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Minutes of the Meeting of the Policy Council of the System Dynamics Society

10 February 1999

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, Massachusetts

In Attendance.


David F. Andersen (Vice President - Finance), Robert L. Eberlein (Vice President - Meetings), Nan Lux (Vice President - Member and Chapter Activities), Alexander L. Pugh, III (President), Michael J. Radzicki (Secretary)

Policy Council:

David Ford (via webcast), Jay W. Forrester (Founding President), Paul A. Langley (via webcast), Frank Maier (via webcast),


Deborah Andersen, Paal Davidsen (via webcast), George P. Richardson, Khalid Saeed, Kent Rissmiller, Aldo Zagonel Santos, Roberta L. Spencer (Executive Director), Alicia L. Turner

1. Call to Order.

The meeting was called to order at 10:10 AM by President Pugh.

2. Informational Items.


Webcast. Mike Radzicki noted for the record that, for the first time ever, the Policy Council meeting was being broadcast over the internet so that Policy Council members who were unable to travel to WPI could participate in the meeting.


Report of the Vice President - Finance. David Andersen presented the Society's 1997 audited, and 1998 unaudited financial statements.

The 1997 audited statements are now the official financial statements for the Society for the year 1997 and replace the 1997 unaudited statements.

The 1998 unaudited statements replace the 1998 interim statements presented by Andersen at the 1998 summer Policy Council meeting in Quebéc City, Canada.

Andersen highlighted for the Council important points from each of the financial statements. These points included:


Budgeted Versus Actual Statement. Both actual and budgeted amounts are presented. The budget projection for the annual conference was significantly off due to an underestimation of the extent to which the Society's principal office now participates in conference preparations.


Profit and Loss by Class Statement. The Society divides its activities into three classes: Conference, Sales, and Core Operations. Overall net income for the Society in 1998 was $57,485. Although the Sales ($48,748) and Conference ($26,731) classes were in the black in 1998, the Core Operations class (-$28,241) lost money. This means that revenue from the Society's annual conference, and from the sale of its products, are subsidizing its core operations.

An additional point made by Andersen was that, since the Society's accounting system is currently run on a cash basis, and income from the 1997 conference was received in 1998, the Society's 1998 conference income item on the statement looks greater than it actually was and is thus misleading.


Profit and Loss Comparison. According to this statement, the Society had a 37% decrease in net income in 1998, relative to 1997. However, since 1997 contract payments to the University at Albany, and 1997 payments in support of the System Dynamics Review, were made in 1996 and do not show up on the 1997 portion of the statement, the drop in net income was much less than the statement suggests.


Balance Sheet Comparison. The Society had an increase in total assets from $201,518 to $260,731 from 1997 to 1998 (on an unaudited basis).


Executive Director's Report. Roberta Spencer distributed copies of her Winter 1999 Executive Director's Report and summarized its contents for the Council. The report covered the areas of Membership Services and Recruitment, Society website, Sales, Society Sponsorship, Society Finances, Conferences, and Chapters.


Report of the Executive Editor of the System Dynamics Review. Mike Radzicki read a report from Graham Winch, Executive Editor of the System Dynamics Review. In the report, Winch makes four main points:


There is currently a trend of increasing article size. As a result, section editors have been asked to encourage authors to be as concise as possible and to discourage the inclusion of full listings of model equations in final versions of articles.


The Review's article backlog situation is now very healthy.


Carmine Bianchi of the Universities of Bari and Palermo has joined the Review's Editorial Board.


The Review is now electronically accessible via the internet (www.interscience.wiley.com).

A discussion then ensued about the wisdom of not publishing full model listings in the Review. The following opinions were expressed:


All model equations must be attached to a paper presenting model runs. Papers not presenting model runs need do not necessarily need to include equations. For example, a paper presenting some insights from a model via causal loop diagrams, and not presenting any runs from the model, would not need to include the model's equations. If space in the Review is scarce, a model's equations can be placed on the Society's web site, so they are available to other scholars.


A partial listing of a model's equations might be placed John Wiley's web site and linked to a full listing on the Society's web site.


