Social Life-Cycle Assessment: A Review by Bibliometric Analysis
This study examined the literature on social life-cycle assessment (S-LCA) published in the last 15 years (2003–2018) using bibliometric methods. Applying scientific mapping and analyzing publication performance, the study describes the structure of and trends in S-LCA publications in terms of related subject categories, authors, journals, countries, and highly cited articles. Challenges and research gaps in the S-LCA literature were also explored. The content of related papers published in the ISIWeb of Science databases was examined to identify the main themes investigated, evolution of publication activity, and most representative elements. Analyses were conducted with SciMAT software. This tool enables researchers to map research specialties by extracting qualitative information in the specialized literature and representing it using quantitative measures. The results show rapid and exponential growth of the S-LCA research line in the past ten years, with a clear upward trend in related publications (mostly case studies), especially after publication of the UNEP/SETAC Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products in 2009: 66% of all articles published on S-LCA were published during the period 2015–2018, primarily by European authors. The findings also delineate S-LCA as a highly fragmented research field that has been applied to diverse sectors (agriculture, bioenergy, transport, water management, chemical products, electronics, etc.), mainly in non-European countries. Critical questions concerning methods, framework, paradigms, and indicators remain to be resolved. This study provides insight into the publication performance of S-LCA, characterizing its intellectual structure and salient authors and works. In identifying hotspots in the S-LCA research, the study provides a useful state-of-the-art reference guide for academics and reveals critical research gaps and potential research avenues for future studies to advance in consolidating the discipline.
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