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

29 March 2000

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 (Past President), Michael J. Radzicki (Secretary), Jac Vennix (President)

Policy Council:

Jay W. Forrester (Founding President), John Heinbokel, Ginny Wiley,


David Packer, Khalid Saeed, Roberta L. Spencer (Executive Director), John Sterman, Vedat Diker

1. Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 10:15 AM by President Vennix.

2. Informational Items


Report of the Vice President - Finance. David Andersen presented his 2000 (Winter) Report of the Vice President - Finance. A discussion on the difficulties of funding the Society's professional staff followed. The Society's revenue essentially comes from five areas:


  1. sales of the beer game


  2. sales of back issues of the System Dynamics Review and conference proceedings


  3. member dues


  4. the Society's annual conference


  5. Society sponsorships

Since beer game sales are falling, member dues returned to the Society are limited, and the 1999 New Zealand conference did not return a large amount of revenue to the Society, there is little new revenue this year to pay for the Society's professional staff. One possible area of revenue growth is Society sponsorships. Revenue could also be raised by the Society taking over more of its membership functions from John Wiley and Sons and then retaining a higher percentage of its member dues.


Executive Director's Report. Roberta Spencer delivered her 2000 (Winter) Executive Director's Report.


System Dynamics Review Editor's Report. Mike Radzicki read Graham Winch's System Dynamics Review Editor's Report. The report stimulated discussion in two areas:


The journal's low backlog of articles.


The need for more detailed information from the Executive Editor so that better decisions can be made vis--vis the journal's backlog and other issues.

Regarding the journal's backlog, the sentiment of the Council was one of concern. A low backlog generates pressure to accept poor articles, which in turn lowers the journal's quality and further reduces the number of excellent submissions.

Jay Forrester asked about what was being done to increase the number of submissions to the journal. One reply was that it is difficult to get people to submit articles to the Review because articles published in the Review do not carry a lot of weight during tenure and promotion decisions. Bob Eberlein noted that it therefore follows that senior faculty should be the ones publishing in the Review and that an effort should be made to convince the tenured, full professors, in the field to submit their work.

David Andersen commented that there is currently no forum for addressing the problems with the journal.

The general sentiment of the Council was that the Publication Committee should be charged with the task of aggressively investigating solutions to the journal's problems. In addition, the Council felt that more information about the journal's operations is necessary for solutions to be found. This information should include such things as the number of articles submitted over time, the percent of articles accepted over time, and the average length of the delays in the system (e.g., the average time it takes for an article to go from submission to first review and back to the author) over time.


Report from John Wiley and Sons: Mike Radzicki read a report from Diane Taylor of John Wiley and Sons. The main issue raised by the report and discussed by the Council involved ways in which Wiley's electronic presence might be coordinated with the Society's electronic presence. As an example, the Council discussed whether the availability of downloadable models on Wiley's web site would in any way conflict with the material on the Society's site.


Report from the Society Webmaster: Jack Pugh presented a report on the planned merger of the Society and Policy Council web sites and on the enhancements that are planned for the merged site.


Update on the 2000 Conference. Bob Eberlein summarized a report on the preparations for the 2000 conference in Bergen, Norway, submitted by Conference Chairman Paal Davidsen.


Update on the 2001 Conference. Bob Eberlein summarized a report on the preparations for the 2001 conference in Atlanta, Georgia, submitted by Conference Chairman Nathan Forrester. He emphasized that Nathan is unwilling to assume any personal financial risk and thus the Society must bear all of the financial risk associated with putting on the conference.


Update on the 2002 Conference. Bob Eberlein provided a summary of the "short" proposals that had been submitted for the 2002 conference. He reminded the Council that it had to vote to invite the authors of one of them to submit a "long" proposal for final consideration. Eberlein said that he will provide the invited winning authors with a preliminary budget document that will help them give the Council financial projects based on an optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic conference headcount.

According to Eberlein, two short proposals had been received to date: one from the Italian Chapter and one from the Chinese Chapter. The Italians proposed hosting the conference in Palermo. The Chinese proposed co-hosting the conference in Shanghai with the Japanese Chapter.