The decision to list a model's equations should be left up to the author. If they choose to not reveal a model's equations, they have to "take their lumps" with the Review's referees.


As the insights from consulting models are less general, and hence less transferable, than those from research models, making their equations available is not important.


The Society must be sensitive to the proprietary issues surrounding consulting models. Good consulting work must be published, even if this occasionally means holding back model equations.


The Society currently has no archival capacity. Thus, storing model equations on the Society's web site is not yet feasible.

The consensus of the Council was that it is important to make a model's equations available to other researchers, if a paper based on the model presents runs from the model. Further, the best way to accomplish this is probably by storing the equations on the Society's web site. The Council also felt that the editors of the Review should not discourage authors from listing the equations of their models, but rather encourage them to do so. To alleviate page constraints, model equations can be placed on the Society's web site, when the site has enough capacity to store them.

The discussion then turned to a lack of numerical data in the Executive Editor's report. The consensus of the Council was that the Executive Editor should regularly include data on article backlog, submission rates, acceptance rate, etc. with his report. Presenting these data should not be difficult as the Executive Editor must assemble them anyway in order to run the journal.


Update on the 1999 Conference. Roberta Spencer presented an update on the 1999 conference to be held in Wellington, New Zealand.


Update on Other Conferences. Bob Eberlein provided the Council with updates on the 2000 through 2007 conferences. Special attention was given to the 2000, 2001 and 2002 conferences.

In the case of the 2000 conference, Eberlein reported that Paal Davidsen has updated him on preparations for the 2000 conference and is concerned that, since the ex officio conference chair is the President-Elect, and since the President-Elect in 2000 (Ali Mashayekhi from Iran) may not be able to easily participate in preparing the conference program, conference preparations may not run as smoothly as possible. David Andersen suggested that, a way to alleviate the problem is to name David Ford program co-chair. The sentiment of the Council was that this was a good idea.

In the case of the 2001 conference, Eberlein reported that a preliminary proposal to host the conference in Atlanta has been received from Nathan Forrester. Eberlein's initial impression was that the proposed accommodations, at Emory University's Conference Center Hotel, were a little "pricey," but that breakfast and lunch were included in the price. He was also a bit concerned that the Conference Center Hotel was a little far from Atlanta's downtown area, but noted that public transportation to and from the downtown area is good. Lastly he noted that the Conference Center Hotel has "only" 350 rooms, and that this might not be enough capacity to accommodate the conference. His recommendation was that Nathan be encouraged to refine the proposal and report back to the Council in Wellington this summer. The sentiment of the Council was that this was a good idea.

In the case of the 2002 conference, Eberlein reported that a preliminary proposal to host the conference in Shanghai has been received from Quifan Wang and Saburo Kameyama.

The discussion then turned to general issues surrounding the Society's annual conference.

David Andersen noted that the Society should try to run the 2001 conference by following the new guidelines for the relationship between the Society's principal office and conference organizers, "from the ground up" (i.e., budgeting techniques, etc.). He also noted that, at present, no firms have agreed to post bonds guaranteeing that the Society will not take a financial loss at the 1999 conference and that this presents an increased risk for a conference organizer. He concluded that the Society needs to negotiated the contractual agreement for the 2001 conference with Nathan Forrester as soon as possible.

Bob Eberlein asked the Council for its opinion about holding the 2002 conference in Shanghai. The main concern is, of course, attendance. Attendance tends to be lower for conferences in Asia and this hurts the growth of the field and results in less revenue to the Society. Since the Society's principal office subsidizes its core operations with revenues from the annual conference (and from sales), the revenue question is not trivial.

In response to Eberlein's query, various ideas were put forth. A permanent three-city rotation between Boston or New York, London, and Tokyo was suggested, as was a permanent rotation consisting of a greater number of cities. Permanently holding the conference in Boston was also suggested.

The sentiment of the Council was that one of the most important things to consider when selecting a conference location is the number of enthusiastic system dynamicists (including student system dynamicists) in the area. The energy and volunteer person hours from these people is crucial for a successful conference.

