George Klir looks back: 25 Years of the IFSR

IFSR Newsletter 2005 Vol. 23 No. 1 December
This year has a special significance for IFSR since it was founded a quarter century ago. It happened on April 10, 1980, during the Fourth European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research in Vienna. On this occasion, let me make a few remarks regarding some events that had contributed to the creation of IFSR in 1980.
To my best recollection, the idea of creating such a federation emerged from discussions at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Wassenaar during the academic year 1975-76. This was my sabbatical year and I was invited to spend it at the Institute as a Fellow. Shortly after my arrival, I established a strong relationship with a Dutch Fellow at the Institute, Gerrit Broekstra, who was very active in systems research and served at that time as President of the Netherlands Society for Systems Research. Prior to my sabbatical, I was not aware of this Society, but during my residence at NIAS, I earnestly participated in its many activities and met some of its members.
At NIAS, I had many extensive discussions with Gerrit about some fundamental issues of systems methodology, but we were also talking from time to time about the bigger issues of systems movement. At some point, we both felt that some organization is needed that would provide a worldwide support of systems movement. Needles to say, this was initially a half-baked idea. Once it emerged, however, this idea began to reappear in our discussions fairly regularly. When we started to think about its implementation, the concept of a federation emerged. We were also aware of three societies that we considered suitable for founding such a federation: Society for General Systems Research, Netherlands Society for Systems Research, and Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies. These societies were very different from one another in many respects and we were not sure if they would be interested to participate as founding members in forming the federation we had in mind.
First, we discussed the idea within the Netherlands Society for Systems Research and the response was, by and large, favourable. Then, I communicated with some influential members of the Society for General Systems Research and their response was somewhat mixed, but not totally negative. Finally, we presented the idea to some representatives of the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, in particular Robert Trappl and Franz Pichler, at the Second European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research in Vienna in 1976. The response was quite favourable and increased our enthusiasm about this idea.
It had taken four more years before the Federation was actually founded. First, it was essential to obtain a commitment of the three prospective founding societies to participate in this endeavour. Fortunately, I became a Managing Director of the Society for General Systems Research in 1977 and that position allowed me to convince the leadership of the Society to participate, at least in principle. Once the three societies agreed to participate in the formation of their Federation, many specific issues had to be negotiated, including the name of the Federation. After several proposed names were considered, the name “International Federation for Systems Research” was eventually unanimously approved. Several meetings of representatives of the three societies took place in 1976-78. The critical meeting was held at the Third European Meeting on Systems Research and Cybernetics in Vienna in 1978. At that meeting, a prospective support of the new Federation by the Austrian Government was announced and, due to this support, it was decided that the principal office of the Federation would be in Austria.
The period 1978-80 was devoted to drafting a constitution of the new Federation. After many modifications of the original draft, the constitution was finalized prior to the Fourth European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research in Vienna in 1980. During this meeting, the Federation was officially founded, I was elected to serve as its first president, and an agreement with Austrian Government was obtained for a substantial financial support of the Federation.
I hope that these scattered recollections, which are nowhere recorded, will be of some interest to individual members of the growing number of IFSR member societies.
George J. Klir

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