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System Dynamics

Volume 21 – Number 4        October 2008


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Chapter and Special Interest Group News

German Chapter

The German Chapter looks back at a successful and active year, largely devoted to increasing the regional visibility of the Chapter and generating further growth. On July 9th and 10th, 2008, the 2nd German System Dynamics Workshop celebrated the first "40 Years System Dynamics in Germany" after Gert v. Kortzfleisch had brought Jay W. Forrester's ideas to Germany in 1968. The 1.5 day workshop combined a variety of activities: talks by Erich Zahn, Peter Milling, and Kim Warren, a 2.5-hour modeling exercise, a practitioners' and a PhD colloquium, and the opportunity for newcomers to play the beer game. During the event, the 1st Gert-von-Kortzfleisch-Award was presented to Nadine Schieritz for her outstanding work on the combination of system dynamics with agent-based modeling, including a prize money of 500 Euro. Fifty participants from academia and practice met at this event, spurred lively discussions and exchanged experiences, ideas, and insight on all aspects of system dynamics and related fields.

Apart from the workshop, the Chapter hosted four regional System Dynamics Roundtables in Frankfurt, Munich, and Hanover, attracting over 30 members and non-members. Two administrative General Meetings were held on November 16th, 2007, and June 10th, 2008. During the latter, elections for the Executive Board were held. The General Meeting reappointed the previous Executive Board, with Markus Salge becoming VP Information Technology as the only change in the Board. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Jorg Wansart, our previous VP IT, for his enormous support over the last 1.5 years!

Less than two years after its foundation, the Chapter currently has 76 members, equally split between academics and business practitioners. Adding those who have registered for our newsletter, the Chapter communicates with more than 150 system dynamicists in Germany. For the next months, three events are currently scheduled and give the opportunity to meet with the Chapter and to participate in our work: a joint workshop with the German OR Society (GOR) on "Traffic and Logistics" at Rhine-Main Airport in Frankfurt (November 13th and 14th), and two SD Roundtables in Frankfurt (October 27th or 29th, please check website), and Munich (November 26th). Further information on the Chapter's activities and events can be found at:, or contact Switbert Miczka.

Switbert Miczka


Health Policy Special Interest Group (HPSIG)

The 2008 HPSIG session was a special event this year as it involved the presentation of the inaugural Lupina student prize. In front of around 30 people who attended the session we were able to announce the joint winners of the 2008 award. They were:

  • Jennifer Headley, Aqeela Jogee and Holly Rockweiler for their paper; "Women with HIV/AIDS in Malawi: The impact of anti-retroviral therapy on economic welfare," and
  • Hyunjung Kim for her paper; Broadening Boundary Perception in a Multi-organizational Context: Study of a Community Mental Health Program in New York State.

They were both very worthy winners and their presentations contributed greatly to the overall discussion theme of the session - inequities and disparities in health. (see photos and article about the award presentation in the Member News section.)

In addition to the papers presented by the student prize winners additional papers were presented by Peter Hovmand and Jack Homer. Together they provided the stimulus and focus for a lively debate and, being able to get such an international perspective on such an important problem highlighted the value that the HPSIG has for its members.

Following the presentations and subsequent discussions we explored future directions for the HPSIG and three major avenues of interest emerged. These were:

The need to further develop our web presence. We currently have the wiki in place but given our geographic spread Eric Wolstenhome mentioned the usefulness of establishing a 'virtual community' that could support ongoing conversations. There are a number of software platforms that could support this and Peter Lacey offered to provide some help.

The second theme focused on the desire to establish a health specific conference. This could be stand-alone, or a part of the main SD conference. A number of ideas were discussed and it is something that the HPSIG would like to explore. Currently Nate Osgood is exploring the possibility of a health focused conference in 2009.

The third theme was that of publications. This conversation roamed from better sharing of models and cases to the publication of a book that brought together the large body of work that currently exists.

These three themes; improved web presence, health specific conference and publications will be explored further in the coming months.