With respect to the one (Boston), three (Boston/New York, London, Tokyo), or larger permanent city rotation idea, it was pointed out that this would mean that the system dynamicists in those cities would always be the persons responsible for putting on the conference. Although the Society's principal office is now handling more of the conference work, it is not doing all of it. Thus, the duties of the system dynamicists in the permanent cities would have to be established and made reasonable. In particular, fund raising has frequently been important for a financially successful conference. Would the system dynamicists in the permanent host cities be pressured to go to the same sponsors, year after year, and try to secure donations? Furthermore, the area of highest risk for the conference organizers is the hotel reservation. If minimum attendance requirements are not met, the organizers are on the line for higher per room fees. In the absence of firms willing to guarantee the conference, this is too much of a risk to ask anyone to bear, particularly year after year.

Based on the Council's discussion Eberlein announced that he would ask for more preliminary proposals to host the 2002 conference via the SD-List on the internet.


Update on the Society's Electronic Presence. Mike Radzicki reported that he has ordered a Dell PowerEdge 2300 server that will host the Society's web site. The cost is $6,279. When the machine arrives, he will merge the Society web site from SUNY Albany with the Policy Council web site and add a substantial number of new features, including:


acrobatized versions of all system dynamics conference proceedings.


the System Dynamics Bibliography.


system dynamics models that can be run through a browser via Powersim Metro (donated by Powersim, Inc.).


the code for models published in the System Dynamics Review.


the Society mailing list, including e-mail addresses.

Paul Langley suggested that a frequently asked questions section be added to the new site.

Radzicki also noted that the Society has already reserved a domain name: www.systemdynamics.org.

At this point, Nan Lux pointed out that the server she runs for Jay's Road Maps program is approximately the same as the one on order and that her experience is that we will have to continuously upgrade the system.

David Andersen asked that he be regularly given accurate requests for funds so that he can budget correctly for the continued improvement of the site and the Society's electronic presence.


Report of the Vice President - Member & Chapter Activities. Nan Lux noted that she had just taken office five weeks ago and thus did not have a great deal of time to prepare a report for the Council. Nevertheless, she was able to report that she had already sent e-mail to all of the Society's Chapters asking for updated information, and that she intends to prepare two reports for the Council each year. She will also work with people who wish to form chapters and try to get more members for the Society (she knows some people who could be members and presently are not).

In terms of new chapters, Lux reported that there are presently several groups of system dynamicists around the world who are working to form chapters. One is an international group of students, one group is in Mexico, one is in Argentina, and one is in Canada. She also noted that the Indian chapter of the Society is quite active (e.g., they sponsor lectures, courses, and conferences), but is not yet formally recognized because they do not have ten members in good standing of the System Dynamics Society, Inc. She suggested that she and the Council need to work on getting the chapter formally recognized.

David Andersen suggested that Nan Lux be given a modest budget to help her get the Indian chapter formally recognized. Jay Forrester objected, however, as he felt this would open the door to requests from other potential chapters for subsidies.

Bob Eberlein suggested that Nan Lux propose modifications to Society Policy 8, which stipulates the requirements for becoming a chapter, so that the Indian and Chinese chapters can be formally recognized. Changes to the Society's Policies can be made by the Policy Council.


Revising the Requirements for Hosting the System Dynamics Conference document. Mike Radzicki reminded the Council that, due to the new relationship between the Society's principal office and conference organizers, the Society's Requirements for Hosting the System Dynamics Conference document must be revised. Indeed, the Administrative Committee was asked to do this at the 1998 summer Policy Council meeting in Quebéc.

The document is to be merged with the new, generalized, "Memorandum of Understanding" document that was originally drafted by the Administrative Committee for the Quebéc and New Zealand conferences. Further, according to Society Policy 6, Section 1, this document is to be titled "Manual For Meetings."

Eberlein responded that the Committee would complete this task prior to the next Policy Council meeting in New Zealand.

3. Action Items.

President Pugh noted that there was no quorum at the meeting and thus any motions "passed" by the Council have to be re-voted on by the entire Council via e-mail. Mike Radzicki was instructed to organize the vote in the weeks following the meeting.


Approval of the Minutes of the July 20, 21, 22, 1998 Meetings. Bob Eberlein moved and Jay Forrester seconded a motion that the minutes of the July 20, 21, 22, 1998 meetings of the Policy Council be approved. The motion passed.


