12-Month Postdoctoral Position in Demography


12-month postdoctoral position in Demography (extendable up to 12 additional months)

Centre for Demographic Research, UCLouvain (Belgium – www.uclouvain.be/demo)


Application deadline: February 15th, 2021


Project description

The research project, “Rapid Mortality Surveillance during COVID-19”, aims to develop a viable approach to generating timely mortality data using mobile phone surveys in low and lower-middle income countries (LMICs). Increased coverage in mobile phone usage provides an opportunity to use mobile phone surveys (MPS), reducing costs and improving access to populations that are often hard to reach. In countries with deficient civil registration and vital statistics systems, MPS are a promising approach to gathering mortality data when opportunities to conduct in-person interviews are reduced, as is currently the case due to movement restrictions and curfews in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, MPS require reducing the length of interviews and there is, therefore, a need to revise the standardized instruments typically used in face-to-face interviewed to measure mortality. Strategies also need to be developed to ensure that MPS are representative, and demographic estimates not biased. Thanks to existing survey data on mobile phone ownership, these potential biases can be assessed and weighing schemes can be developed to minimize such bias in MPS.

As a postdoctoral researcher, you will draw on existing survey data to pursue two objectives: (1) using existing survey data to find ways to shorten the standardized data collection instruments for mortality estimation, and (2) assessing selection biases in mortality estimates associated with mobile phone ownership. To measure under-five mortality, MPS could resort to truncated birth histories. These truncated birth histories involve asking questions only about recent births rather than a complete history of all past births. They have the advantage of being shorter to collect, but they also pose additional risks in terms of recall errors and selection biases. We will perform a systematic assessment of truncated birth histories collected in DHS, both in terms of data quality and mortality indicators. Sibling survival histories could also be used in MPS to measure adult mortality. Our objective is to develop an alternative method to measure recent changes in adult mortality through MPS in a few minutes, using the age of the respondent as a proxy for the age of the siblings. We will test this approach with existing data (DHS) by comparing mortality levels obtained with the complete data and those inferred from this indirect approach. At the aggregate level, mobile phone ownership has been linked to lower under-five and maternal mortality rates. Yet it is unclear whether this relationship holds at the individual level and whether it is confounded by major covariables that could be accounted for. We will assess the expected bias in the use of MPS by comparing mortality estimates among respondents who are phone owners and those who are not. By doing so, MPS may account for the representativeness of the data collected and minimize potential bias.

The project “Rapid Mortality Surveillance during COVID-19” is a collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); Johns Hopkins University (JHU); the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain); the Instituto Nacional de Saude (INS); Malawi Epidemiology and Interventions Research Unit (MEIRU); the Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population (ISSP); New York University – Abu Dhabi (NYU); the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr, b); and the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR). The project is led by G. Reniers (LSHTM) and the study team at UCLouvain is led by B. Masquelier.


Your profile

  • PhD in demography, epidemiology, public health, statistical data analysis, or equivalent.
  • Demonstrable quantitative skills and experience with programming in a statistical package, preferably with R.
  • Publications in international peer-reviewed academic journals in the field of population studies.
  • Language skills: Excellent written and spoken English; a good command of French is an asset.
  • Generic competences: proactive, communicative, accurate, able to work independently and in team.
  • Prior experience in the analysis of DHS surveys is an asset.


We offer

  • A post-doctoral scholarship for 12 months. The net monthly allowance starts at 2492€ and varies according to seniority.
  • A socially relevant and challenging research project involving multiple partners.
  • A work environment marked by team-work, low hierarchies and close collaborations. The Centre for Demographic Research (DEMO) at UCLouvain is an internationally recognized research group, with a strong focus on population dynamics in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers in DEMO have extensive experience of data collection in these countries, including through large-scale surveys and within Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems.
  • Planned starting date: as soon as possible.
  • Length of contract: 12 months, with a possible extension depending on funding.
  • Place of work: Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), with a possibility to work remotely considering the current movement restrictions. Free commuting to and from work with public transport within Belgium.



  • Please send a motivation letter and your CV before February 15th 2021 to the following addresses: bruno.masquelier@uclouvain.be & ashira.menashe-oren@uclouvain.be
  • For more information, contact the same addresses.

Publié le 14 janvier 2021