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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-82
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-82
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Review article 06 Jun 2019

Review article | 06 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD).

Allocating people to pixels: A review of large-scale gridded population data products and their fitness for use

Stefan Leyk1, Andrea E. Gaughan2,10, Susana B. Adamo3, Alex de Sherbinin3, Deborah Balk9, Sergio Freire5, Amy Rose4, Forrest R. Stevens2, Brian Blankespoor8, Charlie Frye7, Joshua Comenetz6, Alessandro Sorichetta10, Kytt MacManus3, Linda Pistolesi3, Marc Levy3, and Andrew J. Tatem10 Stefan Leyk et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 2Department of Geography and Geosciences, University of Louisville, KY, 40292, USA
  • 3CIESIN, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, 10964, USA
  • 4Human Dynamics Group, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, 37831, USA
  • 5European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy
  • 6U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C., 20233, USA
  • 7Environmental Systems Research Institute, Redlands, CA 92373
  • 8Development Research Group, World Bank, Washington, D.C. 20433, USA
  • 9CUNY Institute for Demographic Research, and Marxe School of Public And International Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York, 10010, USA
  • 10WorldPop, School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK

Abstract. Population data represent an essential component in studies focusing on human-nature interrelationships, disaster risk assessment and environmental health. Several recent efforts have produced global and continental-extent gridded population data which are becoming increasingly popular among various research communities. However, these data products, which are of very different characteristics and based on different modeling assumptions, have never been systematically reviewed and compared which may impede their appropriate use. This article fills this gap and presents, compares and discusses a set of large-scale (global and continental) gridded datasets representing population counts or densities. It focuses on data properties, methodological approaches and relative quality aspects that are important to fully understand the characteristics of the data with regard to the intended uses. Written by the data producers and members of the user community, through the lens of the “fitness for use” concept, the aim of this paper is to provide potential data users with the knowledge base needed to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of the data products available in relation to the target application and for critical analysis.

Stefan Leyk et al.
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Short summary
Population data are essential for studies on human-nature relationships, disaster or environmental health. Several global and continental gridded population data have been produced but have never been systematically compared. This article fills this gap and critically compares these gridded population datasets. Through the lens of the “fitness for use” concept it provides users with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about appropriate data use in relation to the target application.
Population data are essential for studies on human-nature relationships, disaster or...
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