Published: June 13, 2019

SFI meeting May 2019

Front: Celine Rozenblat, Vicky Chao, Michael Price, Luis Bettencourt; Back: Scott Ortman, Mike Smith, Debbie Strumsky, Elsa Arcaute, Devin White, Jose Lobo, Chris Kempes, Diego Rybski, Jeff West, Marcus Hamilton

A recent meeting at the Santa Fe Institute brought together researchers with a variety of perspectives on urban and settlement scaling for three days of discussion and debate on points of agreement and disagreement. Key concerns that were raised include statistical issues (demonstrating that a power function provides a better fit to the data than various alternatives, demonstrating that scaling relationships are in fact nonlinear), empirical issues (the definition of urban spatial units, commuting flows, and where people live vs. where they work) and methodological issues (testing predictions vs. discovering patterns in data). Despite areas of disagreement, there was broad agreement that historical and archaeological evidence were an important addition to the discussion. At the conclusion of the meeting, participants agreed to collaborate on a perspectives piece regarding the science of cities. To facilitate continued discussion we have posted links to several recent critical discussions of scaling theory in a contemporary urban context on the Publications page of this site. Additional coverage of the meeting is available here.