Minutes of the Meeting of the Policy Council
Of the
System Dynamics Society
23 July 2001
Emory Conference Center, Atlanta, GA

In Attendance


Ali Mashayekhi (President), James Hines (President Elect), Jay W. Forrester  (Founding President), David Andersen (V.P. Finance), Nan Lux (V.P. Members), Robert Eberlein (V.P. Meetings), David Packer (Secretary)

Policy Council:

Jack Pugh (Webmaster), Rogelio Oliva, Ginny Wiley, Carol Francis, Mohammad Mojtahedzadeh, David Peterson, Habib Sedehi,


John Sterman,  Allen Boorstein, Hazhir Rahmandal, Gordon Kubanek, Khalid Saeed, Roberta Spencer, Dennis Meadows, David Ford, Jim Lyneis, Susan Forrester, Eric Zahn, Nathan Forrester, Toru Sustake, Tim Joy, John Morecroft, Peter Milling, Diane Taylor (Wiley), Hazir Ramandan, Sarah Schraff, Erich Zahn, 

Call to Order

President Ali Mashayekhi called the meeting to order at 8:10 am.

Informational Items

Executive Directors Report.  Roberta Spencer reviewed her written report.  She noted that membership is now 737, up from 720 last year and that sales also continue to increase.  Priorities at this time are conference and electronic presence

Report of the Vice President-Finance.  David Andersen reported that the proposed budget for 2002 has a $36,000 deficit.  The Administrative Committee has approved this budget.  The major factor in the deficit is a loss on the conference when home office expenses are allocated.  He believes an issue is the relationship between the Society and the conference activity.  He also noted that the Society has about $240,000 of cash, so a small deficit poses no fundamental threat now.

Bob Eberlein noted that conferences are now professionally run (with home office coordination and support), and that we need to think about consistency, building attendance, and increasing sponsors (now at $33,000).  Jim Hines will explore this in a post conference review.

Jay Forrester noted the long-term success of the Beer Game and suggested looking at other possible products, such as John Sterman’s Long Wave Game.  Allen Boorstein suggested reducing dues but selling System Dynamics Review subscriptions as a way to increase society funding. 

Report on the Survey of Conference Performance.  Sarah Schraf reported the results of the Bergen survey, which recorded participant expectations before and perceptions after the event.  Overall, perceptions exceeded expectations, which is favorable.  One area of concern that appeared was the quality of research in parallel sessions, where perceptions were lower than expectations.  A similar survey is taking place this year, with a shorter format as suggested by participants last year. 

Report of the Vice President Publications.  It was announced (in an email from Eric Wolstenholme) that Brian Dangerfield had been selected by the Publications Committee to be the new editor of the System Dynamics Review, to be ratified by the Policy Council as an action item later in the meeting.

Report of the Webmaster.  Jack Pugh reported on web progress with conference and the Policy Council agenda the major areas of effort.  He described future priorities as adding a bibliography to the site, developing a secure server connection, incorporating the Membership Directory (which could also serve Wiley’s needs), improving site layout (he would appreciate feedback on this), and developing a better theme and artwork.  Jack also noted that the feedback button on the site now works!!

System Dynamics Review.  Graham Winch reported (in abstentia) that the backlog is healthier now, a big improvement with one issue in hand now but there should be two.        

Report of the Publisher of the System Dynamics Review.  Diane Taylor reported the following items:

Academic resource cuts are causing attrition in some areas, but SD/ST interest appears to be rising.

We need to remind subscribers to push their organizations to subscribe.

The growth of Enhanced Access (EALs) is significant. 

Wiley is marketing related groups of Journals.

Electronic access is strong and growing.  Models could be put on the Wiley website.

Tracking article interest can help the editor.

There are more book proposals than ever for System Dynamics and Systems Thinking.

President’s Newsletter Report.  Ali Mashayekhi said the name will be changed to “System Dynamics Society Newsletter”, and that the format for the next one will be similar to the last two issues.  A question was raised as to whether electronic distribution would occur.  A suggestion was made that this publication carry brief reports on conference plenary sessions.

Report of the Vice President-Meetings.  Bob Eberlein reviewed the status of coming conferences:

2001-- Atlanta attendance is 315 (lower than Norway), attributed to the cost and summer location.  It contains more plenary and fewer, but higher quality, parallel sessions.  Jim Hines noted that the full paper requirement may have impacted attendance and that Roberta and the home office staff have become crucial to success.

