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The 38th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society
Bergen, Norway ◊ July 19-23, 2020
"Hindsight in 2020: Learning from the Past to Inspire the Future"
The System Dynamics Society (SDS, see https://www.systemdynamics.org/conference) invites you to join them in Bergen, Norway for the 38th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society. The 2020 conference will honor the 20th anniversary of the 2000 Bergen conference and the long history of system dynamics in Norway, including as host of the inaugural 1976 conference. Whether you are new to the practice of system dynamics or already an expert, you are welcome in Bergen in 2020, where you may contribute your original work and learn from leaders in the field about the state of the art in system dynamics. Submissions are encouraged on all topics relating to the theory and practical application of system dynamics modeling.
The conference theme is “Hindsight in 2020: learning from the past to inspire the future.” The saying that “hindsight is 20/20” implies that it’s easy in retrospect to “see” why events unfolded as they did, but it’s much harder to accurately anticipate the outcome in advance. In the scientific practice of system dynamics, concern about such “hindsight bias” compels us to formalize behavioral expectations a priori, before testing dynamic hypotheses of feedback mechanisms, so that the value of a model for producing new insights can be established relative to these expectations. But after building models, subjecting them to rigorous analysis, and discovering robust model-based policies, a different and deeper kind of hindsight can develop over time. It is this kind of hindsight that we wish to hone in 2020, by asking how what we know now could inform the practice of system dynamics and inspire alternative models that address the challenges our society must face today and tomorrow.
In the spirit of this theme, the 2020 conference provides an opportunity to look back at prior models and their evolution in light of recent developments to see how they may inspire future directions for the next generation of models. We particularly encourage reflections on methodological developments related to system dynamics that have arisen thus far in the new millennium. Submissions oriented to the conference theme may offer fresh perspectives on contributors’ own prior work or other computational models that have been developed in system dynamics and related fields. Original contributions may be made by conducting new experiments with existing models, modifying those models to leverage advances in computational methods that have emerged in recent years, or demonstrating innovative model applications that address adaptability and robustness to context. By taking stock of the rich legacy of system dynamics, hindsight can help to build the collective memory of our system dynamics community and thereby inspire strategic directions for the field going forward.
The Proceedings of the Eighteenth Biennial IFSR Conversation have been published and are now available for ordering through Amazon.
The overarching theme for the IFSR Conversation 2016 was "Systems Literacy". It aims at developing systemic "principles" or "big ideas" as orienting guidelines for application of systems science in across disciplines and provide for appropriate dissemination and world wide acceptance.
Systems Literacy could be defined as understanding your model or models of Systems, how it is the same and different from others' models of Systems, and how our individual and collective actions influence Systems behaviors and how Systems behaviors influence us. An agreed definition will be an outcome of the Systems Literacy Initiative process.
The Systems Literacy Initiative is a process of an ongoing international, coordinated effort to create a greater awareness and understanding about "Systems" and to develop a comprehensive set of big ideas, supporting concepts and learning progressions that have broad agreement.
As team leaders developed their topics with their teams, they kept a focal theme of Systems Literacy in mind. The intention was that participants in the Conversation integrate the work of the teams into a body of knowledge to be developed into modes for educating those new to systems thinking, the systems sciences, and systems research, as a coordinated and coherent whole system initiative to define and achieve Systems Literacy.
Three teams approached Systems Literature from different viewpoints:
Team 1: Application of Boulding's Skeleton of Science to Inform Transdisciplinarity,
Team 2: Unity in Diversity - Making the Implicit Explicit, and
Team 3: Exploring the Relationship of Systems Research to Systems Literacy.
