Introduction to Urban Science: The Challenge of Sustainable Development

10:00-12:00, Oct 22 2021, CST; 04:00-06:00, Oct 22 2021, CET; 21:00-23:00, Oct 21 2021, CDT

Slides and Video for the presentation.

Prof. Luís M. A. Bettencourt conducts interdisciplinary research on complex adaptive systems in biology and society. His research focuses on the identification, modeling and theory of the systemic processes and properties that create and sustain cities. This work involves partnerships and collaborations with international networks of researchers, local governments and NGOs to understand and systematize urban knowledge, and to foster processes of sustainable development. His work is well-known academically and has been influential in developing new theory and new creative approaches to challenges of urbanization worldwide.


Worldwide urbanization and the emergence of information and communications technologies and bigger data are enabling a fast-growing scientific understanding of cities. In this lecture, I will emphasize some of the emerging insights of urban science and the new important perspectives it enables us with towards creating more sustainable forms of development. I will provide an introduction to the frameworks of urban science, including an emphasis on relationships (networks), cost and benefit analysis that is personalized and embedded in built space and time, and issues of information and complexity. I will show how these frame works open new windows for conceptualizing growth and development (in cities) as a collaborative process among people and among people and nature. I will provide some illustrations from sustainability plans from several cities around the world.

Recent Publications

  • Bettencourt L M A. The origins of scaling in cities[J]. science, 2013, 340(6139): 1438-1441.
  • Bettencourt L M A. Impact of changing technology on the evolution of complex informational networks[J]. Proceedings of the IEEE, 2014, 102(12): 1878-1891.
  • Ortman S G, Cabaniss A H F, Sturm J O, et al. Settlement scaling and increasing returns in an ancient society[J]. Science advances, 2015, 1(1): e1400066.
  • Bettencourt L. The kind of problem a city is[J]. Die Stadt Entschlusseln: Wie Echtzeitdaten Den Urbanismus Verandern: Wie Echtzeitdaten den Urbanismus Verandern, 2013: 175-187.
  • Schläpfer M, Bettencourt L M A, Grauwin S, et al. The scaling of human interactions with city size[J]. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2014, 11(98): 20130789.
  • Bettencourt L, West G. A unified theory of urban living[J]. Nature, 2010, 467(7318): 912-913.
  • Bettencourt L M A, Kaur J. Evolution and structure of sustainability science[J]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011, 108(49): 19540-19545.
  • Bettencourt L M A, Lobo J, Helbing D, et al. Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities[J]. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, 2007, 104(17): 7301-7306.