President's Address: IFSR’s activities and programs

IFSR Newsletter 2007 Vol. 25 No. 1 December
Matjaz Mulej
Over the recent years the number of member organizations of IFSR has grown from initial three ones in 1981 to 33 with membership on all continents. Many more could meet criteria to join, if they wanted to; they work on different versions of systems thinking and related methodologies of (requisite) holism or on application of systems thinking and cybernetics to several special fields, such as technical or business etc. informatics, management, mechatronics, medical and other cybernetics, sustainable development, business excellence, innovation promotion, complexity mastering, etc. Everybody with a contribution to the worldview of holism and reduction of reductionism and to related methodologies by e.g. interdisciplinary co-operation implicitly shares values that make an essential part of the statutes of IFSR. I am grateful to pioneers of IFSR – the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, The Dutch Systems Group and the ISSS (International Society for Systems Sciences, the oldest of all of them) – for passing so broad constitution.
We are currently working on a number of initiatives to make all such organizations more interested in joining IFSR family. The Nobel prize for peace 2007 (praising effort for sustainable rather than one-sided and therefore fictitious development) demonstrated clearly that the common denominator of all major troubles of humankind lies in the lack of human application of human knowledge in a requisitely holistic manner. This lack is due to current growing narrow specialization, which would be much more beneficial to its authors and users, if it was applied in a more interdisciplinary approach. More systemic thinking is required in the contemporary innovative society due to its many dangerous side-effects and most of the world-wide population benefiting from it much less than possible.
Good fifty years after the authors of Systems Theory had succeeded in making this theory known, and since politicians of the world had succeeded in using it (informally) by making the United Nations Organization (with UNESCO etc.) as the most holistic political organization of humankind, the European Union (EU) found it necessary to explicitly link ‘systemic’ view with innovation. In (EU, 2000), EU after reminding readers of its previous documents enhancing innovation, states on page 6:

‘The Action Plan(see First Action Plan for Innovation in Europe, 1996, based on Green Paper on Innovation, 1995) was firmly based on the ‘systemic’ view, in which innovation is seen as arising from complex interactions between many individuals, organizations and environmental factors, rather than as a linear trajectory from new knowledge to new product. Support for this view has deepened in recent years.’

Like the original authors of systems theory and cybernetics, today again and permanently, humankind needs interdisciplinary creative co-operation of mutually different specialists to stop damaging and ruining humans’ preconditions of survival by dangerous oversights. Humankind needs systemic thinking of many forms to survive.
IFSR current activities are not aimed at making IFSR a government over its member associations, but a shared organization that provides shared possibilities for all of us and all other humans to be better able to cope with serious consequences of one-sided observations, decisions and actions of so far and of now and of future, and to prevent them from appearing.
These IFSR activities include, first of all, the following:
a) Continuing so far successful activities

  1. Continuing the publication of the journal Systems Research and Behavioral Science with six editions a year. (Many thanks are expressed to Michael Jackson and his team for their very good work on editing and marketing the journal.)
  2. Continuing the sponsoring of the Fuschl conversation every second year right after the ECSR Conference in Vienna, Austria. (Discussion at Fuschl 2006, from which many of the ideas listed here result, should continue, and it does in the program of EMCSR 2008 to invite a broader participation than Fuschl is able to.)
  3. Continuing the sponsorship of the Ashby Memorial Lecture during EMCSR.
  4. Continuing the sponsorship of up to ten delegates to EMCSR from less developed countries in the form of paying their conference fee.
  5. Continuing the sponsorship of an IFSR-D during EMCSR. (This might be possible to arrange at other member association conferences as well, based on their initiative.)
  6. Continuing publication of the book series edited by George Klir (so far, only, due to retirement?) and adding another book series working more on soft systems contributions, which an IFSR member association works on.
  7. Continuing the sponsorship of the IFSR board meeting during the EMCSR and Executive Committee (EC) meetings during EMCSR and in the year with no EMCSR during the ISSS conference, while most of the EC daily work takes place in correspondence sessions by e-mail. (about ten in 2006-2007.)
  8. Accepting new member associations, once they apply for membership in IFSR and meet constitutional criteria of IFSR.
  9. IFSR Newsletter remains, but offering it from the IFSR website in order to diminish cost and make it more easily available to all member associations and their members. So is IFSR flyer / brochure.
  10. Keeping the number of EC member to 4, one for Americas, one for Western Europe, one for Eastern Europe, one for Asia, Australia, New Zealand etc., but engagement of all willing to cover any part of IFSR programs in teams/committees for these program parts.
  11. b) New activities:

