New special issue of the JIE on Frontiers in Socio-economic Metabolism Research

Socio-Economic Metabolism

In a new special issue, Frontiers in Socioeconomic Metabolism Research, Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology presents cutting edge research on the physical interaction between the economy and the natural resources that support it.  In its early years, research in industrial ecology conducted under the rubric of industrial or socio-economic metabolism focused on material flow analyses (MFA).  These quantified the inputs, outputs and changes to characterize resource flows, especially at the country level.  However, over time, the application of MFA was increasingly applied to firms, facilities, supply chains, substance and product life cycles, cities, regions and groups of countries.   It was also combined with other methodologies, such as footprint analysis, input-output analysis, and network analysis.


A quarter century after the notion was proposed as a key element in industry ecology, socio-economic metabolism and the material, energy, substance flow analyses that are used to explore it have become richer, more methodologically sophisticated, and engaged in providing reliable scientific information about the magnitude of material use, related environmental impacts, supply security for specific resources, and the potential for decoupling material use from human well-being.


The special issue includes:

  • Analyses of the concept, its soundness, and its foundations
  • New historical understanding of its antecedents
  • A proposal for terminology across the different methodological approaches including MFA, SFA, IOA, and general equilibrium modeling
  • Uncertainty analysis for material flow accounts
  • A review of MFA in the domain of waste management
  • Analysis of embodied land use in trade, options for land footprint analysis, and human appropriation of net primary productivity
  • Calculation of the circularity of the economy of the European Union and the globe
  • Integration of water metabolism into research on socio-economic metabolism
  • Accounting for stocks, long-term material flows, and urban metabolism
  • Material flow analyses of iron, steel, and specialty metals

The Journal of Industrial Ecology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal, owned by Yale University, published by Wiley-Blackwell and headquartered at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.  


Articles in the special issue are freely downloadable for a limited time at

Reid Lifset