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We believe people with diverse backgrounds, skills, and specialized knowledge from physical and life sciences, engineering, and social sciences as well as industrial practice will all contribute to the advancement of industrial ecology.

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Frosch embraced the concept of "industrial metabolism" which Robert Ayres has developed to organize thinking about the massive, systematic transformations of materials in modern economies.Industrial metabolism as well as dematerialization (the diminishing amount of material required for a good or service) had been explored at an August 1988 workshop of the National Academy of Engineering chaired by Frosch (Ausubel and Sladovich, 1988).Anticipating a world with more industrial activity, we must find ways to make large improvements in the totality of industrial interactions with the environment.Each corporation may see incentives to better its individual environmental performance.Notwithstanding the existence of much research planning in fields of environmental science and technology, we found little language that addressed the needs we see.

The interest of the US Department of Energy, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in particular, to learn more about industrial ecology provided the occasion and generated the needed financial support.The Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University agreed to serve as the hub for the activity.We met twice as a group and interacted extensively in smaller meetings and through telecommunications. We speak about issues and problems rather than disciplines.Importantly, individuals with similar and related interests in numerous countries have joined the discussion.In this period of maturation, a group of us who have participated in the growth of industrial ecology (calling ourselves the Vishnu Group, for the Hindu deity embodying preservation) agreed in December of 1995 that it could be useful to outline research directions for the field.We have yet to estimate the costs in human effort or dollars of the research envisioned.