ISSS 2014 Conference

Learning Across Boundaries: Exploring the Variety of Systemic Theory and Practice

The 58th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences will be held at George Washington University, Washington DC, July 27 through August 1, 2014. The conference will be held in the GWU School of Business at George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Further details are located on the ISSS2014 Conference pages, click on the Quicklinks to the right of this page for access.

This year, the ASC meeting "Living in Cybernetics" will also be held at GWU in the week following the ISSS (3-9th August). There will be a discount for those attending both conferences, $100 on regular registrations, and $70 for student registrations. The discount will be halved from the registration cost of each conference.

Additional details will be added as available, please email the ISSS office with any queries in the meantime at


There are now many thousands of systems thinkers, cyberneticians and complexity scientists worldwide. As more and more new application areas, practices, systems methodologies, theories and philosophies are developed, the number of research communities continues to increase. It is impossible for any individual to keep track of all these communities, let alone the many new ideas they are producing.

Fragmentation is the inevitable result of the proliferation of new systems ideas in response to new issues and contexts. While this might, at first, appear to be a negative consequence of our success, it brings with it an enormous opportunity: mutual learning from each other to enhance systems, cybernetic and complexity theories and practices in all our diverse domains. It is this opportunity that provides the focus for our 2014 conference.

The International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) was founded in 1956 to “encourage the development of theoretical systems which are applicable to more than one of the traditional departments of knowledge”. The founders of the society also had a deep commitment to making a difference in practice. Given the fragmentation mentioned above, the mission of the ISSS to generate ideas that can be used in multiple areas of application and practice has never been more relevant than today. This conference will reach out to all the diverse systems communities and provide a forum for mutual learning across their boundaries. If each person coming to the conference brings in just one idea, and also takes away just one, this will be an enormous stimulus to innovation across all our systems communities.

Running a conference that facilitates learning across boundaries requires a change to the usual conference format. There will be three innovations:

  1. We will not centrally determine all the conference streams. While the ISSS ‘special integration groups’ (SIGs) will each have their own stream (as in previous years), we also encourage anyone with an interest not already represented by the SIGs to put forward their own ideas for streams. The conference aims to keep itself open to themes from a wide variety of research communities, some of which might never have had contact with the ISSS before. If you have an idea for a stream, please send it to by April 30, 2014 and we will set it up.
  2. Because each systems research community has its own thought leaders, and we want to represent as many as possible in the choice of plenary speakers, we will give every stream leader with more than 15 participants in his or her stream the opportunity to nominate a plenary speaker. We are keeping pre-selected keynote speakers to a minimum to leave space for these plenaries.
  3. In addition to the usual paper presentations in streams, we will also facilitate hour long ‘boundary spanning workshops’. In each of these, a single theory or practice, developed in a given research community, will be presented. Participants from diverse research communities will then work in small groups to look at the potential for using the idea within their own domains. If you would like to propose a boundary spanning workshop, please send no more than one page of text that explains the theory or practice, and the context in which it was originally developed and used. Also, please provide references (only ideas that have previously been published will be explored in workshops) and an explanation (maximum half a page) of why you think that this theory or practice might be transferable to, or adaptable by, other systems communities. Please send proposals for workshops to by April 30, 2014. We will run as many of these workshops as we can.

This conference represents a tremendously exciting learning opportunity, and we warmly welcome your participation, whether you are a long-standing member of the ISSS or have never heard of us before. We particularly welcome systems, cybernetics and complexity researchers who have knowledge of a particular domain of theory, methodology or practice, and want to expand their understanding of what else might be available. Let us all contribute ideas and learn from each other.

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