President's Newsletter 
Volume 13 - Number 1 - May 2000

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Message from the President

Dear Members: 

First of all I would like to thank my predecessor Jack Pugh for all his hard work during his presidency in 1999. One of the new standards that Jack has set, and which I would like to continue, is to have two President's Newsletters per year. One will be published shortly after the winter Policy Council meeting and the other following the annual conference.

Being president in the year 2000, it almost speaks for itself to look back over the past decades and to assess the accomplishments of the Society so far. The System Dynamics Society was officially founded in 1983, and so it is only about one and a half decades ago that a group of volunteers formulated two audacious top priorities for the new society: supporting a refereed journal and sponsoring an annual conference. And as Jack Pugh pointed out in his presidential address at the New Zealand conference, these two top priorities have in fact been accomplished. We have had an uninterrupted series of annual research conferences since 1983 and our own official journal, the System Dynamics Review, since 1985. Better still, not only have we had our annual conferences, there has also been a steady increase in attendance and the number of papers submitted. With 342 abstracts submitted for this year's conference, Bergen has set a new record.

The continued growth of interest in system dynamics is also expressed in an increase in membership. Particularly in recent years the number of members shows a sharp increase and we are now rapidly approaching 1000 members. Concurrently, the number of Society chapters has been increasing rapidly. Currently there are six regional chapters (China, India, Japan, Italy, UK, Australasia), and several others are under construction including a student chapter, which is especially healthy for the field.

Also, when it comes to the second top priority, considerably more has been accomplished than just establishing a refereed journal. Started as a volunteer activity in 1985, the System Dynamics Review has established itself firmly in the realm of Management Science/Operations Research. Based on information in the Social Sciences journal citation index, the System Dynamics Review should now be considered to belong to standard OR journals in the field, with ratings comparable to Interfaces, EJOR and JORS.

It is clear that significant achievements have been accomplished in roughly one and a half decades. And this is primarily the result of continued efforts of many of our finest members, all on a voluntary basis for many years. But as time progressed and the Society grew larger, the need to think of hiring professional staff to manage Society affairs increased. This was accomplished in 1997 when the Society office was established at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Under the direction of Roberta Spencer, the office has gradually extended its activities and now offers its assistance with a variety of activities as you as a Society member may have noticed. The result has been a further increase in the quality of our services to members which in turn has further speeded up matters for the Society.

Although we seem to be in good shape, there are of course a couple of issues that we have to pay attention to, not only to ensure our continued growth but also to further improve the quality of our work. Let me capture a couple of the most important issues for you. First of all, we have to continually watch the financial health of our Society. As our core operations generally produce a loss, and sales do not produce sufficient income to compensate for this loss, all future conferences will have to generate a sufficient amount of money to support our core activities (see the minutes of the winter Policy Council meeting on the web).

Second, the growing numbers of practitioners and interest in the field creates two potential problems. As indicated by George Richardson in his presidential address at the Istanbul conference, we have not yet accomplished a situation in which the Society provides a 'home' for its four basic constituencies: academic researchers, consultants, practitioners in public/private sector and school educators. Second, the growing number of practitioners may itself attract new practitioners who may have insufficient training in the system dynamics methodology. We have to watch out for what Jack Pugh has called the potential onslaught of incompetent consultants. Education and training is the key issue here. Much has been accomplished with regard to education in the past, but much still needs to be done, particularly with regard to the accessibility of system dynamics at those places where no regular courses are offered. Distance learning may provide solutions here.

Last but not least, we have to rethink our priorities. As stated, the Society has reached a couple of its most important original goals. Other goals (e.g. promoting the growth of system dynamics and improving its practice throughout the world) may not have been reached yet, but we seem to be heading in the right direction. In recent years a couple of attempts have been made to establish new priorities for the Society. One was the asynchronous meeting over the web on expenditure priorities and key investments for the Society (see the Policy Council website at Another was Jack Pugh's request to members to produce priorities, as reported in the September issue of last year's President's Newsletter. Both attempts have led to rather lengthy lists with a large variety of ideas. These ideas will have to be prioritized and choices will have to be made in the short term. In addition, I think the Society could benefit from the formulation of a couple of equally bold, clear-cut challenges for the next 10 years as was done when the Society was first established. Taking this 'priorities' issue to completion is one of my top priorities for this year. Input from members will be much appreciated and I would like to challenge all our members who have ideas on this issue to (e)mail me directly.

This newsletter will further inform you about a number of issues, including news of events, new books by members, the minutes of the winter Policy council meeting, news on the Bergen conference, and news from our sponsors. In particular, I would like to ask you to pay special attention to the issue of changes in our bylaws and policies. For some years now, our secretary, Mike Radzicki, has pointed out that a number of our bylaws and policies do not concur with actual practice. It seems wise that we adapt these bylaws to coincide with how we actually manage things. This can however only be done by an affirmative vote by two-thirds of our members. To that effect you will find this issue addressed within this newsletter.

Looking forward to seeing you all in Bergen,

Jac Vennix
Nijmegen, The Netherlands

University of Nijmengen
Department of Methodology 
PO Box 9104
6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Winter Policy Council Meeting
Secretary Mike Radzicki, Founding President Jay Forrester, President Jac Vennix and meeting host Khalid Saeed


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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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