The Next Generation of Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) Science


Urban areas are concentrated sites of population, innovation, wealth, and resource use where multiple infrastructures—natural, built, cyber, and social—converge. The transboundary nature of urban infrastructure networks, along with the massive scale and pace of urbanization is now affecting the wellbeing of people and the environment both within and far beyond urban administrative boundaries. Assessing the multi-scale relationships and interactions among infrastructures—natural, built, cyber, and social—that shape multiple sustainability outcomes is the core of sustainable urban system (SUS) science.

Traditional disciplines do not have the multi-scale systems approach, tools and data to address the multi-level and multi-objective complexity of diverse sustainability concerns regarding environment, health, and equity from local to global scales. Thus, there is an urgent need for a transdisciplinary science that generates new knowledge across traditional disciplines, advancing our understanding of the urban sustainability challenge and informing potential solutions.  

This session features members of the US National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education (ACERE) SUS sub-committee who will present a scan of first generation efforts in developing trans-disciplinary SUS science. It will then articulate a vision of where this science needs to go in the future, delineating key elements of the next generation SUS research agenda. The work being discussed in the session is the product of the ACERE members. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the Advisory Committee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Dr. Anu Ramasawmi
Dr. Luis Bettencourt
Dr. Elena Irwin
Dr. Stephanie Pincetl
Dr. Andres Clarens
Dr. Diane Pataki

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