, WSDM, ICWSM). He co-chairs the IUSSP Panel for Digital Demography.

Keynote speakers (confirmed)

© Photo: Yelena Mejova

Yelena Mejova is a Research Leader at the ISI Foundation in Turin, Italy, a part of the Digital Epidemiology group (previously, a scientist at the Qatar Computing Research Institute, Qatar). Specializing in social media analysis and mining, her work concerns the quantification of health and wellbeing signals in social media, as well as tracking of social phenomena, including politics and news consumption.


© Nicola Barban

Maria Sironi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Science at University College London. She is a social demographer who is interested in the transition to adulthood, including determinants and consequences of different life course trajectories. She has work on British Academy Research Grant for the past three years, looking at how different fertility and partnership trajectories influence both mental and physical health of older people in the United Kingdom, United States, and several other European countries. She is also collaborating on an ERC Advanced Grant (PI: F. Billari) and working on the role of internet access on both partnership formation and timing of childbearing. She has worked on a range of other topics which include the relationship between fertility and subjective well-being, the changing meaning of cohabitation over time in different countries, gender inequality, and sexual identity.

Before joining UCL in June 2015, Maria was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Oxford University and Nuffield College. She completed he PhD in Demography in 2013 at University of Pennsylvania.



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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.