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

4 February 1998

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In Attendance.


David F. Andersen (Vice President - Finance), Yaman Barlas (President), Robert L. Eberlein (Vice President - Meetings), Alexander L. Pugh, III (President Elect), Michael J. Radzicki (Secretary), George P. Richardson (Past President), Henry B. Weil (Vice President Member and Chapter Activities)

Policy Council:

Jay W. Forrester (Founding President)


Nan Lux, Khalid Saeed, Roberta L. Spencer (Executive Director), John D. Sterman

1. Call to Order.

The meeting was called to order at 10:12 AM by President Barlas.

2. Informational Items.


  1. Report of the Vice President - Finance: David Andersen distributed copies of his 1997 Vice President - Finance Report and summarized its contents for the Council. The report contains five tables. Andersen's comments vis--vis each table were as follows:


    Table 1 - Profit and Loss Statement: This table comes right off of the Society's books for 1997. It reports that the Society had $132,127 in income and $43,144 in expenditures. While this is technically true because the Society runs its accounting system on a cash basis, the Society does not do that well when proper "adjustments" are made (see Table 3).


    Table 2 - Comparative Balance Sheet 12/31/96 to 12/31/97: This table shows that the Society's total assets declined during the year from $413,555 to $200,094. This decline in assets is explained by the fact that the Society paid out the Gordon Brown Fund to the Creative Learning Exchange in 1997. These figures are not audited and there is at least one error in how the investments are being reported. The balance sheet will be corrected upon audit.


    Table 3 Actual and Adjusted Income and Expenditures 1996-1997: This table patches together lots of stuff and tries to "adjust" for the cash nature of the Society's books. Whereas the Society's 1996 books showed a loss of $3,630 when "adjustments" are made, the Society actually made around $63,039 in 1996 (because the Society Administration for 1997 was prepaid in 1997 and the 1996 conference income was posted in early January of 1997. Similarly, although the Society's books show an actual net income of $75,921 in 1997, the Society only made a "profit" of $7,299 when proper adjustments are made. This is very good news. This means that during the first year of operation of a paid society, Society funds were not drawn down. Indeed they went up slightly.


    Table 4 - 1998 Budget Compared to 1997 Adjusted Expenditures: This table presents a budget for the Society for 1998. It shows that for 1998 the Society will run a deficit. This projected deficit is due to the Home Office intending to take on support for the Conference, replacing some volunteer help with paid help, and budgeting a modest amount for the Society's electronic presence (although the precise amount of the funding required is not yet known).


    Table 5: 1998 Budget Broken Down by Cost Centers: This table looks at three cost centers for the Society: Running Its Conference, Selling Products, and Core Operations in Support of Members. The bottom line of this analysis is that sales of products will net $11,254, the conference will probably net a small amount - $2,516 - after staff support is taken into account, and the Society's core operations of member services will continue to run a deficit of around $16,247. Overall, the Society will be near break even with this budget - most likely the Society will post a small deficit in 1998. Again, this means that the first two years of funded administration will probably turn up in the black overall


  2. Executive Director's Report: Roberta Spencer distributed copies of her Winter 1998 Executive Director's Report and summarized its contents for the Council. In brief, things are going well at the Society's office in Albany, but Roberta needs help to keep up with all the work. Roberta's additional work load is primarily due to the tasks associated with the transition of the Society's principal office to Albany, increases in the sales of beer game boards and printed materials, and the additional responsibilities taken on by the Society vis--vis hosting the annual conference.


  3. Update on the 1998 Conference: Roberta Spencer distributed copies of an Interim Report on the 1998 conference that had been prepared by Joel Rahn. In brief, things are going well in preparation for the 1998 conference. Mike Radzicki noted that the Society's Requirements for Hosting the System Dynamics Conference document needs to be revised to reflect the new role the Society's principal office plays in hosting the annual conference.


  4. Update on the 1999 Conference: Roberta Spencer distributed copies of an interim report on the 1999 conference prepared by Raymond Harbridge. In brief, preparations for the 1999 conference are going well. David Andersen suggested that the Council empower him to negotiate with Raymond Harbridge the financial terms, and the responsibilities of the Society's principal office, for the 1999 conference.


  5. Update on the 2000 Conference: Mike Radzicki distributed copies of a letter from Paal Davidsen outlining a proposal from the International Simulation and Gaming Association to co-organize conferences in Bergen, Norway in the year 2000. In the letter, Davidsen asked the Council to advise him how to respond to the proposal.