Eberlein argued that it would probably not be wise to select the Chinese proposal because it was unlikely that a conference in Shanghai would return a reasonable sum of money to the Society. He also argued that Shanghai is too close, geographically and time-wise, to New Zealand and the New Zealand conference. He did feel, however, that a proposal from the Chinese Chapter might be more favorably received in the future if it were aimed toward the 2004 conference.

Given the arguments he had just put forth, Eberlein urged the Council to invite the Italian Chapter to submit a long proposal.


Chapter Reports. Nan Lux updated the Council on the latest news from the Society's chapters and interest groups. Her report included the following news items:


Japanese Chapter. Elected a new slate of officers.


Italian Chapter. Very active. It has been running conferences and has its own web site.


Chinese Chapter. Very active.


Peruvian Interest Group. Active, but not yet ready to be a chapter.


Canadian Interest Group. Active, but not yet ready to be a chapter.


Indian Interest Group. Active, but not yet ready to be a chapter because they do not have at least ten members who are also members of the international Society.


Student Interest Group. Active, but not yet ready to be a chapter. The main focus of the student interest group is a web site. There is a need for a faculty advisor to promote continuity, because students come and go.


Mexican Interest Group. Fizzled.

Nan also pointed out that there are interest groups in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, and Russia/Ukraine, and that she'd love to see a chapter in Spain.

3. Action Items


  1. Motion. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion that the Society accept with thanks the final resolution of the New Zealand conference as outlined in my December 1999 e-mail to the Administrative Committee.

    Discussion: The New Zealand conference had strong attendance, but still closed out with an operating loss. The conference sponsors volunteered to absorb all of the conference losses, yielding a small net profit for the Society. The New Zealand sponsors have done the Society a great service delivering such a successful conference and protecting the Society from a financial loss (as had been originally projected).

    The motion passed unanimously.


  2. Motion. David Andersen moved and Jack Pugh seconded a motion that an unclassified and unexpended surplus of $9,543 in the contract with the University at Albany be rolled over and taken into account in any possible year-end adjustment and in budgeting for 2001.

    Discussion: The Society's activities at the University at Albany were less than anticipated in the revised budget. To a large degree this was due to the fact that the University could not make retroactive salary adjustments for Society employees, even after we had budgeted for them (we made retroactive payments outside of the University contract). Rather than adjust the contract with the University twice, I suggest that we hold on to this balance and roll it into a future contract for 2001.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  3. Motion. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion that the Society relax its stated policy of not paying more than 10% in indirect overhead costs to its sponsoring host.

    Discussion: In an attempt to streamline Society operations at the University at Albany, we moved our primary account to another account number. University administrators reclassified the Society's operations so that we are now being charged 16% indirect costs. I recommend that the Policy Council vote down this motion and direct me to fix this problem with the University at Albany's reclassification of our activity.

    The motion was unanimously defeated.


  4. Motion. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion that the Society initiate a new contract with the University at Albany for a second three-year term.

    Discussion: When the University at Albany initially contracted for Society administrative operations, it was only for a limited three-year period. I believe that these arrangements have worked well and recommend that the Society seek to reestablish its contract for a second three-year period. As was the case for the past three years, the contract would be for a specific amount for 2001 and would require specific action by the Policy Council to approve future years.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  5. Motion. John Heinbokel moved and Jack Pugh seconded a motion that the Policy Council ask the Italian Chapter to submit a long proposal to host the 2002 conference in Palermo, Italy and that the Chinese Chapter be asked to submit a short proposal for the 2004 conference.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  6. Motion. Bob Eberlein moved and Jack Pugh seconded a motion to direct the Administrative Committee and the Executive Director to look into the possibility of the Society taking over more of its membership functions from John Wiley and Sons, in return for receiving a larger percentage of its member's dues.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  7. Motion. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion to direct Jack Pugh and David Andersen to look into alternative investment opportunities for the Society's stock of cash.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  8. Motion. David Andersen moved and Jack Pugh seconded a motion to authorize the Executive Director to purchase a PC and some office equipment for the Society office.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  9. Motion. Mike Radzicki moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion to authorize the Executive Director to purchase a speaker phone so that Policy Council meetings could be held via teleconference.

