Minutes of the Meeting of the Policy Council
of the
System Dynamics Society
March 3, 2003
Sloan School, MIT, Cambridge, MA

In Attendance


Pål Davidsen (President), James Hines (Past President), Jay Forrester (Founding President), Robert Eberlein (President Elect), David Packer (Secretary), Ginny Wiley (VP Members and Chapters), James Lyneis (VP Meetings)

Policy Council:

Mohammad Mojtahedzadeh, David Peterson, Deborah Campbell, Scott Rockart


Jack Pugh (Webmaster), Allen Borstein, Nicholas Georgantas, Roberta Spencer (Executive Director), Nan Lux, Mike Radzicki, Alan Graham, Vedat Diker,  Nikko Georgantzalis, John Sterman, Nan Lux,  Paulo Goncales, Anastassios Perdicoulis (Environmental Dynamics SIG), Andry Argyrides, George Richardson

Call to Order

President Pål Davidsen called the meeting to order at 9:05am, welcoming participants, leading a round of introductions, and reviewing the agenda.

Agenda Items

Minutes: Dave Packer.  The minutes of the last meeting in Palermo, Italy were approved without modification. 

Executive Director’s Report: Roberta Spencer. With the exception of the Palermo conference things are going quite well, sales are strong, though down somewhat from last year.  Membership is up about 7% and totals 884. Expressed interest in terms of web site hits is also up.  On the question of membership turnover, we lose about 15% of members in any year.  Of brand new members about 25% drop out after the first year.  We do target those members. Mailing list sharing is done with different partners, including software companies, like Ventana, which has been quite helpful.  Chapters provide another membership opportunity.  In a discussion of the value of increasing membership, Pål Davidsen noted that growing the field, increasing the quality of work and networking are the major benefits.

Report of the Vice President-Finance

Report of the Vice President-Finance: David Andersen (by telephone from Scotland) reviewed Society finances.  In fiscal year 2002, the Society showed an $86,000 loss, resulting from a combination of long-term and short-term factors; the Palermo conference did badly, sponsorship softened and our investments returns weakened.  David noted that over the last 5 years we have budgeted a $20,000 loss but realized a $5,000 surplus.  Why?  Mostly, because we can predict expenses pretty well, but have had trouble predicting income. For 2004 the administrative committee has asked for the staff to turn in a balanced budget – keeping under consideration employment continuity and the requirement that conferences must generate a profit.

In an extended discussion, David Packer noted that we have added activities to the central office that have increased the value of what the society is doing for the membership, but membership fees have not increased. Allen Boorstein suggested that the conference participants pay a tax whenever the conference loses money. David Andersen noted that when we take actions that mean more work for the central office the costs rise and that we need to pay attention to what we ask of the office.  In answer to a question by John Sterman about conference structure, he responded that more stability of location would be good but two fixed sites might be too much.

The next important step is that the Administrative Committee will present the budget to the Policy Council at the New York conference. 

Publication Reports:

Systems Dynamics Review: Brian Dangerfield, Executive Editor.  Volume 19 is in good shape.  We have 23 articles under review.  The modeling of environmental and resources is oversubscribed and surplus articles will be invited for inclusion in later issues.  Also Security and Supply Change modeling have been suggested for special issues.  Our journal is not sufficiently economic to be listed in the bibliography reference run out of Pittsburgh.

Diane Taylor has retired after serving for many years.  It would be nice to do something at the New York conference to thank her for the work she has done over the years.  Steve Hartman has replaced her and has promised to be as active as Diane was in promoting the Journal. 

Jim Hines undertook an initiative to reach out and convince institutions to subscribe to the Review.  Institutional subscribers have increased, but universities appear to be cutting back.  John Sterman suggested members lobby their institutions to subscribe.

John would like to know the acceptance rate of submitted articles that we collect and make visible the right set of basic data.  Jay Forrester noted that when we have a healthy backlog we should use this as an opportunity to improve the quality of the published papers.  Further discussion included the observation that a long backlog tends to discourage good papers and Jim Hines pointed out that the backlog is not huge but more that the backlog used to be really low.

Deb Campbell asked whether we have a sustainable backlog or a blip; do we know why has the flow been up?  Reasons include special issues and the use of conference submissions to identify good articles.  Jay Forrester suggested proactive solicitation by editors of relevant articles.