  12. A complete renewal and upgrade of the IFSR website (access remains as
  13. Co-operation with SAUR Publishers, Munich, Germany, on promotion of the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics, edited by Charles François (2004).
  14. Preparation of Systemspedia, which should become a Wikipedia-style encyclopedia containing abstracts of articles published in systems-and-cybernetics related journals (with their permission and quotation). This might be a next step after the seminal work of Charles François. All member associations and their members (only!) should have the right to upload abstracts of their papers after publication in a renown journal concerned with systems thinking and its explicit application, which is cited and thus publicized. Abstracts may be in English and in one more language chosen by authors. Systemspedia is a part of IFSR new website, in the first phase. Nobody edits uploaded abstracts. But committee decides which journals are eligible and supervises the practice, including the permission/authorization to erase any submission.
  15. Collecting information on systems-and-cybernetics related courses to strengthen their diffusion and co-operation of their authors and users in order to promote their use at universities around the world (perhaps also in earlier education).
  16. Establishment of the International Academy of Systems and Cybernetics Sciences (IASC). IASC is readily drafted to be put to public discussion in IFSR member associations (bylaw, membership criteria). It should be finally decided by IFSR board in March 2008 in its Vienna session during EMCSR. Both documents appear in the IFSR day at EMCSR. The basic principle: only outstanding scientists and practitioners who are active members of IFSR member associations can become IASC members, after they have been proposed by their respective IFSR member associations. Decision is up to IFSR board.
  17. Archives: Vienna may evolve to the world-wide center of archives in systems sciences and cybernetics. There is material of H. v. Förster, L. v. Bertalanffy, Ch. François, others are supposed to be provided, such as Gordon Pask. There is a need to persuade government of Austria to help this important step to happen and make Vienna a world-top center in one more topic. Other archives are on many locations and should get connected in the ‘yellow pages’ style through IFSR website.
  18. Workshop/Tutorial Meeting of new officers of IFSR member societies. IFSR will use the opportunity of EMCSR to arrange an informal meeting of them. Both actions should take place in Vienna during EMCSR on Tuesday right after symposia finish. (The experience of IFSR officers meeting with IFSR member associations’ officers during ISSS conference in Tokyo in August 2007 was very good.)
  19. Invitation to member associations to put on their letterheads: ‘member of IFSR, established 1981’, and in the case of ISSS, Austrian Society for Cybernetics Studies, and Dutch Systems Group ‘establishing member of IFSR in 1981’.
  20. Finalizing the DVD of the 25 years celebration to make it available to all IFSR member associations and their members.
  21. Inviting IFSR member associations to send their 1-2 delegates to the Fuschl conversation, thus to strengthen links and co-operation of them.

To make all these agreed-upon activities happen in reality we are asking for co-operation:

  1. Everybody should spread the news to all lists of addresses possessed, especially the IFSR member associations. IFSR website should become the central lively connection point.
  2. Proposals for the next IFSR EC: Since Gary Metcalf is the new president of ISSS, he feels unable to be the next president of IFSR in 2008, and Matjaz Mulej is accepting suggestion to cover 2008-2010 period as president. Gerhard Chroust is willing to continue as secretary general, Gary Metcalf as vice-president covering Americas, Jifa Gu is not; Prof. Nakamori from JAIST, Japan, is suggested to be a valuable replacement for him.
  3. The open question is what committees do IFSR member associations find necessary to help IFSR board and EC. We suggest: Fuschl conversation committee, Academy committee, IFSR website committee, Systemspedia/Encyclopedia committee, Archives committee, Systems/Cybernetics related courses committee.

Dr. Dr. Matjaz Mulej, professor emeritus
(University of Maribor, Slovenia)
President of the IFSR

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