Approval of a Merit Raise for the Executive Director. Bob Eberlein moved and Jay Forrester seconded a motion that the salary of the Society's Executive Director be increased to $31,500 per year, retroactive to 1 January 1999.

Eberlein noted that, at the last Policy Council in Quebéc, the Administrative Committee was asked to look into a merit raise for the Executive Director and make a recommendation to the Policy Council. The Committee did some research into the compensation of professional administrators in organizations similar to the System Dynamics Society in the Albany, New York area, and found the median salary to be $42,000 per year. As the Executive Director's job is a three-quarter time position, however, her salary will be raised to three-quarters of $42,000 or $31,500 per year.

Eberlein went on the argue that the 2000 budget, which is to be submitted to the Policy Council this summer in New Zealand, should include funds that allow the Executive Director's position to be expanded into full time position.

David Andersen noted that the 2000 budget should also include a merit raise for the Executive Director and a cost of living adjustment to her salary.

After Andersen's comments, a vote was taken and the motion passed.


Adjusting the 1999 Budget for the Society's Electronic Presence. Bob Eberlein moved and Nan Lux seconded a motion that the Society increase its 1999 budget to buy the Secretary out of his teaching responsibilities for one term so that he can set-up the Society's new web server and merge the Society and Policy Council web sites.

Khalid Saeed noted that the amount of money required to buy the Secretary out of one course would be approximately $4,500 and that he could find out the exact amount in the near term. The motion passed.


Approval of a New Society Chapter in the United Kingdom. Roberta Spencer circulated a draft constitution from Geoff Coyle to form a new Society Chapter in the United Kingdom and asked the Council to approve it. Bob Eberlein reminded the Council that the usual procedure is to have the Vice President - Member & Chapter Activities convene a committee and examine the proposal to ensure that it conforms to the Society's policy on the creation of new chapters and then make a recommendation to the Council.

David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion that the proposal to form a new Society chapter in the United Kingdom be accepted, conditional on its review by the Vice President - Member & Chapter Activities for conformity with the Society's policy on the creation of new chapters and its subsequent revision, if necessary. The motion passed.

4. Discussion Items.


Changes to the Society's Bylaws and Policies. Mike Radzicki passed out a list of recommended changes to the Society's Bylaws and Policies. He advised the Council that he had carefully read through the Society's Articles of Organization, Bylaws, and Policies and identified sections in the latter two documents that were inconsistent with the Society's current practices. He argued that the Society must either change its practices so that they conform to the Bylaws and Policies, or change the Bylaws and Policies so that they conform to the Society's current practices. Finally, he noted that his document also contained recommended changes to the Bylaws and Policies that he felt would bring them in line with the Society's current practices.

After acquainting themselves with Radzicki's document, the members of the Council suggested a two-stage process of altering the Bylaws and Policies to make them consistent with the Society's current practices. In the first stage, Council members present at the meeting would carefully read through Radzicki's list and flag any sections of the Bylaws and Policies that have already been changed, but (apparently) have never been officially recorded. In the second stage, Radzicki would post the revised list of proposed changes on the Policy Council web site and solicit input from the entire Policy Council. Changes to the Society's Policies can be made with a vote of the Policy Council via e-mail. Changes to the Society's Bylaws require a debate at a meeting of the Society's general membership and a subsequent surface mail ballot.


Results of the Asynchronous Meeting to Decide Expenditure Priorities for the Growth of the Society. Mike Radzicki reminded the Council that, at the last Policy Council meeting in Quebéc, the Administrative Committee was charged with the task of assembling a list of recommendations for spending some of the Society's surplus funds on initiatives that will grow Society membership, and presenting the recommendations to the Council at its 1999 winter meeting.

David Andersen reported that, in late 1998 and early 1999, the Administrative Committee conducted an "asynchronous meeting" over the internet in order to arrive at its list of recommendations. The meeting was hosted by John Rohrbaugh, a social psychologist at SUNY Albany. Twenty-eight people participated -- approximately half of the people who were invited to participate.