The last item of the afternoon was the appointment of the president and vice-president for 2008-09. I am very happy to announce that the new president of the HPSIG is Bobby Milstein, ably supported by Mark Heffernan as vice president.

David Rees


Japan Chapter

The Annual Report 2008 of the Japan Chapter of the System Dynamics Society as of September 25, 2008

Membership: As of August 2008, the Japan Chapter (hereafter called JSD) is joined by 114 members, out of which only 14 members are SDS members, and the rest are local members. Extremely low participation of the local members to the SDS has been the chapter's main concern, yet its efforts to encourage their participation has been so far unsuccessful. Membership dues are 5,000 yen for a member in general, and 2,000 yen for a student member, while an institutional due is 50,000 yen. The list of the current JSD members who are also SDS members is attached to this report. It also indicates new council members for the fiscal year of 2008, which starts from April 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009. The elections of those council members took place in the annual conference held on May 31, 2008 at Gakushuin University in Tokyo.

Meetings: The JSD is currently holding one annual conference, and several meetings in Tokyo mostly for the members from Eastern Japan, and one meeting in Kyoto for the members mainly from Western Japan. During the fiscal year of 2007, April 1 through March 2008, the JSD held one annual conference and several local meetings as listed below.

Annual Conferences: Annual Conference 2007 was held on May 19, 2007, at Gakushuinn University, Tokyo. In this conference, the chapter activities for the fiscal year of 2007 were approved.

Annual Conference 2008 was held on May 31, 2008, at Gakushuinn University, Tokyo. In this conference, the chapter activities for the fiscal year of 2008 were approved.

Local Seminars: In addition to the annual conferences, the JSD holds several local seminars in Tokyo and Kyoto areas. Two local seminars were held in Tokyo.
- First Tokyo Seminar, Sept. 15, 2007 at Gakushuinn University
- Second Tokyo Seminar, Dec. 1, 2007 at Gakushuinn University
Another local seminar is held in Kyoto
- Kyoto Seminar, Nov. 24, 2007 at Doshisha University in Kyhoto

SIG meetings: To meet the demand for members, several SIG meeting are also organized by some interest groups. Currently two SIG are running such as Business Process Modeling (BPM) and Dynamic System Modeling (DSM). Six BPM meetings were organized in Tokyo and Seven DSM meetings were held in Nagoya areain the fiscal year of 2007.

Publications: The JSD has been publishing its journal "The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics" since 1995 once in a while. It includes refereed articles, reports from its annual meetings, translated articles into Japanese, and research notes. For instance, the latest issue of Vol. 6, 2007 published three refereed articles, and 9 seminar reports from the annual conference. The JSD hopes to publish its journal annually, if its members are constantly increasing and its publishing budget is to be secured, for the promotion of system dynamics research and education in Japan. Its publication history so far is listed as follows:

- The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics, Vol. 6, May 2007
- The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics, Vol. 5, Mar. 2006
- The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics, Vol. 4, Mar. 2005
- The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics, Vol. 3, April, 2003
- The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics, Vol. 2, Dec. 2001
- The Japanese Journal of System Dynamics, Vol. 1, Jan. 1995

Kaoru Yamaguchi

Security Special Interest Group

The Security SIG activities have been conducted informally by email and oral contacts. Thanks to Chris Riley and Eliot Rich we have now the support of a wiki type tool that will consolidate and improve the network.

A consortium consisting of SIG members in Spain, Slovenia and Norway has a major grant for a two year EU project: SEMPOC (Simulation Exercise to Manage Power Cut Crises).

SIG members have also published several papers in journals and conferences proceedings. Regrettably, there weren't any papers about Security in ISDC'08. We will come back stronger in the next year conference!

