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Resilience and Complexity: A Bibliometric Review and Prospects for Industrial Ecology

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
April 2015

Resilience is an increasingly popular concept in academic research and public discourse and is closely connected to complex systems theory. This article reviews research on resilience and complexity in industrial ecology and the broader academy by conducting a bibliometric analysis of the academic literature over a 40-year period (1973–2014). The review revealed a large body of scholarship composed of five clearly identifiable intellectual communities, with resilience theory from ecology especially influential. Based on the study of ecosystems, these scholars conceptualize resilience as a dynamic and adaptive property of systems with multiple stable states that evolve over time. In comparison, resilience research in industrial ecology is limited and underdeveloped. Bibliometric analysis of this literature yielded just 37 publications and a scholarly network with no well-formulated research communities. This contrasts with industrial ecology scholarship on sustainability; a similar search yielded 1,581 publications. Given the emerging importance of the resilience concept and its relevance for sustainability issues, industrial ecology should expand research efforts in this area. The growing body of industrial ecology scholarship on complex systems provides a foundation to do so, as does the field's long-standing practice of using ecological principles to inform the study and design of industrial ecosystems. The article concludes by discussing how industrial ecology would benefit from incorporating principles of dynamic resilience and, conversely, how industrial ecology approaches could advance broader resilience scholarship.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
bibliometrics, complex systems, complexity, industrial ecology, resilience, sustainability
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12252
Full Citation
Meerow, Sara and Joshua P. Newell. (2015) “Resilience and Complexity: A Bibliometric Review and Prospects for Industrial Ecology.” Journal of Industrial Ecology. 19(2): 236–251.