    The consensus of the Council was that it is okay to host the conferences consecutively but that it is not okay to merge the conferences or host them simultaneously.


  6. Report from the Japanese Chapter: Mike Radzicki distributed copies of a report from the Society's Japanese Chapter describing the recent election of three new board members. President Barlas asked Mike Radzicki to thank Hironori Kurono for the report and for the excellent job he has done in preparing the Japanese Chapter's web site.


  7. Italian Seminar on Small Business Growth: Mike Radzicki distributed copies of a short report by Carmine Bianchi describing a seminar on small business growth being put on by the Society's Italian Chapter.

3. Action Items.


  1. Approval of the Minutes of the 18 August 1998 Meeting: Bob Eberlein moved and Yaman Barlas seconded a motion that: "the minutes of the 18 August 1997 Policy Council meeting be approved." The motion passed.


  2. Approval of the Minutes of the 21 August 1998 Meeting: Bob Eberlein moved and David Andersen seconded a motion that: "the minutes of the 21 August 1997 Policy Council meeting be approved." The motion passed.


  3. Approval of the Society's 1998 Budget. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion that "the Society's 1998 Budget be approved." The motion passed.


  4. Empowering the Vice President - Finance. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion to: "empower the Vice President - Finance to negotiate the financial terms, and the responsibilities of the Society's principal office, for the 1999 conference in New Zealand." The motion passed.


  5. Travel Funds for the Secretary. Mike Radzicki (for Khalid Saeed) moved and David Andersen seconded a motion that: "the Society Secretary's travel expenses for the annual conference be paid for by the Society."

    Khalid Saeed argued that the Society Secretary plays a special role in putting together and conducting Policy Council meetings and that his or her continuous presence at the annual conference, which also contributes to "institutional memory," can be made more likely by paying his or her way to the conference.

    Henry Weil suggested that, as an alternative, the Society could offer a half-price travel grant to any Society officer who wished to travel to the annual conference.

    Jay Forrester wondered why the Secretary should qualify for funds but not, say, the Vice President - Finance or the Editor of the Review?

    Bob Eberlein argued that it makes sense for the Society to pay for the Executive Director to attend the conference because she works for the Society. Further, it makes sense for the Society to pay for the President to attend the winter Policy Council meeting because he or she is not expected to be in the New England area during the winter (the President is expected to be "in the area" during the conference and thus his or her travel to the conference is not funded). Lastly, officers are expected to attend Policy Council meetings and the annual conference at their own expense due to their commitment to the Society. They should not expect compensation or funding in return for their service.

    Yaman Barlas argued that it would be easier to defend funding the Secretary to travel to the winter Policy Council meeting because universities don't fund these sorts of trips. They do, however, fund trips to the conference.

    David Andersen noted that the issue of institutional continuity should not be minimized. The Society Secretary has historically provided this continuity.

    At this point a vote was taken and the motion failed. However, David Andersen noted that the real issue is probably not funding for the Secretary to travel to the conference per se, but rather funding to assist the Secretary in the running of his or her office during the year. Yaman Barlas asked Khalid Saeed to prepare a proposal asking for funds to assist the Society Secretary that can be considered at the summer Policy Council meetings.


  6. Empowering the Secretary to Sign Contracts Between the Society and SUNY Albany. David Andersen moved and George Richardson seconded a motion that "the Society Secretary be empowered to sign, with the approval of the Administrative Committee, all contracts entered into between the Society and the State University of New York at Albany." The motion passed.


  7. Approving the Dates for the 1999 Conference. Mike Radzicki moved and George Richardson seconded a motion that: "the 1999 conference be held in New Zealand from Tuesday, 20 July 1999 to Friday, 23 July 1999, as proposed by Raymond Harbridge." The motion passed.

4. Discussion Items.


  1. Replacement of Policy Council Members. Mike Radzicki noted that three members of the Policy Council had either been elected officers (David Andersen and Yaman Barlas) or retired (Geoff Coyle). He wondered what, if anything, should be done to fill the three vacated seats on the Council and reminded everyone that the Society ByLaws require a Policy Council of from 12 to 16 members.

    The consensus of the Council was that this matter should be brought before the nominating committee and that the replacement members of the Council could be determined at the summer Policy Council meetings.


  2. Policy Council Meetings via Teleconferencing. Speaking for Magne Myrtveit, Mike Radzicki brought up the idea of looking into the possibility of holding the winter Policy Council meetings via teleconferencing. The reason for looking into this is that it is very difficult for many Council members to attend the winter meetings due to their geographic location.

