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

21 July 1996

Cambridge Center Mariott

Cambridge, Massachusetts USA

In Attendance.


David Lane (Vice President - Publications), John D. W. Morecroft (President), Alexander L. Pugh, III, (Vice President - Finance), Michael J. Radzicki (Secretary), George P. Richardson (President Elect)

Policy Council:

Lou Alfeld, David Andersen, Bob Eberlein, Erik Larsen, Michiya Morita, Sauwakon Ratanawijitrasin


Dao-Hoon Kim, Hironori Kurono, Ralph Levine, Paul Newton, Roberta Spencer

1. Call to Order.

The meeting was called to order at 5:22 PM by President Morecroft.

2. Secretary's Report.

Mike Radzicki moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion "to approve the minutes of the February 28, 1996 meeting of the Policy Council." The motion passed.

3. Nominating Committee.

Bob Eberlein (for Khalid Saeed) moved and George Richardson seconded a motion "to appoint Mike Radzicki, Peter Milling, and David Andersen to the Nominating Committee." The motion passed. President Morecroft asked the Committee to see if it could arrive at a slate of candidates by the July 24th meeting of the Policy Council.

4. Future Administration of the Society.

President Morecroft argued that, as the Society has grown and as the composition of its membership has become more international, the need for a professionally staffed Society office has become more acute. He asked that the Council determine a way to move forward on this issue before the end of the 1996 conference.

The discussion then turned to an "invitation" to prepare a proposal to host a new, professionally staffed, Society office, that had been circulated by President Morecroft prior to the Policy Council meeting. A copy of this "invitation" is on file with the Society Secretary. Morecroft noted that he had sent the invitation to five "senior" persons at academic institutions, whom he thought would be both willing and able to produce a serious proposal. When asked why he limited his selection to five persons, Morecroft noted that he had considered, and informally contacted, a number of others, but that they had all (as he had anticipated) declined to submit a proposal. Moreover, in the original letter of invitation he had requested additional suggestions. One, Jac Vennix of Nijmegen, had been provided and Jac is now included in discussions about the next steps in the process.

With regard to the five persons Morecroft had formally contacted, two had declined their invitations. Three persons (David Andersen of SUNY Albany, David Lane (representing the UK Operational Research Society), and Paal Davidsen of the University of Bergen (Norway)) had expressed an interest in the invitation and done preliminary investigations and/or wrote draft proposals. Andersen and Lane were prepared to report on the status of their proposals. President Morecroft, however, postponed the presentations until the next meeting of the Council because Paal Davidsen was not in attendance.

Before moving to the next item of business, the Council was asked to consider two important issues associated with a change to a professionally staffed Society office.

The first is that, since the Society is incorporated as a non-profit organization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, if the Society office is moved out of state, the Society will have to reincorporate as a non-profit organization within the jurisdiction of its new home. This may or may not be an important consideration.

The second issue concerns the transition from the current, volunteer-based, Society office to a professionally staffed office. Executive Director Julie Pugh will need a lot of help during the transition, both administratively and physically (e.g., moving all the old conference proceedings volumes out of her attic). Thought must be given to how Julie can be provided with help.

5. Members' Perceptions of the Society.

President Morecroft noted that, during the previous year, he had received several criticisms from Society members who are unhappy about the Society's priorities. The criticisms can be placed into two categories of member perceptions:

  1. The Society's MIT bias.
  2. The broad image that the Society casts in academic circles.

Morecroft then read selected passages from letters he invited from established members who hold critical views.

In terms of the Society's perceived MIT bias, the correspondents noted that seven out of the ten Society officers, and five out of the twelve Policy Council members, have strong MIT affiliations. Further, they noted that some members feel that MIT-trained people usually win the Forrester Award and that the style of system dynamics modeling deemed "correct" is that which is taught at MIT. Morecroft balanced these remarks by pointing out that having the field associated with MIT is not entirely bad, given the world-class status of the university.

In terms of the broad image that the Society casts in academic circles, the correspondents noted that the Review is judged by some to be "academically light;" that some feel that there is an overt attempt to "give" consultants space in the Review for articles; and that the Society has not adequately exploited the growth that has occurred in the field.

A discussion then ensued with respect to the issues Morecroft had raised. Many ideas aimed at addressing the problems were put forth (e.g., a three year campaign by senior members of the Society to submit their "best" papers to the Review). The consensus was that, although the Council is, and in many cases has been, aware of the problems, and has done things to try and solve them (e.g., during the late 1980s it changed the way candidates for the Policy Council are determined to ensure a more geographically-diverse slate of candidates), if members are unhappy, more action must be taken.

As a first attempt to address the Society's perception problems, Bob Eberlein moved and George Richardson seconded a motion that "the Society strive to hold a third Policy Council meeting each year, and to postpone major decisions until the summer meetings." The motion passed.

President Morecroft charged Bob Eberlein and Mike Radzicki with the task of investigating the possibility of holding the third yearly meeting of the Council over the Internet. He also charged Mike Radzicki and David Lane with the task of investigating whether the Vice President - Member Activities has formal jurisdiction over Society chapters. Morecroft's rationale was that the Society should show that it regards chapters (which are essentially non-MIT affiliated) very highly by making sure that a Vice President is responsible for assisting them and bringing their concerns before the Policy Council. Radzicki and Lane were asked to report at the next Policy Council meeting.

6. Adjournment.

Erik Larsen moved and Sauwakon Ratanawijitrasin seconded a motion "to adjourn the meeting." The meeting was adjourned at 7:05 PM.

Respectfully submitted.

Michael J. Radzicki