2002-- Palermo budget is not yet finalized, but will be later in the week.  Habib Sedehi and Carmine Bianchi reported that the venue has been moved from a university to a hotel in order to accommodate the expected attendance (more than 320).  Main hotel has limited room accommodations, but three or four other alternatives will be provided and shuttle service arranged for transportation.  The dates are 28 July-1 August 2002.

2003--New York City and 2004, UK will be discussed in conjunction with vote for final approval.

2005—We are soliciting expressions of interest for discussion of short proposals at the winter 2002 Policy Council meeting.  Gordon Kubanek noted that the strong US dollar is a factor making US locations very expensive.  Ginny Wiley raised the issue of desirability of a West Coast location like Vancouver to increase the appeal for Asia and Pacific attendees (west coast and Canadian dollar); Bob Cavana supported this strongly.

2006—Europe is the main consideration, but the Far East (Japan, China) are also possible.  Dennis Meadows suggested a central Europe location, like Budapest (lower cost, central).  A number of Asian venues were noted, including Japan, China (Jay Forrester noted that China would need protection from the financial risk), Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong. 

Bob Eberlein will actively solicit Asia proposals with sponsorship commitments.

Report of the Vice President-Member and Chapter Activities.   Nan Lux reviewed her written report, and emphasized her goals, including India, Brazil, Canada, and Student chapter interests as well as a Washington, D.C. special interest group.  Dave Packer inquired about Singapore, where there is some very active systems thinking work underway.

Committee Reports

Curriculum Committee.  Jack Pugh noted the written report by Paal Davidson, and commented that this area provides great opportunity.  The Curriculum Committee meets Thursday.  Ali Mashayekhi noted the criticality of a clear answer as to what the system dynamics curriculum should be.

Nominating Committee.  No report at this time—covered in an action item later in the meeting

Administrative Committee.  Covered in the earlier budget discussion.

Awards Committee.   (Sterman's report) John Morecroft noted that he now chairs this effort as John Sterman has stepped down.  There are now two awards, the Jay W. Forrester award and the Dana Meadows award (for the best student paper).  John wants to increase the size of the committee.

Special Interest Groups.   Carol Frances reported on the Higher Education Special Interest Group, which she leads.  Activities include a website, outreach to others interested in this topic, possible follow-on to conference activity, and possible funding.  There is currently no society funding, but Carol suggested some support from Roberta would be desirable.

Winter 2002 Policy Council Meeting.  Jim Hines (President Elect) announced that the meeting would be held in the first or second week of February 2002 in Cambridge, MA.

Action Items

Minutes of Winter 2001 Policy Council Meeting.    David Andersen moved and Ali Mashayekhi seconded a motion  “To Approve the Minutes of the 15 February 2001 Policy Council Meeting”, which was passed unanimously.

Ratification of Brian Dangerfield as Executive Editor, System Dynamics Review.  Dave Packer moved and Jack Pugh seconded the motion to ratify Brian Dangerfield’s appointment, which was approved unanimously.  Bob Eberlein moved and John Morecroft seconded a motion to “Thank Graham Winch for his service as Executive Editor”, also approved unanimously.   

Vote to Change Society By-Laws.    Roberta Spencer reported that the required 538 people had voted and that two-thirds were favorable; Bob Eberlein moved and Jim Hines seconded a motions to record a favorable vote on the by-law changes.  Approved unanimously.

Approve Final Budget for 2002 Conference (Palermo, Italy).  Bob Eberlein noted that the final proposal was not yet ready.  Consideration rescheduled for later in the conference.

Approve Final Budget for 2003 Conference (New York City, USA).  Bob Eberlein moved and Jim Hines seconded the motion to approve the proposed budget.  In the discussion concerns were raised about the costs and the risks of a 360 minimum attendance.  Ginny Wiley asked what actions could be taken to assure the participation level and David Andersen asked whether there were lower cost alternative accommodations for participants.  It was suggested that there could be a process to help line up roommates at the hotel.  The final vote was approved unanimously.

Approve Final Budget for 2004 Conference (Oxford University, UK).  John Morecroft (speaking for Jonathan Coyle) reviewed the essentials of this proposal (extensively reviewed at the Winter 2001 Policy Council Meeting).  This conference has a strong organizing committee, an ideal venue, and is viable at 250 or more participants.  It is also quite cost effective.  Bob Eberlein moved and Ginny Wiley seconded the motion to approve the proposed budget, which was approved unanimously.

Postpone Officer Nomination Process.    Jack Pugh reviewed the current situation, where we now have four Presidents named and a Secretary whose replacement’s nomination comes before his first term is started.  He suggested that this be changed by basically skipping one year of nominations.  Bob Eberlein moved and David Andersen seconded a motion “That Ali Mashayekhi form a Nominating Committee that will present the slate for 2003 at the February 2002 Policy Council meeting, and that this committee include Jac Vennix, Frank Maier, Jim Hines, Carmine Bianchi, and David Ford.”  The motion passed unanimously.

