Sandia LabNews

Sandia to sponsor system dynamics conference July 26-31

High-impact applications and research on the difficult issues at the cutting edge of the field of system dynamics will be the focus of the 27th annual conference of the System Dynamics Society to be held July 26-31 in Albuquerque.

Hosted by Sandia, the conference is expected to draw about 450 scientists, educators, professionals, and students.

“This will be a very stimulating six days of discussions that will reach across such disparate fields as business applications, economic dynamics, energy and resources, health, methodology, military applications, organizational dynamics, psychology/social dynamics, public policy, climate change, emergency preparedness/response, challenges of terrorism, and security,” says Sandia system dynamics researcher Len Malczynski (6313), conference chair. “We at Sandia are honored to host a symposium of this importance.”

System dynamics is a powerful methodology and computer simulation modeling technique for framing, understanding, and discussing complex issues and problems. The System Dynamics Society is an international, nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the development and use of system dynamics and systems thinking around the world.

Primary conference speakers include:

  • Dennis Meadows, professor of systems management and director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research at the University of New Hampshire
  • John Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management and the current director of the System Dynamics Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Peter Senge, noted author of The Fifth Discipline and promoter of systems thinking and organizational learning

Les Shephard, VP of Sandia’s Energy, Security, and Defense Technologies Div. 6000, will open the conference. Nearly 200 scientists will present papers at the six-day event that includes a PhD colloquium, and more than 20 workshops.

Meadows is coauthor of The Limits to Growth, a report first published in 1972 that sparked a great debate worldwide about the value of the zero growth theory that it proposed. The report was significant because it sounded an alarm about global society’s urgent need for sustainable development. Since its publication, Meadows has continued to study the causes and consequences of physical growth on a finite planet. Meadows will also give a presentation on climate change July 21 at Sandia’s Earth, Wind and Sun symposium.

Sterman, author of Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, is considered the current leader of the system dynamics school of thought. His research focuses on improving managerial decision-making in complex systems. In addition to giving a plenary presentation, Sterman will run a simulation-based negotiation exercise dealing with the challenge of curbing greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. This tool and approach is being exercised worldwide and is also considered as an aid to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen later this year.

Senge emerged in the 1990s as a major figure in organizational development. In 1997, Harvard Business Review identified The Fifth Discipline as one of the seminal management books of the previous 75 years. For this work, he was named by Journal of Business Strategy as the “Strategist of the Century.” They further said that he was one of a very few people who “had the greatest impact on the way we conduct business today.” At the conference, Senge will reflect on his experience fostering genuine systems awareness and wiser actions within education, civil society, and business.

The work of the Labs will be featured in several presentations, including two plenary sessions. George Backus (1433) will present “A History of Making Energy Policy,” a 30-year overview of the contribution of system dynamics in the making of energy policy in the US and abroad. Bob Glass (6326) will present the story of the Labs’ involvement in the formulation of US policy for mitigating pandemic influenza.

New to this year’s conference will be a “bonus day,” July 31 — an extra free day of workshops focusing on models of energy and climate, economic crisis, corporate environments, and system dynamics in K-12 education. In addition, on July 29, as part of the K-12 education segment, children will present posters dealing with system dynamics.

The conference will be held at the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town and is open to the public. Registrations are accepted at the conference website..

Conference cohosts are Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, and Paul Scherrer Institut of Switzerland. The Boeing Company is the conference partner, and major sponsors include Lockheed Martin, and the US Department of Homeland Security.

For more information about the System Dynamics Society, see the society website at or contact Len, conference chair, at 505-844-7219,, or Aldo Zagonel (6322), organization chair, at 505-284-6773,

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