Jose J Gonzalez, Jose M. Sarriegi, Marieke Klaver


Swiss Chapter

The Swiss Chapter consists of researchers, educators, consultants, and practitioners in the corporate and public sectors. Approximately 120 people currently receive our emails. In late 2005 we introduced a membership fee whereas we granted a discount to members of the International System Dynamics Society. To date twenty persons have paid the membership fee for 2008. The activities of the Swiss Chapter include:

  • Chapter meetings at least four times a year. The number of participants in chapter meetings has been around ten ever since we first met in 2003 (although there are distinct oscillations). In chapter meetings we usually combine a presentation about system dynamics in action with the discussion of organizational issues.
  • Ph.D. round table for students in the field of system dynamics and related disciplines every three to four months. The location of the round table meeting alternates between the University of St. Gallen, University of Lugano, and University of Berne. We have started to broadcast the PhD roundtables via video to other Universities in Switzerland but also interested people outside of the country.
  • Additional, occasional activities involve enhancing academic and consulting competencies as well as educational programs.
Swiss Chapter Group Photo
Swiss Chapter Meeting at the 26th System Dynamics Conference in Athens, Greece

Special activities in 2008 included:

  • Continuous update of our completion of our homepage.
  • The presentation of the Swiss chapter at the special chapter and SIG poster session at the ISDC in Athens.
  • Members of the Swiss Chapter have created several session reports for the ISDC. The reports can be found in the conference section of this newsletter.
  • A workshop about Strategy Dynamics has been organized at the University of St. Gallen. It was attended by practitioners as well as researchers with the objective to model possible future developments of the Swiss Chapter of the SD Society.

Stefan Groesser and Thomas Beck


Latin-American Chapter Sixth Annual Meeting
(Sexto Congreso Latinoamericano de Dinamica de Sistemas)

The Latinamerican Chapter will hold its sixth annual meeting in Santiago de Chile from October 22nd through 25th. The event consist of an open symposium on energy markets and on systemic management, about 50 papers in plenary and parallel sessions, posters, workshops and a beer game session. Due to the content of submitted work, there will be 5 groups of sessions: management, economics, education, energy and simulators. The workshops are about system dynamics modeling (with vensim), systemic management and agent-based modeling. Presenters come from Spain, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. The detailed program and other information are available here. After the meeting, a full report will be posted at here.

Martin Schaffernicht

UK Chapter Annual Gathering

The UK Chapter's Annual Gathering will be held at London South Bank University on 12 and 13 February 2009 - please note the dates in your diary and look out for further news! It is planned to repeat last year's successful PhD Colloquium.

Applications for Awards: Applications can now be submitted for the two awards presented by the UK Chapter as follows:

The Steer Davies Gleave System Dynamics Prize: The prize is for the best piece of work that applies system dynamics to a problem of wide public interest in the UK. The work should demonstrably improve understanding of the problem by, for example, clarifying the definition of what is at issue and allowing candidate solutions to be formulated and tested.  

The Student Prize: The UK Chapter of the System Dynamics Society awards an annual prize for the best piece of student work in system dynamics during a given year. This includes a dissertation for an undergraduate or postgraduate (Master's) degree or a published paper from a PhD (but not a full PhD thesis). It is hoped that this will help to foster the continued growth of system dynamics in the UK especially among younger people, to give public recognition to good work and to give the winner the chance to meet other workers in the field.

Additional information including contact details for applications, together with closing dates, are on the Chapter website.

Brian Dangerfield

Participatory Modeling SIG/ Chapter "To-Be"

This is a short report on the first face-to-face session of the Participatory modeling Special Interest Group/ chapter 'to-be' at the 2008 SD conference in Athens. The session was proposed by Aldo Zagonel and chaired by Krys Stave and Etiƫnne Rouwette (Aldo excused himself due to a schedule conflict). The aims of the session are:

  1. to see what the interest of the participants in participatory modeling is;
  2. how a SIG/ chapter 'to be' can help in meeting participants' needs;
  3. which activities how a SIG/ chapter 'to be' should be undertaking to meet these needs.


The session started with a round of introductions of the 16 people present, followed by a brief summary on the history of the participatory modeling group. Aldo Zagonel took the initiative to start a list-serve which is operational since October 2007. There is an option to form a SIG or chapter using together with people subscribed to the listserve and others who are interested. SIGs and chapters are (somewhat) formal groups within the System Dynamics Society that bring together parties around a particular theme (SIG) or region (chapter). The advantage of starting a SIG or chapter would be that there is a recognizable group within the society for participatory modeling, which ideally contributes to an ongoing stream of activities on this theme. However, a SIG or chapter should answer the needs of at least a number of people in the SD community if it is to have some continuity, which is part of the reason to organize this session.

Interest in participatory modeling
After a round of introductions the group in which participants explained how they were involved and interested in participatory modeling. There was a wide diversity in interests, including for instance knowledge elicitation techniques for model construction, modeling with groups of managers and experts and negotiation support.

Purpose of a SIG/ chapter
Aldo expected the SIG/ chapter 'to be' to offer a forum for questions, a literature repository and an opportunity to meet other people interested in participatory modeling. The participants were asked which other purposes a SIG/ chapter 'to be' might serve and listed the following:

  1. to group sessions on group model building (GMB) together in the conference program;
  2. to convene special sessions on GMB, similar to the health care SIG;
  3. to increase knowledge on what is happening in this area;

At this point a discussion started on the meaning of participatory modeling. In a broader sense everything a system dynamicist does is participatory modeling, but this is probably not what we mean by that term. One participant proposes to use the term knowledge elicitation if the aim is to gather information for model construction; only if the purpose is to change something, for instance to create co-learning, the term participatory is appropriate. Another reaction is that the ethos of co-learning is what differentiates participatory approaches from other forms. Group involvement in modeling can be seen as a negotiation process. There is a wide variety in what consultants do in their practice, and we should be more explicit in defining what we do. Relevant distinctions are for example whether the approach is based on System Dynamics or on Problem Structuring Methods (PSMs). There is an overlap of our approach with action science, but we also should point out the differences. Another participant sees the contribution of System Dynamics more in the phase of solution generation than in the first phase of problem definition. Finally, a proposal is put forward to determine how participatory modeling is distinct from other approaches by looking at the phenomena involved in modeling projects: use of causal loop diagrams or other types of models, change in mental models, facilitation, techniques used. One of the chairs offers to moderate a discussion on goals of participatory modeling, participants involved and techniques used.

The discussion is summarized by grouping terms together in the following figure.


The horizontal axis describes the type of modeling used, with on one extreme knowledge elicitation and on the other co-learning. The vertical axis depicts the resulting ownership of the process and result (model), with at its extremes individual and group ownership. Participatory approaches are located in the upper right hand corner. Participants discuss whether implementation of results is more likely in certain quadrants of the figure than in others. The conclusion is that the skills of the facilitator and the techniques used have more impact on implementation than the dimensions included in the figure.

The participants agree that a separate meeting on participatory modeling at the 2009 conference is a good idea. This meeting could be on Sunday before the conference (preferably not overlapping with the health care SIG meeting) or in a session on Thursday or Friday after the conference. Other proposed activities include:

  1. initiate another special issue of System Dynamics Review on group model building;
  2. convene work in process related to participatory modeling in a special session at the 2009 conference;
  3. exchange video recordings of modeling sessions;
  4. receive feedback on session designs or modeling questions;
  5. start a Wiki (similar to the health care SIG);
  6. propose a definition of participatory modeling, group model building and other central terms.

Further steps
The session chairs conclude that there is enough interest to continue working on a Participatory modeling SIG/ chapter. A number of proposed activities will be taken up by one or more of the people present:

  1. Moderate a discussion on goals of participatory modeling, participants involved and techniques used;
  2. Ask experienced group model building facilitators if they are willing to facilitate a workshop at the 2009 conference;
  3. Write a concept paper on different elements of and approaches to participatory modeling. One of the aims of this paper is to propose a definition of terms as suggested above.

If anyone else wants to add ideas or activities, take up one or more of the activities proposed, or wishes to change anything in this report, please send a mail to the listserve or to

Etienne Rouwette

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