On the question of good data and understanding of our situation, such as the number of papers accepted but not published, the number of submissions that seem likely to be accepted, e.g. the profile of the backlog, Pål Davidsen asked George Richardson to create a form that would be a good way to present the Editor’s report to the policy council.  In addition to numbers, information on activities being done to maintain the backlog and the quality should be included.

Jim Hines points out that much of the best work gets published in Management Science and other journals and perhaps the same content could be rewritten and presented in the SDR. As it stands right now the Editor in Chief actively discourages such submissions.

It has been a policy of the Review that models reported on in an article should be submitted as part of the review process and articles that are sufficiently small should actually be listed in the review.  However, this rule is not being enforced.  Jay Forrester feels this is critical to the quality issue.

Report of the Vice President-Meetings: Jim Lyneis/Bob Eberlein.

2002—Palermo. A well-attended and good conference, but with a substantial financial shortfall resulting from facility issues, cost over-runs, sponsor shortfalls.

2003--New York City. So far, 91 submissions, which seem low, but the deadline is later than prior years.  Costs are running high and Roberta believes the overrun from labor charges will be about $20,000.  A review of the financials raised the issue of whether the plan is too aggressive.  Discussion of this included the comments that we might consider asking friends for up-front money to help conferences, that we consider charging for the banquet, and that local hosts need to take a lot of responsibility, especially in exotic places.

Mike Radzicki noted that this conference is being used as a vehicle for outreach to other disciplines – economics and psychology.  Fordham has become a local co-host and the Dean of the business schools likes System Dynamics so this is seen as a showcase.  Fordham is providing AV support and will be supplying some students to help out with the conference.  The Dean will be probably be speaking at the opening ceremonies.  The Hellenic Chapter sees New York City as the place where the Hellenic Chapter can be formally inducted.  Allen Boorstein asked for suggestions of people he could solicit for sponsorships.

2004—Oxford/Keble College.  Several serious concerns about this conference were extensively discussed. It is planned as a four-night conference with an all-inclusive price.  It is budgeted for a $25,000 surplus.  The conference fee will be about $1300 working this way.  There are only 40 doubles – these are rooms that have two double beds.  The other rooms only have 1 single bed.  This means that it will be hard for spouses to come.

Also, the price will be so high that it is unlikely students will be able to attend the conference.  John Sterman stated this is simply wrong and we must find a way for students to attend.  The idea of finding an alternative site was broached, but the feeling was that it is clearly too late for such a change.  Also, the UK Society has a large vested interest in a successful conference.  George Richardson noted that all of this reinforces his location (fixed ones) and program chair proposals.

At the bottom line, it is essential that the problems of a lower cost option for students and the ability to bring spouses and children must be solved before final approval.  Note: later in the meeting, Jim reported that the budget for the conference did in fact include 75 students at a lower registration fee.

Report of the Vice President, Chapters: Ginny Wiley.  Ginny has now taken over from Nan Lux, files have been transferred, and we need to note that Nan has done an incredible job.

Electronic Voting: Bob Eberlein. The intention is a more systemic procedure, for which Bob is developing a proposal.

Insurance Issues: Roberta Spencer.   Issues are conference insurance and Directors and Officers Insurance.  The Administrative Committee will address both.

Awards Committee: John Morecroft. (This report was distributed but not discussed.)

Curriculum Committee: Pål Davidsen will reestablish this committee and have its mandate for review at the summer Policy Council meeting.

Electronic Version of the Newsletter: Roberta Spencer.  Few people read the newsletter, which is on the web.  A better method might be mail a .pdf file or an email with a link to the web.  People need to get something specific.

President’s Meeting: Pål Davidsen.  A meeting with the current, past, and next President to discuss the role and Society issues was held this year, and all involved agreed that it should become a tradition. 

Nominating Committee: Jim Hines.  Jim presented the attached slate for officers and Policy Council.  Bob Eberlein moved to approve, Jim Hines seconded and after a brief discussion urging that diversity on the Council be considered, was approved unanimously.

Webmaster’s Report: Jack Pugh.  We get 2600 hits per month. The question of how to identify the real number of people accessing the web, not only the number of hits was discussed.  Vedat Diker said the limitation to doing this lies with the SUNY Albany system.  There was a motion to thank Vedat for all he has done, and this was passed unanimously.

