Outcome of the breakout groups during the SEM section meeting in Leiden

Socio-Economic Metabolism

During the section meeting at the ISIE Leiden conference, which about 40 of our members attended, we organized a world café with four topics: the Beijing section meeting in 2024, the next steps for our section, the links to other sections of the ISIE, and data. Here, we briefly report the main outcome of the four breakout groups, both for the record and for everybody to comment. Over the next months, the section board will follow up on the different suggestions and points raised here and decide what to prioritise and focus on.

2024 Beijing conference, reported by Zhi Cao and Qiance Liu:

  • Timing: June-August, 2024
    • Need to avoid overlaps with a few IE-related conferences: EcoBalance (3-8 November, 2024), the Gordon Research Conference (26-31 May, 2024), the Asia-Pacific (not decided yet)
  • Site & duration: Campus of Peking Uni, 3 days
  • Special session formats: A student event/evening, creative sessions, turn a few keynotes into conversation-based sessions (similar to what has been done by IRTC), and add a lightning talk session (one slide) for poster presenters
  • Organize a hackathon/training session as a satellite event (before the start date) or combined with the student event
  • Promoting the conference:
    • Advertise the Beijing Conference via perpetual online conferences
    • Major updates via perpetual online conferences and social media
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Need more time for Q&A
    • Keynotes should be open to the public (e.g., online streaming)
    • Back-to-back conference: get a discount? Need to discuss financial distribution between the two conferences


Next steps for our section and for our field, reported by Anastasia Papangelou:

Future SEM research should integrate the following:

  • Economic perspectives:
    • Economics/ prices are important for people
    • Integrate SEM with CBA, optimization, etc.
  • Questions of politics and power: “equity to the affluent is oppression”
  • Future perspectives, from a non-linear complex systems approach:
    • Work on more realistic and disruptive scenarios
    • Be clear about the goal of the socio-economic metabolism (human well-being?)
    • Develop new narratives

These developments should happen in multi- and inter-disciplinary settings and synergistic connections to research sections with complementary perspective and approaches, like the CE section of the ISIE for economic and business model perspectives, should be established.


Links to other sections, reported by Tomer Fishman:

  • SEM has overlaps with the CE and SUS sections, but also with the Islands section
  • The overlaps seem to arise because of the creation of more sections focusing on research topics/themes (CE, islands, urban metabolism evolving into sustainable urban systems) vs. the older sections that focused on methods: LCA, IO, symbiosis(?).
  • The SEM section is unique in that sense, as it straddles both methods (i.e. MFA) and topics.
  • Not all CE and SUS section members may identify with the metabolism concept – it might even alienate some.
  • Likewise, not all CE and SUS section members use MFA.
  • We don’t know how the other section leaders and members feel about this – do they also sense syncs/overlaps, or is it a non-issue from their perspective?
  • Suggested actions:
    • Suggest starting a section leaders/representatives roundtable – meet at X intervals (months?) to discuss and agree on these types of things, as well as opportunities for joint events, like the joint SEM+IO perp. conference session organized by Dominik Wiedenhofer and Tomer Fishman last year.
    • Not sure whether the rise of and relations between topical vs. methods sections is really an issue at this point, suggest not to raise with the ISIE leadership yet, see how it goes.


Data, reported by Stefan Pauliuk

  • In light of the AI wave for data: Need to become better at documenting data provenance! Papers and reports must make clear what primary data entered the work, what data were simply taken over from other sources, and what data are estimated/interpolated by software? Develop documentation templates for that.
  • Consider introducing a data usage notice in each paper: Rationale for data choice in the paper. Make data proxy choices explicit, include a data statement regarding what data are actually contained in the paper and if there are any new or compiled data.
  • Highlight the possibility to publish data descriptors and method papers to the membership
  • Consider developing a data tab on the ISIE homepage to facilitate access to relevant and current data
  • Reflect on what to do regarding the ISIE community’s own data? What actually constitutes the database of our community? (material stocks and flow data, material composition, product lifetimes)?


Other ideas from the post-conference debriefing:

  • During conferences: have section tables or stands during poster sessions or in conference foyer, where the sections present themselves. This format could also be used to promote the ISIE and the journal.
  • Data guidelines and good practice feedback: Is hard for people to relate to. So next to the documentation, we need to showcase good examples.