25 Years of the IFSR

IFSR Newsletter 2005 Vol. 23 No. 1 December
A good half a century ago, right after the end of the World War I – World Economic crisis – World War II (1914-1945) period, scientists such as Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Norbert Wiener and their colleagues found a response to the terrible events that killed tens of millions of people: holistic rather than fragmented thinking, decision-making and acting. They established two sciences to support humankind in the effort of meeting this end, which is a promising alternative to the worldwide and local crises. These were Systems Theory and Cybernetics. System was and is the word entitled to represent the whole. One fights one-sidedness in order to survive.
Nevertheless, every human must be specialized in a fragment of the immense huge available knowledge humankind possesses today. Thus, one-sidedness is unavoidable and beneficial, too. But networking of many one-sided insights can help all of us overcome the weak sides of a narrow specialization. Thus, we all need a narrow professional capacity and have to add to it systemic / holistic thinking.
From this combination most modern equipment resulted, most modern knowledge in all spheres of human activity, solutions to environmental problems, etc. Most of the remaining problems can be ascribed to a lack of this combination; and there are very many around that can hardly be solved without systems thinking and creative co-operation of diverse specialists.
Our responsibility for the future obliges us to try to improve the current situation and not to leave an excessive burden to future generation. Already in 1980 a group of far looking individuals from several associations working on systems theory and cybernetics recognized that it is not enough to have small nuclei of systems thinking in some countries: if our problems are international or even global, so must be the network trying to respond to them.
Since a system, in its general abstract definition, is more than its parts as well as their sum, it was decided to interlink groups of system thinkers around the world and to try to find answers to some of the pressing problems of the world. With the support of the Austrian Federal Minister for Science and Research of the time three important societies in the area of systems research founded the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR) on March 12, 1980.
The societies and their key representatives were:

  • The Society for General Systems Research under its then president Prof. J. Klir, USA, who became the first President of the IFSR. This society later became the International Society for the Systems Sciences
  • The Österreichische Studiengesellschaft für Kybernetik (Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies) under its president Prof. Robert Trappl, Austria, who became the first Vice-President of the IFSR and
  • The Systemgroup Nederland represented by Prof. Gerard de Zeeuw, Netherlands, who became the first secretary treasurer of the IFSR.

Since 1980 Federation has grown. It now counts 31 members representing scientists from 25 countries on all continents.
In June 1980, at its first Board Meeting, the founders of the IFSR defined the goals of the Federation as follows:

  • Social Learning Goal: Strengthen the programs of member societies by their involvement in the program and network of IFSR.
  • Membership Development Goal: Facilitate (encourage) the development of Systems science in countries in which such programs do not yet exist or are now developing.
  • Synergetic Goal: Develop – implement – evaluate IFSR level programs to meet the purposes of IFSR; to advance systems science.
  • Resource Development Goal: Identify an inventory of system science relevant resources, acquire those and make them accessible to member societies.
  • Global Mission: Make contribution to the larger (global) scientific community and be of service to improve the (global) human condition and enrich the quality of life of all.

Looking back to the 25 years of history, some of the achievements of the IFSR we can be proud of are:

  • Systems Research and Behavioural Science, a scientific journal: The official journal of the IFSR, edited by Michael. C. Jackson
  • International Series on Systems Science and Engineering, a book series now published by Springer, New York, edited by George J. Klir
  • The yearly IFSR Newsletter, contacting all member societies, edited by Gerhard Chroust
  • A web-site informing the world about the Federation’s activities (http://www.ifsr.org)
  • Bi-annual Fuschl Conversations, meeting every other year in Fuschl near Salzburg, Austria, discussing issues of social learning
  • Support for many other events (e.g. the EMCSR-conference in Vienna every second year)
  • Sponsoring a bi-annual Ashby-lecture at the European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research
  • Convening the First International Congress of IFSR in November 2005 in Kobe with the title „The New Roles of Systems Sciences for a Knowledge-based Society „

IFSR Newsletter 2005 Vol. 23 No. 1 December

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