Collins Conference Room
Working Group

This event is by invitation only.

Meeting Summary: Over the past decade research on urban phenomena under the broad rubric of "urban scaling" has generated a substantial body of work (empirical findings, theoretical frameworks, models, publications) that has attracted a lot of positive attention (in academic circles and in the popular press). But the urban scaling paradigm also raised concerns, and in some cases strong criticisms, concerning the robustness of the empirical findings, the adequacy of the statistical methods used, the extent to which purported scaling phenomena are artifacts of the specific spatial units of analyses chosen, and even the reasonableness  of the assumed generative mechanisms. It is also the case that the various threads of urban scaling work that have emerged—spanning different eras, regions, settlement  systems, and explanatory arguments—often do not easily speak to each other, either empirically or conceptually.

We think it is an appropriate time for a dialogue—respectful, direct, dispassionate and undertaken with a willingness to listen intently—to take place among researchers who have formulated, advanced, extended and criticized the urban scaling frameworks. The primary goal of the proposed meeting is not to air and refute criticisms—although these need to be taken seriously—nor to try and forge facile agreements, but rather to try to fill conceptual lacunae, clarify positions, dissolve misunderstandings where possible, strengthen empirical foundations, and explore where theories break down, all with the aim of advancing the understanding of cities and urbanization.


Research Collaboration
SFI Host: 
Jose Lobo, Luis Bettencourt, Scott Ortman, Michael Smith