    Discussion. The debate on this motion focused on the issue of whether Policy Council members who could not attend the winter meeting would participate in a teleconference of the meeting, given the time zone differences, and if they had to pay their own long distance phone charges. The consensus, backed by some informal e-mail survey data, was that most members would not participate.

    The motion was unanimously defeated.


  10. Motion. Mike Radzicki moved and Jack Pugh seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the 20, 21, and 22 July 1999 Policy Council meetings that were held in Wellington, New Zealand.


  11. Motion. Jack Pugh moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion to appoint Quifan Wang, George Richardson, and Peter Milling to the 2000 Nominating Committee.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  12. Motion. Mike Radzicki moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion to approve Jack Pugh as Society webmaster.

    The motion passed unanimously.


  13. Motion. Jack Pugh moved and Nan Lux seconded a motion that Paal Davidsen (as Chair), George Richardson, Khalid Saeed, Mike Radzicki, John Sterman, Jac Vennix, Yaman Barlas, and John Morecroft be appointed to a Society Curriculum Committee.

    Discussion. Jack Pugh pointed out that this committee represents a continuation of one of one of the initiatives he put forth during his year as Society President. The task of the committee would be to catalog existing system dynamics curricula from around the world and then define an "ideal" system dynamics curriculum.

    Jay Forrester suggested that this committee take a look at MIT's guided study program in system dynamics, which will no longer be offered, and determine whether the Society should begin to offer it.

    The motion passed unanimously.

4. Discussion Items


  1. Removing the role of conference program chairperson from the President-Elect. Jac Vennix asked why the President-Elect was automatically designated as the conference chairperson and wondered if the two jobs should be disconnected.

    Mike Radzicki responded that the original intent of the motion that linked the duties was to allow the President-Elect to lead the Society for more than one year. More specifically, the Society President is, presumably, chosen because he/she is someone who can lead the Society forward. However, one year is a very short time for any individual to significantly influence the Society's direction. As a result, the President is really given a three year term.

    During the President's president-elect year, he/she is in charge of the academic program at the Society's annual conference. This enables him/her to put a "stamp" on the conference by selecting the theme of the conference, inviting the keynote speakers, selecting the plenary session papers, etc. The President-Elect can also put forth any new conference initiatives that he/she feels are important, such as (say) inviting a significant number of participants from another field. The President-Elect also serves as an ex-officio member of the Nominating Committee and thus has a hand in selecting his/her successors.

    During the President's presidential year, he/she presides over the Society, its meetings, its conference(s), and any other activity where the Society has a presence. He/she is supposed to communicate a vision and direction for the Society via a speech at the annual conference and via the President's Newsletter.

    During the President's past-president year, he/she chairs the Nominating Committee where he/she can again influence the choice of his/her successors. The Past-President can also use this year as an official Policy Council member to follow-up on any initiative he/she began during his/her presidency.


  2. New Society Priorities. This discussion centered on the best way to solicit more information from the Society's general membership on new priorities for the Society. The consensus was that a discussion at the Society's general business meeting at the summer conference in Bergen would be the best way to do this.


  3. Distribution of Jay Forrester's Tapes. Jay Forrester offered to provide the Society with a collection of tape sets that capture the Ph.D. seminar system dynamics lectures he delivered in the fall of 1999 at MIT. These tapes include:


    September 10: System Dynamics and its Beginning


    September 17: World Dynamics


    September 24: Corporate Growth


    October 8: Nonlinearity


    October 22: Theory Underlying Modeling


    October 29: Group Modeling


    November 5: Confidence in Models


    November 12: The National Model


    November 19: Various Subjects


    December 3: System Dynamics in Management


    December 10: The Future of System Dynamics

    Each tape set is three hours in length and can be viewed as a stand-alone product. Professor Forrester suggested that some senior people could look at the tapes and, if they are deemed to be okay, the Society could begin to sell them. Ginny Wiley suggested that Pegasus could offer the first tape in its catalogs and say that the rest of the tapes are available from the Society. Nan Lux suggested that the tapes be showcased at the Bergen conference.

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 Jac Vennix at 2:37 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael J. Radzicki


Last modified: February 17, 2001