The outcome of this Conversation, while at a high conceptual level, also supports and encourages further practical applications through individual member activities. The results are summarized in three executive summaries followed by team papers. Here are links for ordering your copy of the Proceedings of the Eighteenth Biennial IFSR Conversation focused on Systems Literacy. You can order your copy from Amazon at: www.amazon.com/Systems-Literacy-Proceedings-Conversation-Conversations-ebook/dp/B06XHQL7P3
Proceedings of the Nineteenth IFSR Conversation (2018), Systems: From Science to Practice, have been published and are now available through Amazon for purchase. Here is the link:
The IFSR Conversations were introduced by Bela H. Banathy around 1980 as an alternative to traditional academic conferences for advancement of thought and learning in the Systems Sciences. The philosophy underpinning the IFSR Conversation is an understanding that participants learn and contribute to others' learning through reflective dialogue only possible face-to-face over extended time. Through dialogue focused on a specific topic, participants share and apply deep knowledge as opposed to formal presentations of papers.
The IFSR Conversation 2018 was held in St. Magdalena, Linz Austria, April 8 to 13, 2018. The overarching theme, Systems: From Science to Practice, was an exploration of the confluence between science and practice in the field of systems sciences for the purpose of enhancing the role of the Systems Sciences in support of humans and society. Participants included 26 systemists from ten countries who formed four teams with the following topics:
1. Systems Practice
2. What is Systems Science?
3. Active and Healthy Aging
4. Data Driven Systems Engineering
The proceedings contain reports from the four teams together with three personal reflections on IFSR Conversations, as well as a historical survey of the evolution of IFSR Conversations from 1980 to 2018.
A new publication for your reading pleasure:
Translational Systems Sciences
General Systemology Transdisciplinarity for Discovery, Insight and Innovation
Authors: Rousseau, D., Wilby, J., Billingham, J., Blachfellner, S.
This book expands the foundations of general systems theory to enable progress beyond the rich heuristic practices available today. It establishes a foundational framework for the development of scientific transdisciplinary systems principles and shows how these can amplify the potential of individuals and teams working in multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary contexts or striving to translate their progress across disciplinary boundaries. Three general scientific systems principles are presented, and their relevance to the design, analysis, management and transformation of systems is explored.
Applying lessons from the history and philosophy science, this book disambiguates key concepts of general systemology, clarifies the role of general systemology within the field of systemology, and explains how general systemology supports other forms of transdisciplinarity. These insights are used to develop new perspectives, strategies and tools for addressing long-standing challenges to the advancement and transdisciplinary application of general insights into the nature of complex systems.
The material presented in this book includes comprehensive models of the structure of systemology as a disciplinary field, the structure and significance of the general systems worldview, and the role of general systemology as the heart of systems science, systems engineering and systems practice. It explains what a fully-fledged general theory of systems would look like, what its potential is, what routes are available to us to develop it further, and how to leverage the knowledge we have attained so far.
Many examples and analogies show how general systemology has the potential to enable scientific discovery, insightful theory building, and practical innovation in all the disciplines as they study, design, nurture or transform complex systems. This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to master the concepts, terminology, models and strategies needed to make effective use of current general systems knowledge and to engage in the further development of the philosophy, science, and practice of general systemology.
International Federation for Systems Research
c/o OSGK – Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies
Freyung 6/6, A-1010 Vienna Austria
Tel +43 664 28 29 978
Announcement: Themes and Teams for the
Nineteenth IFSR Conversation
Sunday, 8 April – Friday, 13 April, 2018
The Executive Committee of the International Federation for System Research is pleased to announce the themes and teams for the Nineteenth IFSR Conversation in Linz, Austria, which will be held at the Seminarhotel, St. Magdalena, Linz, Austria. Thanks to all members of the IFSR community who submitted topics for consideration this year. We had a significant number of excellent submissions, so it was a challenge to choose the most timely and relevant. The final topics, teams, and team leaders are:
1. Active and Healthy Aging – Gerhard Chroust and Shankar Sankaran
Demographic changes especially in the Developed World make aging one of today’s growing concerns. The aim is to foster Active and Healthy Aging (AHA) in a sustainable society. Support for AHA has to compensate for more or less insufficient capabilities of Seniors. This is a highly interdisciplinary challenge which involves practically all domains of life: physiology, medicine, psychology, social sciences, society, technology, logistics, infrastructure, architecture, economy, etc.