System Dynamics Application Award: Alan Graham. Alan proposed an award to recognize application excellence.  Jim Hines moved that the Society create an application awards committee to develop this idea and to present a proposal to the meeting in New York, chaired by Alan Graham. George Richardson seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Financial and Electronic Relationship between Society and Wiley: Wiley is way behind us and unable to provide much help – they keep a simple database and can’t provide the service we have already achieved with membershipclicks – This still does not give us much leverage for modifying the financial relationship.  In the short term we will be stuck with two databases – they will only work from theirs.

Establish Web Committee: Pål Davidsen.  This would provide support for the webmaster.  Jim Hines moved to establish a web committee chaired by Bob Eberlein (with Jack Pugh, Vedat Diker, John Morecroft, Anasstossios Perdicoulis, Jac Vennix, Michael Kennedy, Brian Dangerfield, Will Glass-Husain and Deborah Andersen).  The motion was seconded by David Peterson and approved unanimously.

Chapter Recruitment: Nan Lux.  Paperwork is complete and nicely done for a new society Chapter in Brazil.  Bob Eberlein moved that we accept the paperwork submitted by the Brazil Chapter, seconded by Ginny Wiley.  Approved unanimously.

A discussion of Chapters and their role in building the Society covered encouraging Society membership in chapters and also that Chapters need to report annually on their membership, including mailing addresses for direct contact.  Ginny Wiley committed to making sure this reporting is put in place. Jim Hines suggested that each Chapter have a voting member on the PC, but this was not agreed.  Jay Forrester said that Chapters should be encouraged to send people to meetings and suggest individuals for Society roles. 

Mandates of VPs: Ginny Wiley.  Ginny requested that George Richardson take this project, and George agreed.

Establishment of a Committee to Award Free Copies of the SDR: Wiley has offered 20 free one-year subscriptions, which would be mailed from the Society Office.  Consensus was that this is not worthwhile, it is too few copies and adds cost and might generate hard feelings in the process.  Several alternatives were discussed  (Bergen graduation gifts, libraries, etc.)  Bob Eberlein and Roberta Spencer will clarify and handle.

2005 Conference: Jim Lyneis.  A relatively brief discussion of the two proposed sites, Anchorage and Las Vegas led into a more general discussion of conference issues and strategy.  George Richardson suggested we have three fixed sits (USA West, USA East, and Europe/England), that the 2005 decision be deferred, and that this decision (to be made in New York this summer) be used to put on the table the idea of a fixed rotation.  George will lead this in collaboration with Jim Lyneis and Roberta Spencer. 

John Sterman agreed the conference process was broken and needs fixing, and asked the fundamental question of what the conference purpose is, to make money for society or to grow the society.  Jay Forrester raised the issue of whether we want novices, whether conferences indeed build the field, and do they attract serious people.  Several people noted that decisions need to be made with a broader, more international constituency.

It was also reiterated that conferences have shifted from heavily volunteer with a strong local host role to more professional management by the home office. 

A list of conference purposes was developed and recorded by George Richardson.  Here is the list.

Dave Packer moved, and Bob Eberlein seconded a motion that “The Policy Council believes conferences do not meet our present needs and must be improved, and concurs with the list of purposes, above.”  The motion passed.  George Richardson agreed to head up a group to achieve this, with a proposal for new principles and process for conference site selection.  This group will include Jim Lyneis, Deb Campbell, Mohammad Mojtahedzadeh, Roberta Spencer, and John Sterman.

Following additional discussion, Bob Eberlein moved, and Deb Campbell seconded a motion that “We select the 2005 site using the new process and that the proposals on the table will not be considered directly but that these sites will continue to be considered”.  The motion passed with one abstention.  This decision will be made at the summer Policy Council meeting in New York.

Environmental Dynamics: Anastassios Perdicoulis.  Tassos presented the structure of the Special Interest Group (SIG), including a proposal for the Environmental Dynamics Institute for which he asked Policy Council approval.  It was concluded that no such approval was required and that Ginny Wiley as VP Members and Chapters should review the activities.  The Society logo can be used on SIG materials, and Pål Davidsen offered any written support needed.

Financial Sustainability: David Peterson.  David and Kevin O’Neil have been working this over the last year.  Issues are the office workload, volunteer reductions, and the need for the office to grow.  Robust data is available and some modeling work is being done with the help of Roberta.  The model will be made available soon. 


A motion to adjourn was passed unanimously at about 5:30pm.

Respectfully Submitted,

David W. Packer, Secretary (with great help from the notes of Bob Eberlein)
[email protected]