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

23 July 1996

Cambridge Center Mariott

Cambridge, Massachusetts USA

In Attendance.


Jim Hines (VP Meetings), David Lane (VP Publications), John D. W. Morecroft (President), Alexander L. Pugh, III (VP Finance), Michael J. Radzicki (Secretary), George Richardson (President Elect)

Policy Council:

David Andersen, Yaman Barlas, Geoff Coyle, Isaac Dyner, Jay Forrester (Founding President), Saburo Kameyama, Erik Larsen, Michiya Morita, Erling Moxnes


Paal Davidsen, Andy Ford, David Ford, Hironori Kurono, Ralph Levine, Peter Milling, Joel Rahn, Roberta Spencer, John Sterman, Diane Taylor, Quifan Wang

1. Call to Order.

The meeting was called to order at 7:12 PM by President Morecroft.

2. Future Administration of the Society.

President Morecroft asked that the Council decide on a process for arriving at a decision, by early November 1996, on the future administration of the Society. He then asked each of the three persons who had responded to his invitation to host a new, professionally staffed, Society office (David Andersen of SUNY Albany, Paal Davidsen of the University of Bergen (Norway), and David Lane (representing the UK Operational Research Society)), to hand out any written information they wished to provide to the Council and then give a short report. Copies of the proposals submitted by Andersen, Davidsen, and Lane are on file with the Society Secretary.

David Andersen argued that, regardless of where the Society office is moved to, it should be for a trial period of four years. If, after a fourth year review, both the Society and the institution hosting the office are satisfied with the state of affairs, the Society office can remain where it is. Among the criteria the Society and the host institution should use to judge whether to continue their relationship is whether or not the funds for the staff position are self-sustaining. At SUNY Albany's Center for Policy Research, the cost of a half time staff member is US$30,000 per year. Sustaining this amount of yearly revenue would probably require the Society to solicit more sponsors. Andersen noted that Roberta Spencer (in attendance) was the person chosen by SUNY Albany to be the Society's professional staff member, should SUNY's Center for Policy Research be selected as the host institution.

Andersen then reminded the Council that:

  1. during the transition, Executive Director Julie Pugh will need a lot of help and the Council should include this in their planning.
  2. no matter where the Society locates its office, there should be someone there with the authority to make important decisions, enter into contracts, etc.
  3. the Society is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and, if the Society's principal office is moved elsewhere, there will be tax, and other legal, implications.

In response to Andersen's argument that the staff position be financially self-sustaining after 4 years, Yaman Barlas wondered if the Council should see what other, similar-sized, societies have done, and determine whether there is a threshold number of members a society must attract before it can sustain a professional staff member.

In response to Andersen's point that moving the Society's principal office outside of Massachusetts will have tax, and other legal implications, Jack Pugh pointed out that the Society can have an administrative office in any location, while maintaining its legal address in Massachusetts.

Paal Davidsen reported that the University of Bergen's proposal was similar to SUNY Albany's, albeit with one important difference. More specifically, Davidsen argued that the Society must begin to reach-out electronically via the internet and that his students could be hired to work on developing and maintaining a Society Web site very inexpensively. The University of Bergen has the software, hardware, and personnel to successfully host the Society office.

Davidsen went on to note that, regardless of where the Society locates its office, the Council should draw-up a prioritized list of tasks to be completed during the transition. He also suggested that the Council consider splitting-up the running of the Society office between SUNY Albany and the University of Bergen, with SUNY Albany concentrating on marketing the Society, and Bergen concentrating on creating and maintaining a Web site, and overall record keeping.

In response to the idea of splitting the tasks of the Society office between SUNY Albany and the University of Bergen, Jack Pugh pointed out that the reason Julie Pugh took over as Executive Director was that the tasks of running the Society were originally split between three voluntary groups, and that this sort of structure had occasionally led to problems.

David Lane started his presentation by stressing that he was presenting the results of an "exploration" that he was asked to undertake by President Morecroft, and not a "proposal." In other words, he was presenting information he had been asked to gather vis--vis making the Society office part of the UK Operational Research Society office, and he was not necessarily advocating that the Society do it.

In sum, Lane reported that the UK Operational Research Society was open to the idea of joining forces, but wanted to know precisely what the System Dynamics Society wanted out of the merger. Further, Lane felt that many of the potential problems that had been discussed during the meeting could be addressed by the UK Operational Research Society. As an example, the System Dynamics Society could reincorporate as a nonprofit organization in the UK without much problem, although the System Dynamics Society would have to pay a fee. Lastly, Lane noted that there could be many advantages to joining forces with the UK Operational Research Society related to its size, prestige and power.

Jay Forrester cautioned that the System Dynamics Society would be small in comparison to the UK Operational Research Society, and hence that the System Dynamics Society might not get the attention the Council feels it deserves, nor fair very well during disputes. The consensus of the Council was that the Society should not join forces with the UK Operational Research Society.

President Morecroft thanked Andersen, Davidsen, and Lane for their work and asked if the Council was ready to move forward on the issue. He noted that Jac Vennix of the University of Nijmegen had said that he would be willing to submit a proposal to host the Society office if it would not hold up the process, and he thus wondered if the Council should wait for further proposals. The consensus of the Council was that the process should move forward immediately. Thus John Morecroft moved and John Sterman seconded a motion that "an executive committee consisting of John Morecroft, Bob Eberlein and Jack Pugh, gather more information about the location of a professionally staffed Society office and make a recommendation to the Policy Council by November 5, 1996." The motion passed. President Morecroft suggested that a vote on the recommendation could be taken in November electronically, over the internet, with confirmation ballots submitted via fax or mail.