The asynchronous meeting was conducted in three stages. In the first stage, participants were invited to post any recommendations they wished to Rohrbaugh's web site. In the second stage, participants were asked to group the master list of recommendations into categories. In the final stage, participants were asked to apply a subjective weight to each recommendation. David Andersen handed out a document that summarized the results of this process.

A discussion followed. Most of the comments were directed toward the asynchronous meeting process, rather than toward any specific recommendation.

David Andersen made "a pitch for the process, if not for the results." He further said that John Rohrbaugh was concerned by the lack of participants in the process and that Rohrbaugh suggested that the Society contact those who were invited to participate and chose not to, and find out why they did not participate.

George Richardson argued that the Society needs to think seriously about how to run electronic conversations in an accurate and reliable manner, regardless of whether Rohrbaugh's particular technique is judged to have been effective.

Jay Forrester argued that a broader group of participants is necessary for an electronic meeting such as Rohrbaugh's to be effective.

Khalid Saeed was disappointed that the electronic meeting did not generate any grand ideas.

David Andersen pointed out that the electronic meeting was a demonstration project and that it needs to be formally evaluated. He asked Roberta Spencer to hand out a questionnaire, prepared by John Rohrbaugh, to those at the meeting who participated, and a separate questionnaire to those at the meeting who failed to participate. He noted that these questionnaires were being sent to everyone involved with the project and urged all participants to fill them out and send them in to Roberta Spencer.


Future Areas for the System Dynamics Society. Jack Pugh argued that, in his view, the Society had met its original goals and thus has to set new goals. As a result, he felt that the Administrative Committee's recommendations for spending some of the Society's surplus funds were premature.

As a way of starting the dialogue that will eventually lead to a new set of Society goals, Pugh handed out the following initial set of possible goals:


Developing college curriculum (WPI)


Teaching of SD in K-12 schools (The Creative Learning Exchange)


Promoting the exchange of experiences among practitioners in industry (The Gathering)


Defending SD against the onslaught of incompetent consultants (System Dynamics Institute)


Promoting systems thinking broadly (Pegasus)

He noted that the list is tied to things that are already going on in the field and that it must be discussed and extended. Finding the appropriate vehicle for discussing and extending the list is the next step.

Jay Forrester then made several points:


MIT's e-mail guided study system dynamics program is not on Jack's list.


K-12 system dynamics students will one day know all of the material that is currently in the traditional two course graduate system dynamics sequence, so there needs to be a discussion of what system dynamics instruction will look like beyond the first two courses.


There's a difference between growing the Society and growing the field.


Jack's list is a list of things that are already going on. We need, however, to think about things that are not presently going on.


Bob Eberlein's system dynamics e-mail list should be used to generate ideas, comments, etc. Jack Pugh should be the moderator/facilitator. John Rohrbaugh's process should not be used.


Professional Accreditation of System Dynamics Professionals. Mike Radzicki reminded the Council that, at the 21 July 1998 meeting of the Policy Council in Quebéc, a discussion of Lou Alfeld's proposal urging the establishment of a procedure for professionally accrediting system dynamics practitioners was postponed to a future meeting of the Council.

Alfeld's proposal was discussed and the sense of the Council was that:


Accreditation is premature. It should be discussed only after the field of system dynamics has a medical school-like curriculum in place. Currently there is basically only a standard two course curriculum in place.


The Society consists mostly of academics. Consequently, accreditation would not be of too much interest to them.


Agreeing on standards would be difficult.


If an agreed-upon exam were put together, only those who didn't need to take it would be able to pass it.


It would probably cost $2,500 to take the exam. Who would be willing to pay this fee?


It would be difficult to make everyone happy. A test for academics might be too hard for consultants. A test for consultants might be too easy for academics.


Lack of Participation in the Webcast of the Policy Council Meeting. Jay Forrester urged the Council to look into why so few Policy Council members participated in the webcast of the meeting. Were there technical problems? Was the time of day too inconvenient?


5. Adjournment.

Bob Eberlein moved and Jay Forrester seconded a motion that: "the meeting be adjourned." The motion passed. The meeting was adjourned at by Jack Pugh at 3:06 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael J. Radzicki


Last modified: February 17, 2001