Unity in Diversity – i.e. SIG’s and the Society. A second issue that arose during the roundtable dealt with the perennial issue of unity in diversity as represented by the SIG’s. Although SIG stands for Special Integration Group, rather than Special Interest Group which is common in other professional organizations, there is an ongoing tension between the purpose of ISSS to find common ground
among diverse thinkers and the need for individuals to find an intellectual home in domains of interest populated by colleagues with shared intellectual concerns. I believe it is important that this issue be looked at in greater depth in order to find a way to accommodate diversity in unity and unity in
4. Quality – Rigor and Relevance. A third issue which emerged during the roundtable discussion was about an ongoing concern in ISSS which is the quality of papers and presentations. Quality standards similar to other professional groups such as AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of
Science) were suggested as benchmarks. There was a feeling among some Past Presidents that standards of scientific rigor in papers accepted for publishing and for presentation at conferences were not consistent. I believe that this is another issue that ISSS needs to look at in greater depth but not in isolation from the issue of relevance. The challenge for ISSS is to support ideas and individuals who bring both rigor and relevance into their work. Issues of relevance such as ethics and justice must be an equal measure of quality with scientific rigor.
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The society, founded in 1954 by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, and Anatol Rapoport as the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR), was created in reaction to the growing disparity between reductionist science and their own scientific understanding of the real world as based on relationships, interrelationships and emergent qualities. Their intention was to integrate different fields of study in the same way that the concept of consilience strives to unify all rational knowledge.
Because of this, a role that has been unfairly attributed to ISSS and other systems organizations in the past is one of striving for control and totalization yet this is clearly not the intention of the Society. This misunderstanding however reveals a root concern for global consequences due to localized actions as well as issues of power and authority in contexts of diversity. This tension between global systems and locally autonomous systems will be one of the focuses of the ISSS conference in South Africa next year.