    George Richardson wondered if Magne could provide an expanded view of how he envisioned holding the electronic meetings.

    David Andersen described an experimental way of conducting group meetings via email that is being developed by a colleague at SUNY Albany. The method involves a facilitator organizing the flow of information and requiring responses in a certain format, within a certain time.

    Mike Radzicki wondered if David Andersen could get his colleague to use the Council as a "guinea pig" and facilitate one of its meetings with his technique. Andersen said that he would see if his colleague is interested in working with the Council.


  3. Formalizing the Process of Conference Site Selection. Yaman Barlas said that this summer he'd like to institute a more formal process of selecting the annual conference site. His current plan involves a two-stage process that would begin with a one page preliminary proposal submitted to the Council two years prior to the year the conference is to be held. This preliminary proposal would contain both a preferred (two years prior to the conference) and a second choice year for hosting the conference.

    The second stage of the process would involve the Council evaluating all of the preliminary proposals that are submitted in light of the Society's rotational rule and other criteria. The Council would then ask a subset of all the people submitting preliminary proposals to submit full proposals.

    Bob Eberlein suggested that the new system include a set of rules that tell the Council what to do when no acceptable preliminary proposals have been submitted. He also suggested that the Council should plan four years in advance, not two.

    George Richardson suggested that another approach to the conference site problem is to rotate the conference between Boston and London every year, period.

    Yaman Barlas suggested that he and Vice President - Meetings Bob Eberlein draft a proposal on the topic for submission to the Policy Council at the summer meetings.


  4. Strengthening Our Ties with Related Fields. Yaman Barlas noted that the Society as a whole has not done a good job of advertising its conferences, and publishing in, non-system dynamics journals. He said that he will address this issue in his presidential address this summer.


  5. The Official Name of the Field. Yaman Barlas wondered if the Society could somehow get its best practitioners to always use the name "system dynamics" in their publications. Among other things, this would enable electronic searches for system dynamics papers to yield better results. On the other hand, he wondered if it would be better to change the official name of the field (for example, to "behavioral feedback models") so that it is more distinct (the term "system dynamics" is used by many groups such as engineers, computer scientists, and system scientists).

    Jay Forrester responded that any name can cause confusion. Thus, we should all just use the name "system dynamics."


  6. System Dynamics Review. The Council took up the issue of the current state of the System Dynamics Review. The general sentiment was that, due to the absence of an editor's report, there was very little current information to base a discussion on.

    Mike Radzicki pointed out that, in previous years, former Vice President - Publications David Lane had wished to prepare reports that incorporated issues pertaining to the Review as subsets of all Society publication issues and that, consequently, the editor of the Review should not prepare a report.

    The overall sentiment of the Council was that Vice President - Publications Eric Wolstenholme should tell Graham Winch that it stood ready to help with the Review and that, contrary to recent past practices, the Council would very much like to receive an editor's report at its summer and winter meetings. The editor's report should contain, at a minimum, a description of the article backlog and an update on the activities of the associate editors.

    The Council also asked President Barlas to convene an electronic meeting of the Publications Committee and charge it with the task of creating a set of recommendations aimed at correcting any current problems with the System Dynamics Review. President Barlas agreed to do this and will present the Committee's recommendations to the Policy Council at its next meeting.


  7. Letter from Erik Mosekilde. The Council received a copy of a letter from Erik Mosekilde arguing that paper conference proceedings should be replaced with a book of paper abstracts and/or a web version of paper abstracts. Among other things, this would give authors an incentive to submit their papers to the System Dynamics Review.


  8. Selling Reprints of System Dynamics Ph.D. Theses. Eric Meltz of Paradigm, Inc. submitted the suggestion that the Society consider selling reprints of system dynamics Ph.D. theses. George Richardson pointed out that all of these theses are currently available through University Microfilms in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


  9. Creating an International Student Chapter of the Society. Yaman Barlas reported that one of his former undergraduate students who is now a graduate student in system dynamics has proposed creating an international student chapter of the Society. The sentiment of the Council was that this would be a good thing and that Yaman should encourage her to do so.

5. Adjournment.

Bob Eberlein moved and George Richardson seconded a motion that: "the meeting be adjourned." The motion passed. The meeting was adjourned at 3:33PM.

Respectfully submitted.

Michael J. Radzicki


Last modified: November 03, 2000