Carlo-Giovanni Camarda, research fellow

Carlo-Giovanni Camarda is a research fellow at the Mortality, Health and Epidemiology Unit (UR5).

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What trajectory brought you to INED?

It began in my home country, Italy, with a Master’s in demographic statistics at La Sapienza University, in Rome. I was very interested in history but also mathematics, so demography was a good compromise. For my Master’s thesis I retraced the history of the Palestinian territories in the twentieth century from a demographic perspective. But at the end of my studies in Italy I turned from descriptive demography to methodology. I also studied in various places in Europe: I spent a year in England, enrolled to do a thesis in Madrid, and was admitted as a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, where I continued to work after completing my doctoral degree. Ultimately, Paris was where I wanted to settle. I had already collaborated with INED researchers so it was clear to me that if I came to Paris my dream was to work at INED.

What is your activity at INED?

I arrived at INED as a visiting researcher in Spring 2011 and the following year I took a competitive recruitment examination to become a permanent researcher.
Today I’m working to create tools that will allow researchers to use data from several countries. My main project bears on methodology for studying mortality by cause of death. I’m trying to automatize statistical series reconstruction. About every ten years, the World Health Organization (WHO) changes the International Classification of Diseases by means of which causes of death are listed. Over time, some diseases disappear while others emerge, like AIDS in the 1980s. To study how mortality is evolving in terms of causes of death over long periods, we first need to harmonize the data. If you want to follow mortality by heart attack over the last 50 years, for example, but the definition of heart attack has changed over that time, then you have to figure out how to redistribute the figures or else the comparisons won’t make sense. Demographers used to do this “by hand,” table by table, but it took months and even years—keeping in mind that there are between 200 and 300 causes of death. The aim of my work is to calculate those redistributions in a single “click.” I supervise the methodology section of an international project between INED and the Max Planck Institute, with correspondents in Japan, Romania and the United States, among other countries. The objective is to publish mortality data since 1950 for around 15 countries on a single website. I like methodology because you can be active in all areas: fertility, migration, etc. For the moment I’m working on mortality, where the mathematical models are simpler. I mean, you can have several children, for example, but you only die once! As I often say, for mortality, the probability is always one.

As you see it, what is specific about INED?

Researcher freedom is quite strong at INED. I can work on other projects, collaborate with universities, teach in France or abroad, which would be almost impossible elsewhere. It’s important for a researcher not to work exclusively on only one project.
I also appreciate the high level of INED researchers—they are all very strong. It’s enriching to be able to talk with colleagues who understand your work. And I like the wonderfully friendly, convivial atmosphere at the Institute, the cafeteria meals where everyone meets and you can talk while you eat with researchers working on economic questions, historical questions, etc.