2. What is Systems Science? - Gary Smith and Jennifer Makar
After decades of development in the field of systems science, multiple perspectives, synergies, conceptualizations, and practice from diverse sources and backgrounds indicate a possibility of emerging coherence. We will bring together thought leaders to explore how these various threads can weave together into a more integrated understanding to make progress towards the unification of systems science as a coherent system for application in a variety of contexts.
3. Self-Transgressive Exploration of Next Generation Science Standards and General Systems Theory - Jennifer Wilby
In recent years efforts to develop General Systems Theory and efforts to reveal unity in science have largely been pursued in isolation from each other and even further fragmented within those two main areas of endeavor. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed in a broad collaboration, which included the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This conversation will encompass a systematic exploration of how these two independent bodies of work can benefit from cross-fertilization, resulting in visual mapping outputs and written narrative that are an incremental contribution to realizing the original intentions of GST.
4. Systems Practice – Nam Nguyen and Constantin Malik
This team will comprise systems practitioners who will share their experience of applying systems approaches in practice. The team will also be discussing how to make systems approaches, systems tools more applicable to their respective fields and practice, with specific potential cases such as community healthcare in the US, transport systems in the EU, public and cyber security in Vietnam, worldwide, etc.
5. Data Driven Systems Engineering Approaches – Ed Carroll
Engineering programs (products, technology, processes, and people organization) are often based on the structures and plans of previous programs, whether (or not) those past programs were successful. Little consideration is given to whether those past program processes, tools, technology, people, or organizations are optimally suited for the new product or processes. This conversation focuses on the data, processes and systematic approaches that have been successful to transform an engineering program toward a fully digital engineering environment, examining approaches such as a model-based engineering.
Please join us in congratulating these teams on the acceptance of their topic proposals. They can now begin preparations for the Conversation.
Questions about the 19th IFSR Conversation should be directed Mary Edson at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to a vibrant Conversation in Linz this coming spring.
A Guide to Systems Research: Philosophy, Processes and Practice (2016) edited by Edson, Buckle Henning and Sankaran, with authors - Debora Hammond, John Kineman, Louis Klein, Gary Metcalf, and Will Varey, will soon be published by Springer. This book is designed for systems researchers - new and experienced - seeking systemic approaches of inquiry into complex issues, often called messes or wicked problems. The book will be launched at the 60th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences in Boulder, Colorado (see http://isss.org/world/Colorado_2016). As part of the launch, Springer is making a special offer of 20% off the publisher's price if ordered (hardcover or e-book) by August 27, 2016. If you are interested in Systems Research, be sure to check out the details in the attached flyer.
The Systems Research Team from the 2014 IFSR Conversation has been diligently writing A Guide to Systems Research: Philosophy, Processes and Practice to be published by Springer this coming summer (2016). This book is part of the Translational Systems Science Series edited by Kyoichi Kijima and Hiroshi Deguchi.
A Guide to Systems Research: Philosophy, Processes and Practice can be pre-ordered through Amazon.com, ISBN 978-981-10-0263. For more information, see: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9789811002625. Watch this space for more news and updates about the book. Here are abstracts of the book's chapters:
Editors: Mary Edson, Pamela Buckle Henning and Shankar Sankaran
1. Philosophical Foundations of Systems Research – Debora Hammond, Ph.D.
2. Frameworks – John Kineman, Ph.D.
3. Problem Structuring and Research Design – Mary C. Edson, Ph.D. and Louis Klein, Ph.D.
4. Modeling – John Kineman, Ph.D.
5. Taking Action – Shankar Sankaran, Ph.D.
6. Systems Research Reporting – Will Varey, Ph.D.
7. Competencies for Systems Research – Pamela Buckle Henning, Ph.D.
8. Evaluating the Impact of Systems Research – Gary S. Metcalf, Ph.D. and Mary C. Edson, Ph.D.
Chapter 1: Philosophical Foundations of Systems Research
Debora Hammond, PhD
This chapter will provide a brief introduction to the evolution of systems theory and practice in order to articulate a framework for systems research. It begins with a discussion of the meaning and significance of systems research, articulating both a distinction and a relationship between research into the nature of systems and a systemic approach to research. The chapter then outlines a cyclical framework based on relational theory, as initially conceived by Robert Rosen and further elaborated by John Kineman.
