Interdisciplinary Research Training Program for International Population Science
Across the past five decades, data creation investments in the U.S. and Western Europe have spurred dramatic breakthroughs in the social and behavioral sciences. The creation of large scientific studies of human behavior and social experience in the general population form a crucial cornerstone of these investments. Because the data from these studies are so important for the construction and evaluation of public policies and programs to improve the health and wellbeing of the population, NICHD places a high scientific priority on research educational tools that significantly expand the scientific use of such data. The primary limitation of these research education efforts thus far is an exclusive focus on data from the U.S. population. This greatly restricts the ability to test the external validity of key findings, raising the possibility that even within the U.S. population findings from any particular study population may not apply to important sub-populations. Research education on data resources from populations living under circumstances quite different from the U.S. and Western Europe are urgently needed so that social and behavioral scientists can quickly and easily test the breadth of external validity of key findings as well as to advance understanding of these different populations.
We will leverage NICHD’s long-term investment in the Chitwan Valley Family Study (CVFS) in Nepal to achieve this high priority objective. We will implement a series of educational, research tool construction, and continuing education activities designed to significantly increase the quality and quantity of international population science. The CVFS is an excellent international population science training resource, featuring a 24-year whole-family panel study with many important characteristics. These include dynamic measures of child health, contraceptive use, mental health, and community context with both DNA and migrant interviews for all family members. We will use this special resource to launch a new multimedia educational program focused on international population science. The program will feature an integrated set of topical short courses, web-based access to those courses, education on high priority longitudinal research tools, innovative “always available” learning tools, and archived tutorials. The importance of international population research continues to grow as interconnections across populations increase. Dynamics of migration, commerce, digital media use, and violent conflict all increase the need for thorough scientific understanding of population dynamics in far-away settings. Our program will supply training in international population research skills to enable higher quality and quantity of research. The tools can be applied to advance science using repeated cross-sectional surveys, surveillance data, longitudinal panel studies, or random control trial studies. Our educational program will feature illustrations with the NICHD Population Dynamics Branch’s (PDB) highest scientific priorities: studying contraceptive use and non-use, health across the life course, and the role of genetic factors.