Approve 2002 System Dynamics Society Budget. David Andersen moved and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion to “Approve the Proposed 2002 Budget discussed earlier and endorsed by the Administrative Committee”.  The motion passed unanimously.

Approve Special Interest Group Activity.  A discussion of Special Interest Groups (SIGs), how they relate to chapters (less formal but recognized entities), and how they are defined (in terms of eligibility, criteria for formation, relationship to the Society, and sunset clauses) led to the following motion, moved by Bob Eberlein and seconded by Ginny Wiley.  “Moved that a committee consisting of Nan Lux, Chair, Carol Frances, Bob Walker, and Michael Kennedy propose SIG definitions and criteria and budget implications for the society.  In addition, Carol Frances is encouraged to move ahead with the higher education SIG.”  This was approved unanimously.     

Discussion Items

Increasing the Quality and Quantity of System Dynamics Education (Society Priority #1.   Extensive discussion of this item brought out the following points:

General agreement that there is a need to articulate a definition of what system dynamics is, and what body of knowledge that it contains.

General agreement that we need way for practitioners assess the degree of this knowledge that they possess, and to identify the gaps which need to be closed to become a fully competent practitioner. 

An opinion that so far we haven’t been ready for formal certification, but a set of guidelines would be good now.  There is a need for exercises that are available to demonstrate good practice, such as a simple one stock model with a number of basic errors.  (Jay Forrester).

The three courses available for MIT credit (Jim Hines) are a good step, but cost limits their accessibility.

Having an explicit statement of requirements for competent application is important, even if incomplete…it provides a starting point that people can modify and improve.

A serious missing link is a mechanism for viewing and criticizing work with a professional, not personal, approach and creating a culture of healthy criticism.  This requires software to make models available.  One can learn much from mistakes and critiques.  (Jay Forrester)

We need to encourage more degrees in system dynamics or degrees with a concentration in system dynamics (John Morecroft).

A list of required courses could stimulate creation of new programs at more universities (Jim Hines).

We need to evaluate a certification process like the one which has been developed for project management (Gordon Kubenek—also see his specific proposal on this topic).

Dennis Meadows described a course that evaluated other’s models, and suggested the curriculum committee should require such a course.  He also noted that very valuable learning could come from “critiquing the classics”.

Jay Forrester suggested that it was time to take explicit action to improve the quality of system dynamics practice.  Dennis Meadows noted that the assessment matrix developed by Daniel Kim would provide an excellent starting point from which to work and evolve an assessment process.

To take the first steps, the Policy Council appointed a committee (Gordon Kubanek, chair, Dennis Meadows, Ali Mashayekhi, and David Packer to articulate the body of knowledge required, an assessment process for understanding where one is relative to this body of knowledge, and methods for closing the gaps this process would reveal.

Increasing the Quality and Quantity of Papers in the System Dynamics Review and other top Journals (Society Priority #2) This discussion centered on the issue of having models available on the Society’s website that pertain to articles published in the Review.  There was general agreement that this would be desirable, but that to make it a firm requirement would be premature.

The result was Policy Council endorsement that 1) People should be encouraged to submit models (and that simple models are preferable and more practical), 2) Priority for publication should go to articles with models available. 

Opening Relationships with other Professional Societies (Society Priority #3).  Discussion here centered on building relationships with societies in areas such as Project Management (Gordon Kubanek and Jim Lyneis), the Strategic Management Society, already a good friend (John Morecroft).  This should continue as a focus.  Wiley could be helpful here, also (Diane Taylor).

Policy Council Composition.   Bob Eberlein noted an increase in the average age of Policy Council members.  There was general agreement that greater age diversity was desirable, and should be noted by the Nominating Committee.

Jack Pugh moved and Dave Packer seconded a motion to adjourn at 5:35pm, approved unanimously. 

A subsequent short meeting on Wednesday, July 25, 2001 was convened for final approval of the 2002 conference budget.  Ali Mashayekhi convened this meeting at 6:10pm.

Approve Final Budget for 2002 Conference (Palermo, Italy).   Bob Eberlein moved approval of this budget and David Packer seconded the motion.  The motion was approved unanimously after a brief discussion.

Jack Pugh moved and Dave Packer seconded a motion to adjourn at 6:30 pm, approved unanimously.

Respectfully Submitted,

David W. Packer
August 15, 2001