Robert Trappl looks back: 25 Years of the IFSR

IFSR Newsletter 2005 Vol. 23 No. 1 December
Actually, the informal foundation of the IFSR took place during a conference in the USA. Dr. Norbert Rozsenich, a state officer in the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science and Research, saw a chance to obtain a “Sitzabkommen” with the Republic of Austria like, albeit on a financially by far larger scale, The International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) had already signed one. A necessary prerequisite was that the IFSR became an Austrian “Verein” , a legal not-for-profit entity, i.e. it had accepted to take its legal seat in Austria. So I went to the “Vereinsbehörde” to do all the formalities while Dr. Rozsenich managed that we received an “Sitzabkommen” which entitled us to Austrian Schilling 200.000 (approx. 20.000 $) per year plus an office in Laxenburg where the IIASA already was located (in a big castle).
So I travelled several times to Laxenburg, talked with landlords and already had the agreement for a contract for a nice office, had it put into the draft contract with the Ministry – actually the contract with the Federal Republic of Austria, the Ministry was only acting on its behalf – when the person who rented these rooms decided to pay such a high rent to the landlord that he decided not to give the office to IFSR. Again, negotiations with other landlords, and finally we could settle an agreement, leading to sunny however noisy rooms facing the castle. The draft contract was changed accordingly, then finalized and during a solemn ceremony it was to be signed in the “Blue Office” of the Ministry. The Blue Office is located in a palace on one of the loveliest places in Vienna, the Minoritenplatz (Note: Next time you’ll come to Vienna, you have to visit this square!).
The ceremony was scheduled during the European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research 1980, which following EMCSR’s tradition takes place in the week following Easter. I showed up in time, the Federal Minister Dr. Hertha Firnberg, a very smart and tough lady, entered the blue office, Dr. Rozsenich and other dignitaries were present, but not George Klir, IFSR’s president, and also Gerard de Zeeuw was missing. We waited for quite some time. The Minister became impatient: The Austrian Government offered the IFSR financial support and an office and those people let her wait? Finally I proposed that I, as vice-president, could sign on behalf of IFSR. In that moment when I offered to put my signature under the official contract, the door opened and breathless, George Klir and Gerard de Zeeuw entered the room. One of my collaborators in the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies was supposed to bring George and Gerard to the ceremony. When reading the official invitation and programme, he had been so attracted by the word “Demel”, a famous “Konditorei” (the translation ‚pastry shop’ does not convey its flair at all!), that he ignored the lines above and led the other IFSR Board members directly to Demel. However, Demel was the location for the reception after the official signing ceremony in the Ministry! Luckily, George had become suspicious when waiting at Demels and, as he told me later, had started reading the program and thus found out that they were waiting at the wrong place.
So the situation found a happy ending, Minister Firnberg, after receiving the explanation of the delay, smiled, the signing ceremony took place, and we finally ended, eating gorgeous food – now at Demels. Thus, the day of the signature became significant of the IFSR: With its ups and downs, with wrong people in the right places, and vice versa, but always with delicious food!
Side remark: Actually, the Minister started smiling because I said to the colleague who misled the other Board members “Du Trottel!” („you idiot“). She always loved to-the-point expressions. Later I naturally apologized.
Robert Trappl

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