'Ukraine Crisis: Monitoring population displacement through social media activity' | Dr Douglas Leasure

​​Speaker:  Dr Douglas Leasure,  Senior Data Scientist, The Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science            

Location: Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, 42-43 Park End Street OX1 1JD

OrganiserDr Anna P. Krausova & Dr Raheel Dhattiwala, Department of Sociology 

Attendance Arrangements: Free Event. Open to all members of the University. This week the seminar will be online for all MSc, MPhil and DPhil students with surnames starting with A to M. MSc, MPhil and DPhil students with surnames starting with N to Z, as well as departmental faculty and researchers can join in person. The talk will be preceded by a light lunch for those attending. Contact the Graduate Studies Administrator if you haven't received a Teams meeting link. 

Abstract: In times of volatility and crisis, it is essential to have real-time data mapping population movements to facilitate a rapid and effective humanitarian response. Considerable attention has been placed on the 5.8 million Ukrainian refugees crossing the border as of early May 2022, but information is scarce to quantify and locate over 38 million people who remain in the country, many of whom have been displaced from their homes or remain vulnerable to conflict.

The Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science leverages near real-time digital trace data from social media users, along with demographic and geo-spatial methods to produce daily estimates of current population sizes and changes sub-nationally disaggregated by age and sex. Using our estimation methods, we quantify large reductions in populations from conflict areas (e.g. Kyiv city), particularly women and children, and population increases in western Ukraine (e.g. Lviv Oblast). Examining additional Oblasts (administrative regions) such as Cherkasy, we show evolving and mixed demographic changes as populations transit through different areas. Mapping population dynamics through time, we illustrate the net changes in population sizes in Oblasts from the start of the war until present, providing a daily metric of total negative population drops. As of May 20, this metric suggested that 6,916,659 people were displaced away from their baseline Oblast.

While this data and approach is innovative and is one of the few estimates available to quantify and map internal displacement in virtual real-time during a crisis, we conclude by acknowledging deficiencies and future extensions.

Speaker: Dr Douglas Leasure is Senior Data Scientist at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science. His research spans human demography, population ecology, geosciences, and Bayesian statistics. He develops novel methods to map populations and demographics with high spatial resolution using sparse survey data while accounting for uncertainty in population estimates. Before joining Oxford, Doug led the Spatial Statistical Population Modelling team in the WorldPop Research Group at the University of Southampton developing Bayesian statistical models and applying machine learning approaches to produce high resolution population estimates supporting initiatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund.