Conference Updates

Only one month remains until the opening of the 35th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The dates are July Sunday 16th, to Thursday, July 20th (with pre-conference events). This is a special conference, not only because 2017 marks the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the field of System Dynamics, but also to honor Jay Wright Forrester, who passed away November 2016 at the age of 98.

"Remembering Jay: A Life on the Frontier. System Dynamics at Sixty"

We remember Jay Forrester, the founder of the field of System Dynamics. From a remote Nebraska ranch to MIT, from servomechanisms to digital computers to System Dynamics, Jay lived his entire life on the frontier. We remember a remarkable man and celebrate a remarkable life of innovation and impact. And, sixty years since Jay founded the field of System Dynamics, we also note how the world has changed. Rapid population and economic growth have created serious environmental and social problems, and bound the world ever more tightly in complex networks of feedbacks. Now, more than ever, solving these problems requires rigorous dynamic modeling and effective methods to help everyone, from senior policymakers to schoolchildren, learn for themselves about the dynamics of complex systems. Fortunately, there has also been astounding progress in the natural and social sciences, in technology, computing, data availability, and other modeling methodologies. These developments create both challenges and opportunities for system dynamics. Therefore, we ask: What would Jay do if he were young today? How would he build on the knowledge, technology, data, and methods we now have to improve the practice of System Dynamics? What must we now do to explore the next frontier?

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday there will be plenary presentations showcasing important work in the field, along with parallel, and poster sessions, making available the most current research, applications, and work in progress. There is a full day of skill-building workshops on Thursday covering a range of topics from basic software use to advanced analysis techniques. The plenary, parallel, and poster presentations of the conference are divided by topic and categorized into fourteen threads. On behalf of the Society, we are pleased to highlight the presentations of the 2017 ISDC:

One of the fourteen threads of presentations at the International Conference of the System Dynamics Society is the Business thread. This thread relates to System Dynamics applications in businesses and organizations including profitability, marketing, competitive dynamics, product launches, project dynamics, and accounting. The Business thread this year will feature nine parallel presentations divided among the topics of Business Service Management, Technology and Energy, and Strategy. There are also eight poster sessions and three workshops within the thread. (See the list of workshops.) In addition, the Business thread schedule includes “A Fireside Chat with Ken Cooper,” taking place during the Wednesday morning break.

The Economics thread at the Cambridge Conference relates to the understanding of economic dynamics including macroeconomics, microeconomics, trade, business regulation, economic development, economic policy, insurance, and risk management. The Economics thread will feature the plenary presentation Applying a Multi-Player Game Theoretic Framework to Modeling the Global Capital Markets, by Stephen Cucchiaro. As stated in the Abstract, “Conventional finance theory is based on the idea that market prices incorporate all known market information, therefore changes in market prices are considered to move randomly. However, System Dynamics approaches have demonstrated that complex systems of interrelated variables (such as the global capital markets) often produce behavior that may appear to be random, but in fact results from the causal relationships, nonlinearities, feedback loops and time delays inherent in complex systems.” There will also be three parallels and ten poster presentations. The Economics Chapter Annual Meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday.

The dynamics of and policy for the environment, including climate change, pollution, environmental regulation, and ecology, are explored in the Environment thread. There will be five parallel presentations in the Environment thread grouped under the two topics of Modeling for learning about the climate and Socio-ecological dynamics. Eighteen poster presentations will be featured, as well as the two part workshop, World Energy and En-ROADS Training.

The Health thread presents issues related to health and health care including health policy, health services research, population health, and physiology. There will be three plenary presentations within the Health thread. In the plenary An In Silico Exploration of HIV, Keith Eubanks, Hua Yang, John Kapson, and Kenneth Cooper, discuss the simulation of human biological systems to explore physiological dynamics, disease progression and the impact of potential therapies, with a focus on immune response. The model was used to design a novel therapy for HIV, which was then tested in a real-world clinical trial. Abstract

Also in the Health thread, Radboud Duintjer Tebbens and Kimberly Thompson will present Using integrated modeling to support the global eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases. They discuss the central role of System Dynamics in disease eradication programs, with a focus on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Abstract

The third plenary paper in the Health thread is An Individualized ESA Dosing Regimen for Hemodialysis Patients To Stabilize Hemoglobin Levels in a Target Range, by Jim Rogers, Edward Gallaher and Craig Hocum. Dialysis patients are at high risk of anemia, but the treatment, injections of Erthyropoeitin Simulating Agent (ESA) commonly leads to endogenous and potentially harmful cycles in Hemoglobin levels. Working with clinicians at the Mayo Clinic, the authors developed a System Dynamics model that led to a novel treatment protocol that improves patient outcomes and lowers treatment costs. The authors describe the model behavior, its replication of the clinical issue at hand, and show how the model was used to develop superior policies. They discuss how the new policies were implemented in the host organization, and present results over time. Abstract

