Zhenzhen Zheng, Editor-in-Chief of China Population and Development Studies, discusses the importance of research in reproductive health and other population and development related issues, and how journals play a key role in facilitating the societal impact of academic research.
I am the Editor-in-Chief of China Population and Development Studies (CPDS). The scope of population and development is very broad. My research focused mainly on reproductive health and rural-urban women migrants in the 1990s, and later it extended to cover the status of rural women migrants and returned migrants, as well as gender issues revealed by population census data in education, health, and employment. Another research focus in recent years is fertility transition and low fertility in China with a perspective of gender and development, review the role of women in the process of fertility transition in history and discuss the impact of population change (such as low fertility and population ageing) on women in the 21st century.
The effort of this journal is to reach a broad range of audiences who are interested in population and development related issues, and reproductive health is one of the important issues. While the major communications and debates are among researchers (and often also educators) as the majority of the authors are from this group, we intend to reach policy makers as well as health professionals and the general public by providing empirical research findings and evidence-based policy recommendations.
Many demographic facts and changes are reflections of social issues, and many demographic changes and their consequences are closely related to social-economic development, or even related to people’s daily life, directly or indirectly, in the short term or in the long run. However, some demographic facts have indirect but important policy implications, and many consequences of demographic change as well as their impacts are often not immediately observable. Therefore, we pay much attention to make the demographic facts meaningful to a broad audience, to raise awareness (of policy makers as well as public) on possible consequences of some demographic change, such as advanced population ageing, ultra-low fertility, and large flow of migration in the process of social-economic development.
Several SDGs are related to population and development issues, such as poverty alleviation, health and well-being, education, decent work and employment, urbanization, reduced inequalities and gender equality. Population data provides basic information for many indicators related to SDG targets, and some SDG indicators come from demographic statistics, such as maternal mortality, fertility of adolescents, coverage of essential health-care services, and some social-economic measurements by gender and age. One of the advantages of demographic analysis is that it can identify different sub-groups from the total population, and find gaps between “average” and most disadvantaged groups in the process of social-economic development, to provide policy recommendations to make sure no one is “left behind.” Some of my research topics closely relate to SDG 5: Gender Equality and some targets in SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being.
China Population and Development Studies encourages submissions with research topics related to the SDGs. Some of the articles published in CPDS are closely related to the SDGs, for example, related to Target 5.6 (ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights) and Target 3.7 (ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services). Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are widely accepted concepts, and they are closely related to the health and well-being of women and girls.
We have invited commentary, survey reports, and original articles related to reproductive health issues, and we are working on a special issue in 2023, “Unmet Need for Contraception and Unintended Pregnancy”, with collaboration of a guest editor. The call for papers of this special issue received overwhelming response, indicating researchers’ attention to this topic, especially from developing countries. Contraception is just one of the topics under reproductive health, more studies should be encouraged to cover a wider range of the topic, and we will invest more efforts to push the work forward, such as to identify and follow-up related research from earlier stage. We will encourage more related submissions in the future.
Most research institutions could find some SDGs related research topics in their field, and I believe most of research priorities from social demands and policy relevant are related to SDGs in developing countries. It is necessary to develop some strategies to encourage researchers to address SDGs targets related to their research interests. Although societal impact is important, the social or policy implications of some research is not so visible, so identifying high quality research and introducing this to policy makers and the public is crucial. Journals could play the role of a “bridge” between academics and policy makers as well as the general public by sending the right message and including key evidence in their publications, thus facilitating stronger societal impact of academic research.
About the Author:
Zhenzhen Zheng is a professor at Institute of Population and Labor Economics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China. She holds a Ph.D. in demography, and MS in medical informatics and MS in statistics. Her research interests include statistical demography, population and gender studies, and social science research in reproductive health. She is a member of the executive council of China Women Study Association. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of China Population and Development Studies since 2017.