The 52st Annual Meeting of the ISSS was held July 13-18, 2008 at the University of Wisconsin - Madison

The Madison 2008 Retrospective includes digests, photographs, presentations and downloadable MP3 audio. Other pages, including the content below, have been retained as a reference.

Location: University of Wisconsin, Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin

The title for this conference borrows from Gregory Bateson’s definition of information as “a difference that makes a difference.” The question for systems researchers and practitioners is, “what difference are we making?”

The Challenge

The modern systems movement draws upon a rich tradition developed by some of the best and brightest minds of the 20th and 21st centuries. Systems and cybernetic concepts have filtered into much of the scientific literature of the past five decades, and the common media of today is infused with systems-inspired words such as feedback, input/output, regulation, and interdependence. And yet, the systems tradition itself appears to remain largely invisible as an actionable, practical body of knowledge to many of the scientists, academics, politicians and businesspeople who are making the decisions that deeply impact our collective social, economic, and ecological future. The low profile of systems thinking as a discipline among the influential leaders of our time represents a crucial opportunity for the systems community to make a difference in the world in ways that may matter most. The questions naturally arise:

  • How can we as a community make systems concepts more accessible to decision makers and researchers in the larger global community?
  • How can members of the systems community apply the existing, rich knowledge base of systems concepts and methodologies toward making a positive, sustainable difference within our own spheres of influence?

Toward Making a Difference

The 52nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences will bring together professionals on the cutting-edge of the systems movement with influential decision makers facing far-reaching, real-world complexities on a daily basis. While we must continue to make systems theories and approaches ever more rigorous, to remain relevant we must also connect our work with the dilemmas in the world for which people are seeking solutions right now. The objective of ISSS 2008 is to further build much-needed bridges between rigor and relevance in systems work. Speakers and authors are invited to present who can address any part of this spectrum, from better methods for systems research to clarifying the nature of real-world problems in need of resolution.

We encourage those interested in attending the conference to register today and begin working with us in creating this important event.

Confirmed Plenary Guest Speakers

  • Timothy F. H. Allen, President-elect, ISSS (2009) and Professor, Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin
  • Steve Carpenter, Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin
  • Manfred Drack, Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science, Vienna, Austria
  • Jon Foley, Professor, Department of Sustainability and Global Environment, University of Wisconsin
  • David L. Hawk, Dean of the School of Management and Faculty in the New Jersey School of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Doug McDavid, Executive Research Consultant, Almaden Research Center, San Jose, CA
  • Bobby Milstein, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Syndemics Prevention Network
  • Bill Rouse, Professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with a joint appointment in the College of Computing. Also, Fellow, International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) 2006 and recipient of the IBM Faculty Award in 2005 and 2006
  • David Schwartz, Professor, Chemistry and Genetics, University of Wisconsin
  • David Waltner-Toews, Professor, Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph and founding president of the Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health
  • Jennifer Wilby, Director of the Centre for Systems Studies and faculty member in Management Systems at the University of Hull, UK

Important Dates

  • December 5, 2007: The start of abstract submission and registration. Instructions for Preparing and Submitting Abstracts and Papers for ISSS Madison 2008 are available.  (Please allow at least two weeks for your abstract to be reviewed.) Please note that the login userid and password to is independent of the userid and password on the ISSS World web site.
  • December 5, 2007: The on-line registration will be managed using the University of Wisconsin, Madison, registration system. This is now available at Conference Registration. Off-line paper registrations (by post and fax) will still be available through contact with the ISSS office.
  • February 1, 2008: On-line hotel reservation is also available through Conference Registration.
  • March 1, 2008: The deadline for panel, workshop and stream proposals.
  • April 30, 2008: The end of early, discounted registration.
  • May 10, 2008: The deadline for abstracts and full papers, recognizing that some abstracts will not be developed into full papers. Late papers may still be accepted for the conference after May 10, 2008, but will be published on the CD-ROM proceedings for the subsequent year.) Only ONE paper per registered participant will be accepted for the conference.
  • Abstracts submitted after May 10 will be considered for inclusion in the program on a space-available basis.


The meeting will be held in the Memorial Union Building at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on the shores of Lake Mendota in downtown Madison. Madison is the Wisconsin state capital city with a population of 208,000. It offers the perfect combination of natural beauty, stimulating cultural offerings, outdoor recreation, distinctive restaurants, unique shops and vibrant nightlife.

The university’s location in south central Wisconsin makes for convenient access to Milwaukee (80 miles), Chicago (150 miles) and Minneapolis (270 miles). Daily buses serve all three cities.

Social Programs

There will be an opening welcome reception in the Memorial Union Building on Sunday evening, July 13. The conference banquet will be held on Thursday, July 17. Detailed plans will be announced later. Sightseeing tours at reasonable prices will also be organized for accompanying persons during the conference.


Registration fees are as described below:

    Conference Fees
Regular   $525USD
Retired   $425USD
Developing country   $400USD
Student   $325USD
Additional banquet ticket $45USD

The registration fee includes:

  • The program/abstract book
  • 2008 CD-ROM proceedings
  • Reception on Sunday July 13
  • One banquet ticket for Thursday July 17
  • ISSS membership fees for 2009

The registration fees also includes tea/coffee breaks and lunches from Monday to Thursday.

The registration fee does not cover accommodation (bookable separately through online registration) or transportation expenses to and from the conference site.

Accommodation ranges from very well appointed dormitary rooms to mid- and upper-range hotels (for prices and details about each accommodation, see Madison Accommodation). This page only details accommodation available through the conference registration website. There are several locations on campus available for the purchase of meals.


Conference Partners (includes those under negotiation)

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