An Overseas Institutional Visit at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria

Andrea Aparicio Castro, Social Statistics, University of Manchester (2018 Cohort)

This summer, I went to Austria to do an Overseas Institutional Visit at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), which is a research institute focused on policy-oriented research. My Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV) was framed within the 2021 Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) that IIASA holds annually. The YSSP is a highly selective program that provides a unique opportunity for young scholars to advance their research. My OIV was accepted to the Population and Just Societies program (POPJUS) and aimed to forecast the spatial and temporal patterns of bilateral international migration flows between Europe and South America from 1986 to 2060.

For carrying out this research, I require data on the projections of population by age, sex, education, and Gross domestic product (GDP). IIASA projected these aspects as part of their Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) Scenario database, to which IIASA granted access. This data is useful for my PhD research that aims at forecasting South American migration flows.

Besides the access to the data, my research at IIASA helped me to implement and test different methods to forecast migration flows. These methods can deal with South American data, which is the main input for the last part of my PhD, for which I am forecasting intraregional and interregional migration flows of South America.

Apart from advancing in my PhD research, an additional benefit of doing this OIV was to have the opportunity to interact with four groups of researchers at IIASA. First, I met Dilek Yildiz (my YSSP supervisor) and Michaela Potancokova (my YSSP co-supervisor), who are Research Scholars of POPJUS and are involved in projects directly related to my field. While Dilek is involved with a Horizon Europe project named Future Migration Scenarios for Europe (FUME) alongside Dr Arkadiusz Wiśniowski, who is one of my PhD supervisors; Michaela is associated with the Multidimensional Demographic Modeling Research Group (MDM) and works on another Horizon Europe funded project with migration focus (QuantMig). Both Dilek and Michaela supervised my research at IIASA, providing valuable and constant suggestions and inputs.

The second benefit of my OIV was the possibility of networking with researchers, who work in my field and could provide some insights on migration. In particular, I met Guillaume Marois, who works within the project that aims at QuantMig; and Samir K.C., research group leader of MDM group and a senior research scholar at IIASA. Both of these researchers provided insights into the substantial and methodological aspects of my research.

Next in order, I had the opportunity to interact with the individuals that estimated IIASA projections. For instance, I could work closely with Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, who was in charge of projecting all variables regarding GDP. Understanding the methods used to gauge IIASA projections enabled me to decide on the treatment of those variables (e.g. how to interpolate and extrapolate these variables).

An additional benefit of my OIV was related to being able to establish contact with other PhD students in my field. Knowing their research and discussing alternatives to deal with common methodological problems (e.g. treatment of time in models) was very useful to progress in my work.

Furthermore, I obtained three products from my OIV at IIASA. First, an abstract titled “Forecasting migration flows between Europe and South America, 1986-2060” was accepted for a presentation in the British Society for Population Studies (BSPS) virtual Annual Conference 2021, which was taking place from 13th to 15th September 2021. The second product resulted from my OIV is an academic paper, which will be submitted to a prestigious peer-reviewed journal named International Migration Review. Finally, I was able to present my results not only to a specialised audience such as the researchers of the POPJUS but also to a wider public at the final Colloquium that IIASA organised at the end of the YSP program.

Overall, I rank my OIV at IIASA as one of the best opportunities that the NWSSDTP has provided to me.  It helped me not only to advance in my PhD but also to broaden my academic research. So, I would recommend the OIV Scheme to other students.

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