Emerging Trends and New Developments on Urban Resilience: A Bibliometric Perspective


Urban resilience is concerned by the scholars in the world, especially in light of new uncertainty challenges for cities such as natural disasters and man-made disasters. We performed a bibiometric analysis on urban resilience research based on the 1296 articles in the SCI, SCIE, SSCI and A&HCI database from 1986 to 2015. Publication trends were discussed in HistCite to reveal the publication outputs, subject categories and publication pattern, most prolific authors and international productivity. The document co-citation analysis was made in CiteSpace III to explore the research basements and research trajectories, emerging trends and new developments. Growth of article output has emerged since 2003. Environmental studies and environmental sciences came out the most urban resilience articles. Ecology and Society was the most productive journal in this area. Barthel was the most prolific author. USA and UK were the most productive countries, and Arizona State University was the most high-productive institution, but the cooperation is lacking in the worldwide. Two streams were detected from the co-cited papers. “Governance”, “climatechange” and “city” are research hotspots of urban resilience according to the strongest citation bursts of keywords, and Folke’s paper published in 2006 has the strongest bursts. Future research will focus on ecosystem service, adaptive capacity and human-dominated ecosystem.

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Pu, B. and Qiu, Y. (2016) Emerging Trends and New Developments on Urban Resilience: A Bibliometric Perspective. Current Urban Studies, 4, 36-52. doi: 10.4236/cus.2016.41004.

Received 18 February 2016; accepted 13 March 2016; published 16 March 2016

1. Introduction

Urbanization is a vital social development in the 21st century, as the global proportion of urban population has increased from 28.3% to 50% in 2010. While man is facing all sorts of emerging uncertainty challenges in social progress, such as natural disasters (e.g. earthquake, flood, drought, climate change, etc.) and man-made disasters (e.g. environmental pollution, war, terrorism, etc.). Urban resilience is a significant capacity to adjust to stress from hazards and to recover quickly from their impacts from catastrophe. Indeed, urban resilience can be seen in the context of risk and vulnerability assessments, institutional and social governance structures, resilience in (or of) different sectors (e.g. ecosystem, economy, etc.), and transformations of urban areas. In other words, to strengthen urban resilience is beneficial to reduce the influence of urban disaster.

To develop opportunities for the sustainable development of cities, researchers from multiple disciplines are studying the feedback, dynamics, and behavior of urban vulnerability and urban resilience in the face of urban crisis, such as the axioms and mean of urban resilience (Campanella, 2006; Surjan et al., 2011; Wilkinson, 2012; Childers et al., 2014) , climate change and urban resilience (Grimm et al., 2008; Leichenko, 2011; Tyler & Moench, 2012) , spatial planning and urban resilience in the flood risk (Deppisch & Schaerffer, 2011; Cruz et al., 2013; Lu, 2014) , urban resilience and human-dominated ecosystems (Ernstson et al., 2010) , urban infrastructure systems (Wilbanks et al., 2012; Ouyang & Wang, 2015) , urban resilience index (Attoh-Okine et al., 2009; Sellberg et al., 2015) , urban social resilience (Cutter et al., 2010; Tate, 2012) and resilient cities (Godschalk, 2003; Pickett et al., 2004; Desouza & Flanery, 2013; Vale, 2014) . Further, topics on urban resilience and its related domain have become hot-debated focus (Beilin & Wilkinson, 2015) . It is necessary to describe the status qua on urban resilience studies for exploring the research basements and research fronts.

Some scholars have made some reviews on urban resilience or resilient cities (Lang, 2011; Müller, 2011; Chelleri, 2012; Jha et al., 2013; Cartalis, 2014) , and bibliometric analysis could display the research performance and trajectories, emerging trends and new developments (Chen, 2006; Chen et al., 2014; Wang & Liu, 2014; Kim & Chen, 2015) , but a review used bibliomeric analysis has been not much. However some researchers focused on resilience research (Xu et al., 2015; Meerow & Newell, 2015) with bibliometric analysis. These studies could not get the map of the urban resilience research.

2. Data and Methods

Many available tools are used by bibliometric research, such as HistCite, CiteSpace, VOSviewer and Sci2 etc. HistCite is a flexible tool to provide research perspectives and information in our analysis database (Garfield, 2009) through GCS, LCS, LCR, LCS/t and GCS/t indicators, such as to analyze the classical literatures, to look for the productivity authors and institutions. Meanwhile, CiteSpace is popular to study the knowledge domain in a scientific field (Chen et al., 2014) , can be used to analyze the knowledge basement and development track, to detect emerging trends and new developments.

