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Unified Materials Information System (UMIS): An Integrated Material Stocks and Flows Data Structure

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Early online date7 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Modern society depends on the use of many diverse materials. Effectively managing these materials is becoming increasingly important and complex, from the analysis of supply chains, to quantifying their environmental impacts, to understanding future resource availability. Material stocks and flows data enable such analyses, but currently exist mainly as discrete packages, with highly varied type, scope, and structure. These factors constitute a powerful barrier to holistic integration and thus universal analysis of existing and yet to be published material stocks and flows data. We present the Unified Materials Information System (UMIS) to overcome this barrier by enabling material stocks and flows data to be comprehensively integrated across space, time, materials, and data type independent of their disaggregation, without loss of information, and avoiding double counting. UMIS can therefore be applied to structure diverse material stocks and flows data and their metadata across material systems analysis methods such as material flow analysis (MFA), input-output analysis, and life cycle assessment. UMIS uniquely labels and visualizes processes and flows in UMIS diagrams; therefore, material stocks and flows data visualized in UMIS diagrams can be individually referenced in databases and computational models. Applications of UMIS to restructure existing material stocks and flows data represented by block flow diagrams, system dynamics diagrams, Sankey diagrams, matrices, and derived using the economy-wide MFA classification system are presented to exemplify use. UMIS advances the capabilities with which complex quantitative material systems analysis, archiving, and computation of material stocks and flows data can be performed.

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