3. Society Sponsorship.

Jay Forrester noted that there are many potential new sponsors of the Society (especially the major consulting firms), but that the Policy Council has been lax about going out and soliciting them. Further, the Council does not make a sufficient effort to re-enlist our existing sponsors each year. Council members who know of potential sponsors should contact them directly or pass the information to Julie Pugh. The consensus of the Council was that Society sponsorship is an area in which a profession staff member could make a valuable contribution.

4. Nominating Committee.

President Morecroft announced the slate of candidates for Society officers and the Policy Council that had been assembled by the Nominating Committee. The candidates, who in the absence of challengers and the subsequent need for an election, will take office in 1998 are: President Elect: Alexander L. Pugh, III (USA), Vice President at Large: Roger Hall (Canada), Vice President - Meetings: Geoff Coyle (UK), Policy Council: David Ford (Norway, USA), Anjali Sastry (India, UK, USA), Frank Maier (Germany), and Carmine Bianchi (Italy).

David Lane moved and Jay Forrester seconded a motion that "The slate of candidates be accepted." The motion passed.

5. 1998 System Dynamics Conference Site.

Vice President - Meetings Jim Hines announced that the conditional conference organizer of the 1998 conference is Joel Rahn of Laval University in Quebec City, Canada. Rahn noted that Laval University does not have a large system dynamics presence, so he will not have access to a lot of student or administrative assistance. As a result, hosting the conference is contingent upon:

  1. administrative support from the Society.
  2. someone other than Rahn handling the job of Program Chairperson.
  3. a Web site being set-up to handle conference registration and information
  4. the signing of an agreement stipulating that Laval University will not be held responsible for any financial loss generated by the conference.

The consensus of the Council was that Rahn's conditions could be met. President Morecroft thanked Rahn for his tentative agreement to host the conference.

6. Report of the Vice President - Publications

Vice President - Publications David Lane handed out a report he had written, as well as a report written by Review Editor Graham Winch, who could not attend the meeting. Copies of these reports are available for viewing on this web site. Lane then summarized the contents of the reports for the Council. Among the topics discussed in the reports, three were given significant attention by Lane:


  1. The current backlog of articles at the Review is low. When supplemented by regular special issues, the current flow of articles is just sufficient to sustain four issues per year.


  2. The Vice President - Publications will revitalize an agreement reached with Pegasus Communications in 1994 to regularly publish the contents of, and subscription information for, the Systems Thinker in the System Dynamics Review, in return for the contents of, and subscription information for, the System Dynamics Review being regularly published in the Systems Thinker.


  3. The Vice President - Publications has arranged for the Review to become a "supplementary journal" that has a selection of its abstracts published in International Abstracts in Operations Research.

A discussion then ensued on the general topic of generating more submissions to the Review. Much of the discussion focused on motivating the Review's Associate Editors to continuously solicit papers, especially those presented at the Society's annual conference. After a time, the consensus of the Council was that this topic would be more appropriately discussed by the Review's Editorial Board. Mike Radzicki suggested that the Editorial Board may wish to consider communicating regularly over the internet.

Next, Vice President Lane asked President Morecroft to send a letter to each of the Society's Chapters asking them to regularly send copies of all of their publications to the Vice President - Publications. Morecroft agreed.

Finally, Vice President Lane moved and George Richardson seconded a motion to "Thank Graham Winch, Andy Ford, Jac Vennix, Paal Davidsen, Joel Rahn, Yaman Barlas, Erich Zahn, the Associate Editors and the referees, for their work on the System Dynamics Review during the past year." The motion passed.

7. Report of the Japanese Chapter

Saburo Kameyama (President of the Japansese Chapter) and Hironori Kurono (International Liaison) presented a report on the status of the Society's Japanese Chapter. The text of this report is on file with the Society Secretary. The Japanese Chapter currently has 89 members and 11 corporate members. To date, the Chapter has hosted 4 activities that attracted approximately 15 attendees each. The Chapter is sponsoring a national economic modeling project, has just published the first issue of its Chapter journal, and has translated the beer game into Japanese (Kameyama and Kurono displayed a Japanese version of the beer game board). A copy of the journal and the beer game board are on file with the Vice President - Publications. President Morecroft praised the Japanese Chapter for a job well done.

8. Report of the Vice President - Finance

As the Society is currently in the middle of its fiscal year and any year-to-date report for 1996 would change repeatedly over the next five months, Vice President - Fianace Jack Pugh handed out copies of the Society's 1994 and 1995 financial reports. Pugh reported that, generally speaking, the Society's finances are in good shape and look similar to those of the past two years.

9. Society Fellows

Due to the length of the meeting, President Morecroft postponed a discussion of Society Fellows until the next meeting of the Policy Council.

10. Old Business

Mike Radzicki and David Lane reported on their investigation into the issue of whether the Vice President - Member Activities has formal jurisdiction over Society chapters. The Society Policies specifically give the Vice President - Member Activities jurisdiction over Society "subdivisions," which Radzicki and Lane interpreted to be synonymous with "chapters." As a result, Lane moved and George Richardson seconded a motion that "The Policy Council officially interprets the term "subdivisions" in the Society Constitution to be synonymous with "chapters." The motion passed.

11. Adjournment.

George Richardson moved and Erling Moxnes seconded a motion "to adjourn the meeting." The motion passed. The meeting was adjourned at 8:46 PM.

Respectfully submitted.

Michael J. Radzicki