From the section board: an eventful month

Socio-Economic Metabolism

Last month we saw a pretty full schedule of meetings starting with the section conference in Darmstadt, Germany 26–28 September, followed by the ISIE Asia-Pacific conference in Beijing, China 19–20 October and the World Resources Forum also in Beijing, China on 20–22 October.


At the Darmstadt conference Daniel Mueller led a section meeting which identified priority research topics including (in no particular order) sustainable resource management, material stock analysis, the analysis of supply chains and industrial material flows and complex networks that underpin them. Participants flagged the need to improve our research community’s analytical skills in the direction of modelling and scenario analysis, studying embodied material flows and developing ways to disaggregate material flows to economic sectors. None of these topics are really new but progress has been limited for quite some time. The participants also called for metabolism research to be part of integrated analysis including building linkages to the carbon and climate research. Most impertinently, participants recognised the need to link our research findings with decision making in public policy and business planning enabled through a better understanding of the institutions that steer industrial metabolism embedded in an understanding of the political economy of material use. Not everyone of course participated in the session at Darmstadt and I’d like to encourage you to add to or comment on the list. You can do this using the comment function in this blog.


The 3rd Asia-Pacific meeting brought together an interesting mix of senior people of our society and a large number of students, mainly from China. I attended a plenary discussion on how to cope with emerging supply shortages of certain materials and was surprised by how our response to this problem is framed by what I would call engineering intuition with an almost complete absence of thinking about the sociological factors that underpin the capacity of society and policy to address such fundamental changes linked to our industrial metabolism. I was also very impressed by the quality of the Chinese students’ presentations, which were all well framed, data rich, analytically exquisite and presented in very good English. Our connection with first class students is a promising resource for the future of ISIE and our section.


The World Resources Forum was a very large meeting with many parallel sessions and it is hard to do the gathering justice with seeing only a very small segment of the whole. If you would like to get an idea of what was presented please visit the conference website at, which includes lots of information, photos from the meeting, and reports from the student reporters who attended the conference.


There is a draft summary of the meeting by the co-chairs available at


Heinz Schandl