A bottom-up ontology-based approach to monitor circular economy: Aligning user expectations, tools, data and theory

Rusne Sileryte*, Alexander Wandl, Arjan van Timmeren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
152 Downloads (Pure)


With circular economy being high on governmental agendas, there is an increasing request from governing bodies for circularity measurements. Yet, currently existing macro-level monitoring frameworks are widely criticized for not being able to inform the decision-making. The criticism includes, among others, a lack of consensus on terminologies and definitions among scholars, politicians, and practitioners, a lack of supporting data and tools and, consequently, a lack of transparency and trustworthiness. To address those needs, a bottom-up approach to build a shared terminology is suggested as a starting point for monitoring development. The government, data providers, and tool developers are involved in the process of formal ontology development and alignment. The experiment builds upon a use case of the Amsterdam Circular Economy Monitor (2020). First, four ontology development approaches are used to create a theory-centered, a user-centered, a tool-centered, and a data-centered ontology. The ontologies are later compared, merged, and aligned to arrive at one single ontology which forms the basis of the circular economy monitor. The notes taken during the process have revealed that next to a material flow model, typical of socioeconomic metabolism analysis, policy makers are concerned with actors (i.e., institutions, companies, or groups of people) who participate in the analyzed processes and services. Furthermore, a number of terms used by the decision-makers lack clear definitions and references to be directly associated with the available data. Finally, a structured terminology alignment process between monitor users, developers, and data providers helps in exposing terminology conflicts and ambiguities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-407
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • circular economy
  • circular economy monitor
  • industrial ecology
  • ontology
  • ontology alignment
  • transition management


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