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

Sara Meerow, Joshua P. Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-251
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bibliometrics
  • Complex systems
  • Complexity
  • Industrial ecology
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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