In order to provide a historical and theoretical context for the book, the chapter explores the evolution of the systems concept, and provides a brief summary of developments in the broad ranging systems field, beginning with an overview of applied systems approaches, including both systems technology and systems design, and continuing with an exploration into the various theoretical orientations in the systems sciences.
Building on this background, the chapter outlines the ontological, epistemological and ethical considerations that inform research into systems, as well as a systemic approach to research, suggesting a potential, and perhaps critical, role for the proposed conceptual framework in providing greater integration between these two approaches. Finally, it highlights the qualities of inclusivity, collaboration, and holistic thinking inherent in systems research.
Keywords: Systems theory, systems practice, theoretical context, technology, design, ontology, epistemology, ethics, inclusivity, collaboration, holism.
Chapter 2: Frameworks
John J. Kineman, Ph.D.
The concept of ‘systems’ has been around since the earliest philosophical records. To date, however, we do not have a widely accepted definition. Here we make the proposal that a system is a whole unit of nature. We then propose a systems research framework that can yield a whole form of systems analysis. By ‘whole’ is meant a natural unit that is a self-related cycle of causes. The schema we present is based on the work of the mathematical biologist Robert Rosen and it follows, with important modifications, the causal and categorical definitions given by Aristotle. The resulting four-quadrant, four-category framework is then described and related to other meta-system frameworks that exist independently in many disciplines. There are two keys to understanding this framework. One is that since Aristotle we have thought of causality in a dualistic, hierarchical way, with ultimately unknowable causes at the top and inert substance at the bottom. Natural science has focused on the bottom half and humanistic and social sciences have focused on the top. Prior to Greek philosophy, however, in ‘non-dual’ philosophy, these same causes can be described as a self-related cycle, giving a holographic view of reality. By adopting the causal cycle we remove the problem of ‘unnatural’ causes. The entirely natural treatment of the four causes then lends itself to mathematical rigor and thus applications in science, humanism, and other fields. Examples and worksheets are provided to help introduce the reader to this highly systemic way of thinking.
Keywords: Framework, systems analysis, modeling relation, holism, holon, causality, category, hierarchy, duality, holographic view
Chapter 3: Problem Structuring and Research Design in Systemic Inquiry
Mary C. Edson, Ph.D. and Louis Klein, Ph.D.
The central question of Chapter 3 is, “How are inquiries into problems structured and designed to conduct research in a systemic (holistic, comprehensive, complicated, and complex), as well as systematic (logical, rigorous, and disciplined) way?” The focus is on Problem Structuring and Research Design related to the purpose of research and development of an inquiry’s central research question(s). Both are predicated on researchers’ grounding in systems philosophy and theoretical or conceptual frameworks gained through knowledge acquired through review of the literature, experience, experimentation, or pilot study. These foundations prepare systems researchers for analyzing systems and defining problems to design, conduct, report, and evaluate systemic research studies. In addition, these fundamentals guide researchers’ journeys through iterative, nested, and cumulative cycles of learning about subject systems. Researchers will learn about defining systemic research questions and gain understanding about the role and embedment of context, including a system’s environment, its stakeholders, and emergent properties. Researchers will gain appreciation and competencies of systemic research that is also systematic by applying principles of adaptive project management. While Problem Structuring is about doing the right research, Research Design is about doing research right using a systemic lens. For systems researchers from disciplines such as the social, natural, and physical sciences, and fields like engineering, economics, and public policy, this question poses exacting challenges in evaluation of credibility, validity, and ethics of Systems Research including application of findings. It poses a dual standard of rigor in requiring that research meet both systematic and systemic definitions and distinctions.
Keywords: Systemic, systematic, systems analysis, iterative, cycles of learning, context, stakeholders, emergent properties, adaptive project management, credibility, validity, ethics
Chapter 4: Modeling
John J. Kineman, Ph.D.
