Conference Schedule

The final conference program is available as a hardcopy book, available at the registration desk in San Jose. Preview the program book with the embedded viewer below, in a full browser viewer, or download a softcopy version (1.9 MB).

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Major activities within the meeting week include:

  • 1. Plenary dialectics, discussant panels, breakouts, cumulative synthesis;
  • 2. Systems basics track;
  • 3. Research track;
  • 4. Workshops; and
  • 5. Student award presentations, annual general meeting

1. Plenary dialectics, discussant panels, breakouts, cumulative synthesis

The plenary sessions for ISSS 2012 are designed as knowledge-creating activities. The mornings are scheduled in the following way:

  • Plenary dialectics: Two plenary speakers each present a position. (45 minutes)
  • Discussant panel: Two discussants join the stage to have a conversation with the two plenary speakers about ways in which their ideas could be synthesized. (45 minutes)
  • Breakouts: SIG leaders coalesce groups from the audience over lunch. (2 hours). A scribe is assigned to blog the discussion. Questions to be answered include:
    • (i) What did you learn?
    • (ii) Which questions emerge?
    • (iii) Where does this contribute to, or influence, systems thinking?
  • Cumulative synthesis: The next morning, a reviewer will summarize the responses from across the breakout groups, reporting on the learning to date.

This pattern is repeated for each of four days.

After the conference, the reviewer will write up the summary for the General Systems Yearbook.

2. Systems basics track

The systems basics track for ISSS 2012 is intended to convey foundational knowledge to systems novices. These sessions should help the uninformed to learn about that which they "don't know they don't know". Systems basics sessions are led by elders in the systems community, with the encouragement to answer some basic questions:

  • 1. When did this body of knowledge originate, and from what context?
  • 2. Who have been thought leaders in this domain?
  • 3. What are the most essential ideas in this domain?
  • 4. How has this body of knowledge been applied in practice?
  • 5. Where is development of the content continuing, and which institutions are continuing to respect the legacy?

To deter information overload, session leaders are requested to present content no less than five (5) years in recency.

  • Conference attendees who have even basic familiarity with the domain content are encouraged to attend sessions in the research track instead.

The Systems Basics stream is being recorded for audio and video replays, to be released at a later date on

3. Research track

Research sessions feature reports from members of the systems community of their activities over the previous year. Abstracts are printed in the hardcopy program book distributed at the conference, with full length articles published online at

Many session are sponsored as regular meetings of Special Integration Groups, with newer topics organized with Exploratory Groups. Formats for each session can vary, from standard presentations (e.g. 15 minutes for exposition, 5 for minutes for questions) to synthesizing dialogues (e.g. attendees will have read all papers in advance, and come prepared to discuss).

4. Workshops

Workshop present an opportunity for groups to collaborate on an output, or share in joint learning. Longer sessions are possible as preconference (i.e. Sunday) activities, or in the evenings.

Shorter workshops are sometimes scheduled as parallel sessions (in the afternoons), as part of the research track.

5. Student award presentations, annual general meeting

The authors of the Sir Geoffrey Vickers' Award and Anatol Rapoport Awards for Best Student Paper are given an opportunity to outline their work to a plenary audience.

Following the bylaws of the ISSS, the week traditionally concludes with a membership meeting to ratify decisions approved by the ISSS Council.

Program Book

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The program book is downloadable as a softcopy version (1.9 MB).