Jim had the vision that the strength of demographic research institutes and the future of demography in Europe are dependent on the talent, knowledge and skills of junior demographers and their motivation to engage in high-risk, path-breaking research. A first challenge is to identify and recruit talented students who love research. A second is to cultivate the young talent by offering the best training they could get. A third is to pave the way for a successful research career. Jim had an answer to these three challenges. The recruitment is the most difficult part because information is limited and uncertainties high. He used the idea of a talent incubator, which involves bringing together talented students, and offer training, mentoring and guidance.
At the time the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research was established in 1996, few doctoral training programmes in demography existed in Europe. Some were interuniversity programmes with a critical mass of students recruited from different universities. They were externally funded or universities provided the funds for stipends. Initially, the programmes were very successful, but the need for a critical mass of students and the dependence on extra funding were threats to survival. For different reasons, highly visible training programmes were forced to close. Then Jim came in. On 2nd July 2003 he wrote: «Because the number of research demographers being educated at any one university is small, it would be advantageous to join forces and to launch a European degree at the masters level (similar to the British M.Phil.) for students interested in demographic research or applied demographic research. Such an initiative would provide PhD students in demography in Europe with an appropriate basic education. It would help develop networks of European collaboration. And it would provide a standard and a level of accreditation that potential employers would value.» (Vaupel, unpublished memo, 2 July 2003). That is Jim.
Jim’s vision was endorsed by colleagues in Europe and at the time Jim wrote the memo, he had secured the support of three institutions, in Rostock, Rome (Graziella Caselli) and Groningen, to establish a European Research Master in Demography. A month later, at the European Population Conference in Warsaw in August 2003, the Advisory Board of EAPS recommended the establishment of a working group on teaching and training in Population Studies in Europe. Within a month, the EAPS Council under president Janina Jozwiak decided to establish a «Committee on Training of Population Studies in Europe» consisting of colleagues from Rostock, Rome, Paris, Warsaw and Groningen. A year later, in September 2004, nine institutions founded EDSD—European Doctoral School of Demography—4 research institutes and 5 universities in 6 countries. The school is organized as a joint venture of its partners under the auspices of EAPS and with Jim as Rector. In some countries, colleagues wanted to join the initiative but strict university rules were prohibitive. Some did join years later. Today, EDSD is supported by 17 partners in 13 countries. EDSD is an 11-month sponsored programme aimed to provide students with an appropriate high-level education in demography to pursue their doctoral studies. The policy of the school and some key operational details are spelled out in the EDSD statutes endorsed by all participants. The statutes have shown to be of crucial importance for the functioning of the school. It is the responsibility of the Rector to make sure that the statutes are respected. With Jim as Rector, I cannot recall any incidence of disrespect.
In September 2005, two years after Jim wrote down his vision, teaching started in Rostock, with Heiner Maier as Dean. Today, 300 students have been trained. The assessment of the programme in 2021 showed that 171 students completed their PhD and many are in the pipeline. The majority of graduates are working at Universities and Research Agencies.
The statutes stipulate that the school is funded by participating institutions. As a consequence, the school depends on institutional commitments and not on external funding. Partners show commitment by hosting the school, providing stipends, and/or secondment of their staff to EDSD for teaching and mentoring. The MPIDR was and is a major contributor of stipends and instructors. Jim taught Mathematical Demography and Theories of Mortality and Morbidity. Later this month, Jim would teach heterogeneous populations. After his death, the Dean Mariona Lozano acted swiftly and José Manuel Aburto from Oxford University steps in.
The statutes stipulate a regular change of location of the school: «The location of the School is not permanent. The School should stay at the same location during a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 4 years. A rotation every two years is preferable». EDSD started at MPIDR in Rostock (2005-07), moved to INED in Paris(2007-09), the University of Lund (2009-11), the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2011-13), the Warsaw School of Economics (2013-15), La Sapienza University of Rome (2015-17), the University of Southern Denmark here in Odense (2017-19), and again to the Autonomous University of Barcelona, now for 4 years (2019-23). In 2023, the school will move to INED in Paris (2023-25). Preparatory courses in September and October take place in Rostock.
The school is governed by a Scientific Board. The EAPS Council helps ensure the quality of the school by appointing, every 4 years, an external evaluation committee. Based on that evaluation, the EAPS Council makes a recommendation on whether to continue or discontinue the school. Evaluations took place in 2008, 2012,2016 and 2021. For the most recent assessment, the school updated its long-term strategy.
Jim’s EDSD legacy is alive and kicking. The 2021 Evaluation Committee concluded: «EDSD is fit for purpose. A key strength of the School is the creation of an international community of demographic scholars. The programme provides excellent training in demographic methods and theory. …. EDSD also serves as a breeding ground for young talent.» The committee also noted the positive side effects of moving the EDSD to different hosts. It provides different European institutions with opportunities to strengthen their demographic training and research.
Jim was a founding father of EDSD. As a father, he gave guidance and was an enthusiastic supporter. He also ensured the freedom necessary for the initiative to develop and flourish. Jim’s enthusiasm brought people together to pursue a common goal. That spirit continues today. New generations of scholars with an EDSD background initiate concerted actions, including European research consortia.
As Leo van Wissen, the current Chair of EDSD, formulated it, «it was a privilege to work with Jim». Jim was an exceptional individual. We miss you Jim.