‘Modeling’ in academic and applied disciplines has many interpretations. Here we focus again on the work of Robert Rosen to examine a mathematical view of whole system analysis and modeling. By ‘judicious’ is meant following certain epistemological criteria that ensure good science and help resolve philosophical differences between realist and pragmatist approaches. While adopting a primarily realist position on modeling (that models describe nature), the modeling framework also represents constructed phenomena (perceptions and agreements about nature). The resolution of these views is found in reifying models themselves in both nature and cognitive processes. Building on the Systems Research Framework presented in Chapter 2, we describe four kinds of model, each associated with one of the quadrants in the cyclical framework, and a fifth level of meta-modeling associated with the identity cycle of a system (the framework itself). We describe the mathematical basis for relating models in the framework using Category Theory adapted for this purpose; and we discuss the technical differences between modeling, simulation, and analogy, giving familiar examples and recommending future development. The reader will gain basic tools to apply whole systems analysis and modeling to complex problems.
Keywords: Realist, pragmatist, cognitive processes, cycles, Category Theory, modeling, simulation, analogy, whole systems analysis
Chapter 5: Taking Action Using Systems Research
Shankar Sankaran, PhD
The aim of this chapter is to guide you to take action to conduct your systems research project. It will start suggesting some ways to establish a research project based on traditional project management principles and compare it with ways in which a systems researcher might set a research project. It will then explain the importance of constructing a methodology for your research project and point out why systems researchers often adopt multi-methodologies to carry out their research. The chapter will then focus on how systems interventions can be developed to contribute to your research methodology with examples of multi-methodology and systemic action research interventions that have been successfully used by prominent systems researchers in different contexts. The chapter will then take you through some steps normally used in conducting a research project, with an emphasis on systems research, covering an overview of research methods, negotiating relationships to get access to research sites, data collection and analysis methods and ways to demonstrate rigor. Since this chapter covers a wide area, bridging systems interventions to ways in which conventional research is carried out, it will focus more on how systems interventions can be set up and implemented but provide a variety of references to help the reader find adequate information to carry out research expected of doctoral studies or research reports. It will also make reference to other chapters in the book to guide the readers to take effective action to complete a research project successfully.
Chapter 6: Systems Research Reporting
Will Varey, PhD.
The competent design, planning, undertaking and analysis of systems research deserves to be reported well to reflect its systemic strengths. The very best systems research will evidence a systemic approach in its structure, content and overall contribution to the field. To enable a systemic approach to systems research reporting a researcher must frame and select from a number of considerations specific to the systems field. This chapter provides clear guidance for systems researchers in a systematic approach to writing up and reporting research in the systems sciences. The distinctive roles, forms, phases, levels and premises of systems research are outlined for easy consideration. A systematic approach to reporting highlights the elements of structure, boundary, relations, timing, and completeness that assist favorable evaluations. The researcher is also directed to the critical choices they must make between systems definitions, paradigms, voicings, and perspectives. The chapter concludes with a consideration of common errors of omission and the unique ethical tensions experienced when undertaking contemporary systems research. This content will benefit early-career systems researchers, research article reviewers, examiners of dissertations, and experienced systems practitioners in making their own contributions to the wider systems discipline.
Keywords: Systems theory, research reporting, Systems Research, boundary definition, ontological frame, research error, systemic, systems ethics
Chapter 7: Competencies Necessary for Systems Research
Pamela Buckle Henning, Ph.D.
Conducting systems research requires knowledge and competence. Knowledge about the properties and behaviours of systems is readily available from academic publishers and the popular press. Understanding the particular competencies necessary to conduct systems research is less often discussed. This chapter outlines key perceptual competencies demanded of Systems Researchers. I begin with the ability to perceive the presence of systemic wholes and parts. Next, I consider the challenging complexity of many systemic phenomena, and competencies involved in perceiving key characteristics of complex systems (order, change, relationships, and information). Scholars are often called to generalize their findings to other settings; the search for similarity among different contexts involves analogical reasoning, an important perceptual competency for skillful systems research. I address challenges of engaging with the uncertainties of systemic inquiries, along with a call for Systems Researchers to be reflexive of the ways they become personally affected by the phenomena they investigate.
