The Global Urban Metabolism Database
Urban metabolism studies vary widely in terms of scope, methodology, choice of indicators and research aims. Their results are published in a variety of formats such as scientific papers, administrative reports and technical publications. This variety of scopes and formats makes it difficult to compare urban metabolism studies and identify global urban metabolic patterns. The creation of an online and open source global urban metabolism database in which a great number of urban metabolism studies are collected and analyzed allows to examine whether there are any patterns and trends in urban resource use, waste generation and pollution across the globe. The aforementioned database will enable stakeholders to find metabolic data for their city and compare it with all the other case studies for which data is available (for the same metabolic flow, year, region, etc.) in order to put in perspective and contrast data across cities.
To set up this global urban metabolism database, relevant scientific publications were first identified manually as well as through an automated scraping of indexes and search engine results. Metabolic flow indicators and results were then manually extracted. This process resulted in an extensive list of metabolic flow indicators and a database of raw data from different urban metabolism studies. Each data point was indexed with the original publication, the geographic area and the year of study in order to enhance comparability and traceability. To validate the database after having extracted the data, the authors of the different publications were e-mailed and invited to review the numbers and to add additional data from other studies or publications. In order to facilitate use of the data by other urban metabolism researchers, all the numbers were made publicly available and presented in several different formats including machine-readable online data tables and graphs, as well as separate spreadsheets and customizable reports.
Since different urban metabolism studies pursue different aims and are dependent on data availability, they tend to use different urban metabolism indicators. This contributed to the challenges that were encountered when the information from such a broad number of sources was consolidated to set up the global database.
The database was developed by a group of voluntary researchers and is hosted in the open source platform Metabolism of Cities (www.metabolismofcities.org). This platform promotes the use of urban metabolism (stemming from academia) in policy and practice.