JOIN US: Open Peer Review of new Data Artefact Study: “Facebook’s Population Density Map”

Aditi Ramesh
Jul 13 · 3 min read

At The GovLab, we are interested in how data can improve the way we make decisions in the public interest. One particular area of inquiry involves the emergence of new data analytical products from collaborative innovations in how data was re-used for public good. We call these new and innovative analytical products: “data artefacts.” To contribute to a broader understanding of the use and value of data artefacts for the public good we have started a new line of research products beyond our case studies called Data Artefact Studies. We seek to develop these through a combination of desk research, interviews with experts in the field, and users of the tool itself.

We are now calling upon you to provide feedback on our first Data Artefact Study:

Where is Everyone? The Importance of Population Density Data: A Data Artefact Study of The Facebook Population Density Map

In this paper, we explore new and traditional approaches to measuring population density, and ways in which population information has frequently been used by humanitarian, private-sector and government actors to advance a range of private and public goals. We explain how new innovations are leading to fresh ways of collecting data — and fresh forms of data analytics — and how this may open up new avenues for using density information in a variety of contexts. We examine one data artefact in more depth: Facebook’s High-Resolution Population Density Maps (also referred to as the High Resolution Settlement Layer or HRSL). This product, created in collaboration with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network, shows not only the potential of mapping innovations but also the potential benefits of inter-sectoral partnerships and sharing.

About Open Peer Review at the GovLab

The GovLab works toward opening institutions to the insights and expertise of others to make their processes and outcomes more legitimate and effective. In the interest of “walking the talk,” the GovLab seeks to experiment with innovative and participatory peer review processes for most of our research products. Rather than sharing drafts only with a select group of identified stakeholders — i.e., the ‘usual suspects’ — we make our work openly accessible for review in the interest of gaining broader input on our findings and collaboratively producing common resources for the field. We appreciate and acknowledge all the input we receive.

How It Works

If you are interested in being a Recognized Peer Reviewer of the piece, please send an email to and share one or two paragraphs about your interest and expertise (+ links if appropriate). Once signed up, we will share the draft paper and a brief questionnaire to solicit your input. Upon completing the review, your name (and affiliation) will be added to our list of recognized peer reviewers. Please, note the peer review process will close on July 31st.

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