Keywords: Systems research competencies, perceptual competencies, complexity, analogical reasoning, uncertainty, reflexivity
Chapter 8: Evaluating the Impact of Systems Research: What is needed, and what is good enough?
Mary C. Edson, Ph.D. and Gary S. Metcalf
A central challenge of Systems Research is expressing implicit understanding of change and making it explicit. The goal of this guide is to answer the question, “What distinguishes Systems Research from other forms of research?” Defining what constitutes good systemic research requires explanation about what is missing from the current practices of research, as driven by the assumptions of science. This requires tracing back assumptions about what we know (ontology), how we learn (epistemology), and how those have shaped our approaches to research thus far. In this guide, concepts of Systems Research - philosophy, frameworks, problem structuring and research design, taking action, reporting results, and competencies - have been presented in systematic ways that instill rigor in systemic inquiry. These concepts correspond to the precision expected of scientific inquiry viewed through systemic lenses. Each chapter, and the portion of the research study it represents, needs to be its own coherent “whole”, while also acting as part of a total of coherent study design. Good systems research puts science in context; its evaluation requires more than traditional scientific approaches and critical thinking. The need for additional systemic evaluation prompts several questions concerning philosophical principles guiding research, the rationale for the chosen framework, the basis for problem analysis and research question development, and the resulting modeling. Research must be evaluated for systemic coherence as demonstrated in reporting of findings, conclusions drawn and recommendations. Have the system and the Systems Researcher been changed by the inquiry? Essentially, what is systemic about the research?
Keywords: Ontology, epistemology, Systems Research, systematic, systemic, rigor, coherence, context, critical thinking, credibility, evaluation, change
Over the past few months, I have had several exciting conversations with scholars and practitioners in the Systems Sciences. Most of these conversations focus on application of Systems Approaches to address real world (sometimes called "wicked") problems.
First, the Systemic Excellence Group (SE Group - Berlin), is using Systems Approaches to develop programs for several clients who recognize that they need to make large scale changes in their organizations in order to be facile in today's global climate. A major development of the SE Group is its Systemic Project Management practice. See http://www.systemic-excellence-group.com/
Second, Think2Impact is using the Evolutionary Learning Lab approach to solve complex problems based on a seven step framework. Developed by Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr. Nam Nguyen, ELLabs uses a revolutionary approach that applies systems thinking for capacity building, planning, and management. One of their recent projects was assisting the women of Ghana develop sustainable and labor saving agricultural strategies. To learn more, go to: http://www.think2impact.org/app/#/about
Finally, Dr. Bobby Milstein is applying Systems Dynamics to unravel the complexity of the health system at the Rippel Foundation in its ReThink Health Initiative. The ReThink Health Team builds collaborative communities and coalitions the revision regional health systems. They have been successful in aligning priorities in Atlanta, Georgia; transforming stewardship in Upper Valley - Vermont and New Hampshire; setting strategy in Pueblo, Colorado; bridging silos in Columbia, South Carolina; and engaging communities for quality improvement as part of a Special Innovation Project for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services(CMS). Check out their case studies at http://www.rethinkhealth.org/case-studies/
These applications demonstrate that systems thinking is relevant in action as well show that a systems approach to wicked problems is greater than the sum of its theories!
Mary Edson, Ph.D., SHRM SCP, SPHR, is an organizational strategist who works with managers, project leaders, and teams to overcome adversity by building adaptive capacity and sustainable systems. Mary is a past president of the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR). She conducted her doctoral research at Saybrook University in San Francisco, CA. Her research paper reviewing the results of this study received the Sir Geoffrey Vickers Award at the 55th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences at the University of Hull, U.K. For more about Mary's work as an organizational strategist, go to Leadership Strategies at www.maryedson.com
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