3. Empirical Results

3.1. Publication Outputs

There has become a rapid increase on urban resilience work since 2003, as showed in Figure 1. According to the curve of publication number on urban resilience research, two stages can be notified. Before 2003: The articles number kept a low level. In this period, many workers paid great attention to the high-risk and resilient children, psychosocial resilience, urban children with stress resilient and stress affect outcomes, talked about that how to improve the human development in the city. After 2003: With the climate change and disasters increasing in the world, how to promote the orderly development of the city had attracted the attention of scholars. Pursuers of diverse disciplines to conduct researches on the resilient city and urban resilience from different angles. And the publication number grew from 12 in 2003 to 215 in 2014 steeply.

Regarding publishing language, eight languages were discovered among 1296 articles. 1275, or 98.4%, of the articles were submitted in English. A few articles were published in Spanish (8), French (5), Portuguese (3), Slovenian (2), German (1), Polish (1) and Russian (1).

3.2. Subject Categories and Publication Pattern

Several ISI-defined subject categories were included, such as environmental studies, environmental sciences, urban studies, ecology, geography etc. We presented the uppermost 10 subject categories in Table 1. The most common categories were environmental studies (260; 20.06%), environmental sciences (203; 15.66%), urban studies (176; 13.58%), ecology (141; 10.88). Meanwhile, we find out the urban resilience research has the nature of multidisciplinary, involves the environmental science, ecology, geography, psychology and social work etc.

Figure 1. Growth of urban resilience study publications from 1986 to 2015.

Table 1. Distribution of the subject categories: the top 10.

TA, the number of articles on one subject category.

These 1296 urban resilience articles were issued in 604 ISI-indexed journals. Maximum 18 active journals (2.98% of the 604 journals) published 741 papers (21.84%) out of a total of 1296 articles, while 388 journals (64.24%) published only one paper. Table 2 showed the 18 most common journals on urban resilience research, along with the number of articles, the number of the LSC, LSC/t, GCS, GCS/t and LCR received. The main publication journal for urban resilience research included Ecology and Society, Environment and Urbanization, Landscape and Urban Planning, Sustainability, Urban Studies and Cities. In Ecology and Society, 34 articles, or 2.62% out of the 1296 journals articles, were published, and received 543 GCS, 77.76 GCS/t and 22 LCR. Environment and Urbanization ranked second in terms of published numbers, with 28 articles, 43 LCS, 11.91 LCS/t, 218 GCS, 39.14 GCS/t and 20 LCR.

3.3. Most-Prolific Authors and International Productivity

3624 authors concentrated on the urban resilience and published related articles. However, only 67 scholars produced more than 4 papers, accounting for 1.85% of the total scholars, 3267 authors only had one article. Table 3 lists the 18 most productive authors, each with more than 5 published articles on related study. The most prolific author, Stephan Barthel and Rajib Shaw, had published 10 papers. Stephan Barthel work at Stockholm University in Sweden, with 47 LCS and 245 GCS. Rajib Shaw service for Kyoto University in Japan, with 4 LCS and 18 GCS. Other prolific authors included Kylie Bail, Emory L. Cowen, Peter A. Wyman, and so on. It is useful to mention that all the 18 most prolific scholars in Table 3, who come from developed countries.

Table 2. Most active scholarly journals in urban resilience research.

Table 3. The 18 most-productive authors.

TA, total number of articles; LCS, local citation score; LCS/t, local citation scores per year; GCS, global citation score; GCS/t, global citation scores per year.

The 1296 urban resilience research articles were scattered geographic distribution in the world, and gathered mainly in the developed country. Five countries or regions contribute to the urban resilience research articles more than 50 papers, most of the countries or territories published less than 10 articles. United State was the most industrious country with 510 articles, and got the largest LCS (452) and GCS (8391), and had the largest average citation rate of LCS (0.89) and GCS (16.45). UK was the succeeding productive country with 203 articles, and received the second LCS (134) and GCS (1987). Australia was the third productive country (125), followed Canada (80) and Netherlands (52). Other prolific countries included Sweden (46), Germany (43), China (39), South Africa (39), and so on. More interestingly, the result confirmed that most of developed countries with post-urbanization paid attention to the urban resilience specially, and just a few developing countries with rapid urbanization has begun to emphasize the related research, such as China, South Africa, Brazil, India (see Table 4).

Institution distribution of urban resilience research was gathered, and mainly concentrated in several developed countries, such as USA, UK and Australia. Table 5 displayed the 21 most fruitful research institutions, each with more than 13 articles. Arizona State University was the most high-producing institution with 27 articles (2.08% of the 1296 articles), followed closely by Stockholm University (24), University of Maryland (21), Yale University (21). About the urban resilience research, there are several sub-institutions in Arizona State University, such as school of sustainability, school of social work, school of geography science and urban planning et al. It is necessary to say that Stockholm Resilience Centre was established on 1st January 2007, to advances research on the governance of social-ecological systems with a special emphasis on resilience.

