Shanghai 2002

Shanghai 2002: The 46th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

Shanghai International Convention Centre, Shanghai, P.R. China
August 2nd - 6th 2002

International Society for the Systems Sciences
The Chinese Society for Systems Science (CSSS)

International Federation for Systems Research
Systems Engineering Society of China
Chinese Society for Soft Science

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Dept. of Management Science

Shanghai Jiao Tong University Management School

Joint Chairpersons Professor Jackson, Michael President ISSS
Professor Wu, Jie, President CSSS

Honorary Chairpersons Professor Song, Jian, President, Chinese Academy of Engineering
Professor Cheng, Siwei, Head, Dept. of Management Science, National Natural Science Foundation of China

Programme and Organizing Committee
Dr. Banathy, Bela
Dr. Collen, Arne
Professor Corning, Peter
Dr. Dubrovsky, Vitaly
Dr. Finlayson, Denis
Mrs Gibbs, Doreen
Professor Herrscher, Enrique
Dr. Lazlo, Alexander
Dr. McIntyre, Janet
Dr. Murray, Peter
Dr. Nakamori, Yoshi
Dr. Nelson, Anne
Professor Rhee, Pil
Professor Sabelli, Hector
Dr. Smith, Charles
Ms Wilby, Jennifer
Dr. Yolles, Maurice
Dr. Zhu, Zhichang

Special Guest Speaker The Ludwig von Bertalanffy lecture
Professor John Warfield

Conference Theme: Systems Thinking : Managing Complexity and Change

The conference theme has been chosen to direct attention to four very important aspects of systems thinking : The use of a transdisciplinary approach, in practice, to deal with problem situations involving complexity and change.

Complexity and change are frequently identified as the two most significant (and obviously interrelated) features of twenty-first century operations, organizations, communities and societies, and their environments. The systems community, and the ISSS in particular, sees systems thinking as the most effective response to these features, especially in terms of our ability to manage them in order to achieve sustainable improvement. The 46th Annual Meeting of the ISSS, to be held in Shanghai, China, is devoted to the use of systems thinking to manage complexity and change in the full knowledge that the scale, differentiation and multiple interdependencies found in Chinese society, together with its dynamism and current state of transition, pose the most severe challenges to the capabilities of systems thinking.

Systems thinking promotes holism as its primary intellectual strategy for handling complexity. Instead of analysing complex systems by breaking them down into their parts, it advocates studying them as `wholes' using concepts such as boundary, emergency, hierarchy, communication and control. These core systems ideas can also be employed to construct systems methodologies and methods for treating problems caused by organizational and societal complexity in a systemic manner.

Systems thinking has been fascinated by the tensions between stability and change, and has embraced a process philosophy in order to grasp the way systems develop over time. It advocates studying them as `wholes' changing according to their own internal dynamics and in interrelationship with their environments. To this end it employs concepts such as positive and negative feedback, relationships, input and output, thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis, chaos and dissipative structures. Again, these central ideas can be incorporated in systems methodologies and methods to provide guidelines for productive intervention in change processes.

In learning about complexity and change, and how to cope with them in beneficial ways, the ISSS has long advocated transdisciplinarity. This was indeed the common feature of the four aims of the Society for General System Research (the forerunner of ISSS) as stated by its founders in 1954. Concepts, laws and models developed in particular fields were to be investigated to see if they could be properly transferred to other areas of concern which were less well developed, theoretically speaking. The problems of the twenty-first century, associated with complexity and change, demand the identification and general transmission of such concepts, laws and models in whatever field they were originally developed in order to enhance our capacity to bring possible solutions to the fore. Systems thinking remains the best hope that this can be achieved.

Finally the use of the word `managing', in the conference theme, suggests that we are interested in the practical application of systems ideas. It can be convincingly argued that the greatest success of systems thinking in recent years has been its ability to translate theoretical notions into the practical domain through the use of systems methodologies, models and methods. The further refinement of these methodologies, models and methods, together with consideration of how we can use them in combination to tackle the multi-faceted problem situations we face, will be very much to the fore in this conference.

Please bring, to the conference in Shanghai, systems thinking which is based upon a transdisciplinary approach and which is practically relevant so that we can together learn how to confront the challenges posed by complexity and change.

Integration of Theme and Sub-Themes

Papers which integrate the conference theme and sub-themes listed below are especially invited.

Ongoing ISSS Sub-themes in Systems Science:
As always we are interested in any papers dealing with general systems topics including focus on the economy, business and industry, information systems design and information technology, medical and health systems, psychology and psychiatry, systems design in education, system studies of climate change, systems approaches to intelligence, and applied systems and development; and the systems approaches of duality theory, futurism and systems change, thermodynamics and systems theory, spirituality and systems, critical systems theory and practice, evolutionary learning community, hierarchy theory, systems philosophy and systems ethics, systems modeling and simulation, meta-modeling and systems epistemology, research towards general theories of systems, living systems analysis, processes and human processes, human systems inquiry, and evolution and complexity. See the call for papers from individual SIG (Special Integration Group) chairs below.