There are twelve parallel presentations within the Health thread. These parallels are divided into four topics: Healthcare Innovations and Utilization, Treatment Trajectories and Health Outcomes, Cancer Prevention and Treatment Dynamics, and Population Health Intervention Modeling. The Health thread also has ten poster presentations, and business meetings scheduled for Biophysical System Dynamics SIG and Health Policy SIG.

The dynamics of human behavior in the social environments of families, communities, organizations, culture, and society, including individual and social psychology, are covered in the Human Behavior thread. The Human Behavior thread features four poster presentations. The annual meeting for the Psychology and Human Behavior SIG as well as the workshop titled Modeling Psychological and Sociological Dynamics, are also scheduled in this thread.

Information and Knowledge thread presentations relate to the dynamics of information and knowledge including knowledge management, information systems, social network analysis, research and development, invention, and innovation. Under the topic of Security, Information, and Knowledge Dynamics, there will be three parallel presentations. The thread also includes five poster presentations and the workshop Feedback Rich Model Construction with Powersim Studio.

The Learning and Teaching thread deals with the manner in which system skills are taught and learned including pedagogy, learning experiments, curriculum development, workshop design and interactive activities designed to be part of an educational experience. The paper, Chinese students' mathematical knowledge beats their domain experience and global cognitive styles in stock-and-flow problems, by Liang Qi and Cleotilde Gonzalez, is one of the three plenary papers in the Learning and Teaching thread. The authors present an experiment intended to test whether mathematical knowledge, global/local processing style or domain experience affected SF failure or the use of the correlation heuristic. Abstract A related plenary paper, The Attempt to Boost Stock Flow Performance by Using a General Problem Solving Strategy and a Reappearing Gender Effect, by Vivien Roeder, will be also presented within the Learning and Teaching thread. The author tested male and female participants with stock flow tasks used in prior research, relating understanding of accumulation to the different problem solving strategies used by the participants. Abstract

Marleen McCardle-Keurentjes, Etiënne Rouwette, and Jac Vennix will present their paper, Potential benefits of using a causal loop diagram in group model building: Evidence from a systematic investigation, in the Learning and Teaching thread. The authors present a classroom experiment that tests the value of using causal loop diagrams in group model building. Abstract

The Learning and Teaching thread also has two parallel presentations related to the topic of Innovative Teaching Approaches, and seven poster sessions. A special feature within the Learning and Teaching thread is the DynamiQueST Exhibit, showcased Monday through Wednesday. There are also five workshops scheduled in this thread and the meeting titled, “What's Happening in Pre-College Education in the United States.” (See the list of workshops.)

Contributions to the methodology of System Dynamics, modeling and simulation including model development, model analysis, validation, graphical presentation formats, and computational techniques, are presented in the Methodology thread. In this thread, Thomas Fiddaman and Larry Yeager will present their paper titled Dynamic cohorts: a new approach to managing detail. The authors propose a new method for accurate simulation of aging chains and populations that provides exact tracking of cohorts with a low computational burden. “The approach simplifies the representation of distinct age, period and cohort effects and representation of dynamics other than the aging process, like migration and attribute coflows.” Abstract

Also within the Methodology thread, PJ Lamberson will present Approximating Network Dynamics in Compartmental System Dynamics Models. Prof. Lamberson describes a framework to model contagion in networks (such as disease spread or innovation adoption) developed primarily in theoretical biology, known as a pair approximation or correlation model, that relaxes the perfect mixing assumption of standard compartment models used in epidemiology and marketing yet can be readily implemented using compartment model tools. Two examples are presented to illustrate the approach and its effectiveness. Abstract

There are also five parallel presentations in the Methodology thread under the two topics of Methodology and Integrating Perspectives. The thread also features eight poster presentations, and four workshops, one of which is a two part session. (See the list of workshops.)

In the Operations thread, business and other process operations, including capacity management, quality control, operations management, supply chains, workflow, queuing, and workforce planning, are discussed. There are three parallel presentations featured under the topic of Financial Networks and Operations Management. The Operations thread also has seven poster sessions scheduled.

