President's Newsletter 
Volume 14 - Number 1 - April 2001

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Message from the President

Dear Members, 

It is an honor to write as the President to the members of the System Dynamics Society. Ours is a great field that can help us to formulate and understand the crucial and important dynamic problems that our institutions and societies face. Our field can help change the world into a better place to live. 

Mike Radzicki being thanked by President Ali N. Mashayekhi

I would like to start this message by thanking Professor Jac Vennix, our previous President, who led our Society in the year 2000. Jac, with the help of Roberta and the Society office in Albany, improved the quality and format of this newsletter, summarized and refined the priorities of the Society that have been identified by previous Presidents, and added some new dimensions to them. I would also like to thank Professor Michael Radzicki who was the Secretary of our Society for several years and served the Society by allocating much of his time to keeping our house in order. He helped the Society to move forward. I sincerely appreciate Mike's efforts. 

Past Presidents worked to identify Society priorities. As Jac in his presidential address last summer summarized, good teachings, the quality and quantity of our publications, and bridging with other fields have come out as main priorities. As enough time has been spent on distinguishing these priorities, we should now focus more on strategies and activities to implement them. 

Good teaching depends a lot on proper curriculum structure. Fortunately, thanks to Jack Pugh, who initiated the curriculum committee, the committee under Professor Pål Davidsen's leadership is working to make suggestions. I hope Pål can come up with a good suggestive structure that many of us who are teaching system dynamics in different institutes can benefit from. However, although curriculum development is necessary for good teaching, it is not sufficient. We need good teaching materials as well. Although we should be thankful to prominent members like Professors John Sterman, Jac Vennix, Geoff Coyle, and George Richardson for the good books and teaching materials that they have produced, we are far from having sufficient materials to use at all the different levels of teaching system dynamics. Of course, excellent materials have been developed under Professor Jay Forrester in the Road Maps project. Resources that have been developed by software companies are very helpful too. But still many of them stop at the level of the first two introductory courses. We need more texts to facilitate teaching our field. We should encourage our members to produce more textbooks and recognize their efforts by different means, including awards given by the Society. We may even set up an award for good textbooks and teaching materials that people write for teaching system dynamics in recognition of the importance of their work for the field. 

During the last decade, most of our research has been on group model building, knowledge eliciting, learning, and misconception of feedback. Although these are important undertakings, we should not forget that the main strength of system dynamics is helping us to formulate and analyze dynamic problems and suggest elegant policies to improve the behavior of our systems. If we focus on formulation of the crucial dynamic problems that our societies, corporations, governments, and institutions face; if we make good and insightful models to address those problems; if we can come up with elegant policies to create positive changes for the better; and if we can learn more about how to impact the mental models of decision makers to implement the insight that we generate, then we will have good materials to publish. With insightful models and policy recommendations, not only will we be able to publish, but we can also get the attention of different audiences whose main concerns are to improve the performance of the real systems. I believe the initial growth of system dynamics during the 1960's was due to insights and good models that were developed to address some important issues. Growth in the 1990's was also partially due to elegant insights out of lessons from system dynamics modeling, presented skillfully by Peter Senge under the title of "systems thinking." 

I think focusing on important dynamic problems in different areas not only produces good publications, but also lays down the foundation for moving forward towards bridging to other fields. In fact our field is now in a position that should start to produce and accumulate dynamic insight in different fields and areas. In our field, we have done good amounts of work in different areas such as product development dynamics, project management, strategy formulation, service management, health care services, urban dynamics, environmental changes, sustainable development, human resource management, and corporate growth. We should focus on evaluating and deepening our understanding of dynamic issues in these different areas and write about them. When we create insights in different fields, then we will have a solid foundation to get connected to those who are working in those fields. Of course, to deepen our understanding of the dynamic issues in each area, we need to know and understand people who have been working in those areas by using other approaches. By trying to understand the findings of researchers in other fields, by focusing and accumulating our own findings in dynamic issues in different areas, and by interacting with other disciplines, we will be able to bridge to other fields. We can let our field benefit from other scientific endeavors and also enrich other fields with the unique and powerful capabilities of our fields. 

At the end, I would like to express my deep sorrow for the death of one of our prominent members, Professor Dana Meadows. Dana was a great systems thinker, a dedicated teacher, and a person with deep concerns about the system problems that human society faces. We pray for her to be in peace and remember her for her sincere efforts to promote systems thinking and sustainability in the public domain and to see deep systemic problems that our societies face. 

I am looking forward to seeing you all in Atlanta for a productive and exciting conference.

Ali N. Mashayekhi 
Sharif University of Technology

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Roberta L. Spencer, Executive Director
System Dynamics Society
Milne 300 - Rockefeller College
University at Albany – SUNY
Albany, New York 12222 USA
Phone: (518) 442-3865     Fax: (518) 442-3398

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