Professional Accreditation for SD Practitioners

Discussion Topic for the 1998 SD Conference

As every professional field matures, its practitioners must eventually face the issue of accreditation. Who is qualified to practice and who is not? And what criteria distinguish the two groups? As the SD field widens and software tools become easier to use, an ever-growing number of practitioners offer models and model-building consulting services to the public. Some of this work is outstanding; some of it is not.

Currently, we rely on individual and company credentials as an assurance of good work. A degree in SD, study under a recognized "master", published papers, a pedigreed client list - all of these signs are evidence of SD competence. Yet the demand for SD applications is growing much more rapidly than is the pool of SD competence (however one wishes to define competence). Individuals and organizations that purchase SD services cannot readily recognize SD competence. Our professional field, like many professions before it, risks sullying its reputation and earning public rejection by failing to establish an objective method of certifying competence in the field.

As a first step towards establishing a professional SD accreditation, I propose to precipitate a discussion on the topic at the 1998 SD Conference.

I propose that the SD Society establish a one-day exam for any of its members who wish to enjoy the privileges and rights of accreditation, including the use of the words "Accredited SD Professional" (or ASDP as initials). Only SD Society members would be eligible for accreditation and no member would be required to become accredited. (In all likelihood, few members would actually do so during the next few years but, as SD practice continues to expand, more individuals would desire to do so.)

The exam would consist of four parts, all of which an individual would be required to pass:


demonstrate knowledge of core SD literature and models, including such standard references as Industrial Dynamics and Principles of Systems;


demonstrate knowledge of basic SD archetypal structures, their applications and their behavior;


demonstrate capacity to understand and explain the structure and behavior of a referent SD model, including tests for model validation; and


demonstrate capacity to construct an SD model from a description of a dynamic problem and its causal structure.

Passing the exam will require familiarity with one of the SD programming languages. The knowledge required would be equivalent to that gained by a student in two introductory semesters of SD study perhaps augmented by additional study and some practical experience in model building.

An annual examination would be created by a SD Society Board of Examiners who would also determine the criteria for a passing grade and oversee the conduct and grading of the exams. The examination could be given the day immediately before the annual SD conference and results posted within three months. Examiners would be appointed by the Policy Committee. Fees collected from examinees would cover all exam expenses (although the SD Society may need to defray some expenses during the early years).

Questions to be raised and discussed at the conference include:


  1. Is professional accreditation needed?


  2. How would accreditation impact the growth of the SD field?


  3. Can an examination establish a minimum recognized standard of competency for SD practice?


  4. What material should an examination cover and how should it be presented for testing?


  5. Under what criteria, if any, could the Board of Examiners waive the examination and grant accreditation?


  6. What preliminary requirements must a candidate met, if any, to sit for the examination?


  7. Should some form of "advanced accreditation" such as a "ASDP Fellow" be considered for distinguished practitioners?

I am sure that SD practitioners hold a broad range of viewpoints, both for and against. My purpose is to raise the question for debate, with the goal of eventually proposing that the SD Society form a committee to investigate the issue and report back to the Society at a future conference. Your opinions and ideas are welcome.