Issues in public policy including governance, social welfare, equity, justice, political science, urban dynamics, infrastructure, and transportation, are explored in the Public Policy thread. The Public Policy thread has six parallel presentations. These presentations are divided into the two topics of Models Informing Transport Policy (a Transportation SIG Special Session) and Infrastructure. Eleven poster sessions are scheduled in the Public Policy Thread, as well as a meeting for the Transportation SIG.

In the Resources thread, presentations relate to the understanding and management of resources, including energy, electricity, fuels, food, metals and other renewable and nonrenewable resources. The plenary presented in the Resources thread is Impact Model for US-China Clean Energy Research Center for Building Energy Efficiency, by Robert Nachtrieb, David Fridley, Wei Feng, Nihan Karali, Nina Khanna, Nan Zhou, Carolyn Szum, and Jimmy Tran. The authors developed a System Dynamics model integrating new construction, retrofits, technological developments and policies to promote energy efficiency in the building sector in China. The model is being used by senior policymakers in support of the US-China bilateral agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both nations. Abstract

The second plenary in this thread, Simulating the long-term or the short-term? Dare we do both?: Lessons from Policy Simulations in the Electric Power Industry, will be presented by Andrew Ford. Accurate modeling of electric power systems is difficult due to the need to relate different time scales, from hourly, daily, and seasonal variations in generation and load to investment delays and capital lifetimes measured in years or decades. Methods to simulate long-term and short-term dynamics emerging from three studies of the power industry are presented. These methods will prove useful for those who wish to include different time dynamics in their simulations. Abstract

The Resources thread has six scheduled parallel presentations under the two topics of Agriculture, Water, and Energy Sustainability; and Innovations in Energy Dynamics. There are also ten posters presented and two workshops: Technical issues in modeling of energy and water problems and Creating Interactive Simulations Online with Forio Epicenter. The Energy Special Interest Group Annual Meeting and Roundtable is also on the schedule.

The Security thread investigates issues related to security including defense, conflict, military, insurgency and counterinsurgency, social unrest, disaster management, crime, policing, and incarceration. The Security thread will featured a presentation by Ignacio Martinez-Moyano on his plenary paper, Modeling Aviation Security. Dr. Martinez explains the development and impact of a System Dynamics model, the Checkpoint Strategy Simulator, which is used by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to understand and improve management of the challenge of providing security at airports without impeding passenger flow, customer service or citizen privacy. Abstract The security thread will also feature five posters under the topic of Conflict, Defense, and Security. A meeting has been scheduled for the Conflict, Defense and Security SIG.

The Stakeholder Engagement thread is focused on engaging and influencing stakeholders through participatory activities such as group model building, facilitation, facilitated modeling, games, and management flight simulators with emphasis on assessing the impact of the engagement. The thread includes the presentation of six posters and two scheduled workshops: A Decision Lab for Wicked Multi-stakeholder Problems and Exploring the Benefits of an Online Group Model Building Case Study Database.

The Strategy thread involves the development, communication, and implementation of strategy, including strategic thinking, goal definition, and outcome measures for public and private organizations. The Strategy thread features three parallels under the topic of Dynamics of Strategy and four poster presentations.

For a complete list of the plenary, parallel, and poster sessions to be presented at the conference, as well as scheduled workshops and meetings, please see the Draft Program Overview by Thread or the Tentative Schedule, available now on the Society’s website. Links to the abstracts and supporting material submitted by the authors can also be found on these pages.

Wednesday Special Events
Education Day:
What's Happening in Pre-College Education in the United States?

Come talk to the educators who have been working for over 25 years to bring System Dynamics into K-12 education. See how we are following Jay Forrester's support and guidance to encourage critical thinking using SD/ST in schools and classrooms throughout the country. This session will have two components 1) Educators from Tucson, Massachusetts, Oregon, the Waters Foundation and the Creative Learning Exchange to share our accomplishments, hopes and dreams and 2) Practical help with how to get started with students right now. To complement this, please see the posters from the 2017 DynamiQueST event, showing student work, next to the Creative Learning Exchange exhibitor table.