3.4. Research Basement and Research Trajectories

According to the Figure 2 and Table 6, two research streams have been formed. A big stream (A) as Figure 2 on the right, which paid more attention to urban resilience in the ecology perspective. It was started by Holling’s (1973) paper called “resilience and stability of ecological systems” in Annual review of ecology and systematics. These studies focused on resilience theory (Gunderson & Holling, 2002; Adger, 2006; Smit & Wandel, 2006) , the resilience of ecological system (Holling, 1973; Grimm et al., 2000) , the resilience of social-ecological system (Adger, 2000; Folke et al., 2005; Folke, 2006) , resilient city (Pelling, 2003; Pickett et al., 2004; Grimm et al., 2008) , disaster and resilience (Carpenter et al., 2001; Berkes et al., 2003; Wisner et al., 2004) . Another stream (B) concentrated on the psychology and resilience (Rutter, 1987; Masten et al., 1990; Luthar et al., 2000) , high-risk children and resilience (Werner & Smit, 1982; Werner & Smith, 1992) .

Table 4. Top 20 productive country of urban resilience research.

TA, total number of articles; TA%, the percentage of the 3085 article; LCS, local citation score; GCS, global citation score.

Table 5. Top 21 productive research institutions of urban resilience research.

TA, total number of articles; TA%, the percentage in the 3085 article; LCS, local citation score; GCS, global citation score.

Figure 2. Co-cited of paper on the urban resilience.

Table 6. Research basements and research streams.

4. Emerging Trends and New Developments

Burst detection and visualization can be implemented to different types of nodes for finding out the research basement of future research. Table 9 displays the top 20 high citation bursts of articles about urban resilience. From the list, Folke (2006) has the strongest bursts among articles published in Global Environmental Change, with 14.1352 burst value and burst duration from 2013 to 2015. It is further curious to note that Luther et al. (2000) has the second strongest citation burst in the period of 2005 and 2011. However, some papers will be research basements for future research, such as Folke (2006) , Cutter et al. (2008) and Barthel et al. (2010) in the field of environmental change, Walker et al. (2006) in the theory of resilience, Davoudi et al. (2012) in planning areas, Walker et al. (2004) and Folke et al. (2010) in the ecological society areas.

The largest cluster was formed by more recently published articles, which was #11 and labeled as human- dominated ecosystem. This cluster had ten members and an average year of publication of 2007. And Table 11 showed seven articles in cluster #11 with the strongest citation bursts. Folke is undoubtedly the major contributors of social-ecological system on urban resilience. Meanwhile, Folke’s (2006) paper held the strongest citation bursts in this cluster. Table 12 showed three most-representative articles of cluster #11. Ernstson et al.’s (2010) work had combined urban resilience and human-dominated ecosystem. This is a mainstream of the present study on urban resilience.

The other cluster included cluster #2, which was labeled as disaster resilience indicator and adaptive capacity. Table 13 lists nine articles in cluster #2 with the strongest citation bursts. Tilte terms include Resilience, vulnerability, hazards and adaptability. Cutter has been focused on the social vulnerability and social resilience, and published a large number of articles. Davoudi et al. (2012) has the strongest citation bursts in this cluster.

Figure 3. A timeline visualization for T1986-2015 is shown. New developments since 2010 are included in the visualization, notably in association with clusters #2 and #11.

Table 11. Articles with strongest citation busts in cluster #11.

Table 12. Articles that cite over 20% members of cluster #11.

Table 13. Articles with strongest citation busts in cluster #2.

5. Conclusions

In this paper, we have provided bibliometric techniques on research trends in the urban resilience research, based on the 1296 articles, which were downloaded in the Web of Science during the period from 1986 to 2015. The paper presented publication outputs, subject categories and publication pattern, most prolific authors and international productivity, research basements and research trajectories, emerging trends and new developments. Works show that the article number on urban resilience has increased since 2003. Environmental studies and environmental sciences came out the most related papers. Meanwhile, Ecology and Society and Environment and Urbanizations were the most-prolific journal; Barthel was the most-prolific author. In addition, most research of urban resilience was dominated by USA and UK, and Arizona State University was the most high- productive institution.


The authors are grateful to Southwest Jiaotong University in China, for his valuable inputs. This research is supported by funding from Ministry of Education of Humanities and Social Science Project of China (No. 13YJA880058) and China Scholarship Council (CSC) (No. 201507000007).


*Corresponding author.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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