Classic Case Studies in System Dynamics--A Fireside Chat with Ken Cooper"

The power of System Dynamics is proved every day, and over the years SD has had enormous impact. Join Ken Cooper as he looks back at some of the most classic SD cases from over 40 years of consulting. Ken led Pugh-Roberts Associates for many of those years, including working on cases that ranged from courtroom to Boardroom to locker room, from ships and planes to banks and claims. Have a co-branded credit card that provides discounts? Thank SD. Have a favorite football team? SD may have helped yours. Drive a car? Your gas mileage is better because of SD. Concerned over government spending? SD has saved taxpayers billions. Hear and discuss the stories—and the backstories—of
  • The LITTON shipbuilding claim, the first major legal battle resolved by SD modeling.
  • The award-winning FLUOR case, with billion-dollar-plus savings in the avoidance of claims and disputes.
  • The story behind modeling NFL teams to help one owner transform a team into a football dynasty.
  • MASTERCARD, a classic example of strategy modeling that yielded a dramatic turnaround, and transformed an entire industry,
  • and more. Join this informal storytelling of the facts and behind-the-scenes action.

New this year

Convened Discussant Sessions. A set of parallel session will be held on Tuesday morning. No individual papers will be presented. Instead, the session facilitators, all experienced System Dynamics experts, will provide advice to help all authors improve their research and papers. To frame the discussion, the session facilitator will briefly present a synopsis of a number of submissions to the conference, provide feedback on what would need to be done to bring the research outlined to a form that is acceptable for presentation or publication, and lead a discussion on the methodological and other issues relevant to creating and presenting excellent system dynamics research. Sessions will be interactive with questions from the audience. In designing this experiment we seek to provide people with the opportunity to ask experts how to develop their System Dynamics capabilities and shape their papers for maximum impact, in our conferences and beyond.

At the banquet

The Society will announce the SDS Legacy Campaign. This milestone year presents an important opportunity to look back at our past while securing a bright future for the field through the ongoing mission, outreach, programming, and member achievements of the System Dynamics Society. 60 years of progress... Help secure the System Dynamics legacy for generations to come. Your support of the Legacy Campaign will assist the System Dynamics Society in further promoting and advancing the field through a wide variety of initiatives, including our Scholarship Program, PhD Colloquium, Pre-college Education, Forrester Internship Program, Summer School, Chapters and Regional Conferences. During the conference, take a moment at the “Heritage Area” to record a brief video clip about how your work makes the world a better place or where your story fits into the field’s history.

Pre-conference events

Again this year, there is a pre-conference Summer School! The 2017 System Dynamics Summer School will be held at MIT, July 11-14. All classes will be held on the MIT Campus. The summer school will provide an intense introduction to System Dynamics modeling, from conceptualization through formulation, testing, parameter estimation, and policy analysis. Information about the course offerings, summer school faculty, registration, travel arrangements, lodging and more are on the Summer School website. . Thanks to the generous support of PwC, we are pleased to announce we have awarded a limited number of scholarships for the System Dynamics Summer School at MIT.

Sunday events

Pre-conference events on Sunday, July 16 include the PhD Colloquium, the Policy Council Meeting, the Health Policy Special Interest Group Meeting, the Family-Guests Lounge informational meeting and the University Hosted Welcome Reception including the Newcomer Orientation.

Bringing a guest?

Please share the Family-Guest Lounge information page. Great events are planned with lots of local flavor. The Family-Guest Lounge will offer a place for spouses, significant others, travel companions, and family members to meet, gather and make plans to do fun things in and around the conference site. All guests accompanying conference attendees are welcome to join the Family-Guest Lounge activities. Make new friends, renew acquaintances and make the most of your visit to Boston by joining in the activities. This year’s activities are organized by Linda Hirsch. For details about the planned fun and interesting activities include a boat and foot tour of Boston Harbor Islands, a demo and talk about electronic music, a Salem daytrip, the Seaport district by foot and a Red Sox Baseball Game, please contact Linda at Join the fun!


CONFERENCE “TO DO LIST” for things to take care of and some quick links:

If you have an item to add to this list, please send to

VENUE: Reserve your room early: Note that late July is peak hotel season. To be certain of getting a room, especially if you will arrive before the conference, make your room reservation with the Hyatt Regency Cambridge as soon as possible and definitely no later than June 20th. The Cambridge area is wonderful! For more information on the location, please visit the conference website and explore the “Venue” section.

Please help share conference information with your colleagues! Download and post a conference flyer today.

The System Dynamics world comes together at our annual conference. The conference is an opportunity to interact with the newest faces and the biggest names in System Dynamics, in real time, to learn, share experiences and make connections and friends. We look forward to seeing you in July!

Conference Contacts

    Workshop Chairs
  • Jack B. Homer
    Homer Consulting
  • Hazhir Rahmandad
    MIT Sloan

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The System Dynamics Newsletter is published by the System Dynamics Society.
Editors: Babak Bahaddin, Michael Breslin, Robin Langer, LouAnne Lundgren, Roberta L. Spencer, and Carrie Stickan