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Systems, Volume 2, Issue 3 (September 2014), Pages 243-392

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Research

Open AccessCommunication Lessons Learnt from Educating University Students through a Trans-Disciplinary Project for Sustainable Sanitation Using a Systems Approach and Problem-Based Learning
Systems 2014, 2(3), 243-272; doi:10.3390/systems2030243
Received: 24 December 2013 / Revised: 5 May 2014 / Accepted: 16 May 2014 / Published: 25 June 2014
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Abstract
This article discusses how a Systems Thinking (ST) approach to student learning, employing Problem-Based Learning (PBL) interventions, at several different universities in Sydney, Australia was incorporated into a broader trans-disciplinary research project, the aim of which was to examine how urine diversion [...] Read more.
This article discusses how a Systems Thinking (ST) approach to student learning, employing Problem-Based Learning (PBL) interventions, at several different universities in Sydney, Australia was incorporated into a broader trans-disciplinary research project, the aim of which was to examine how urine diversion in an urban, institutional setting might form the basis of phosphorus collection—phosphorus being a non-renewable resource used in agricultural fertilizers. The article explores how the ST approach employed by the researchers themselves was adapted to embrace student engagement opportunities and how it permitted opportunities for Problem-Based Learning interventions. Five academics forming part of the research team consider the effectiveness of ST-styled student engagement via Problem-Based Learning in three action research cycles used in the research project. In sharing their experiences they provide an honest, “no-holds barred” review of what worked and what could be done more effectively with the benefits of hindsight. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet)
Open AccessArticle Towards a Metamodel to Support the Joint Optimization of Socio Technical Systems
Systems 2014, 2(3), 273-296; doi:10.3390/systems2030273
Received: 30 January 2014 / Revised: 22 May 2014 / Accepted: 6 June 2014 / Published: 25 June 2014
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Abstract
Designing and implementing functional Socio Technical Systems (STS) is becoming increasingly important, as technologies become more pervasive and critical to everyday life. Socio technical systems are said to be efficient and useful when they are “jointly optimized” yet few system designers understand [...] Read more.
Designing and implementing functional Socio Technical Systems (STS) is becoming increasingly important, as technologies become more pervasive and critical to everyday life. Socio technical systems are said to be efficient and useful when they are “jointly optimized” yet few system designers understand what joint optimization is, and how to achieve it. The paper explains the core tenets of Joint Optimization and identifies the need for artifacts to support the built in design of joint optimization in socio technical systems from the early stages of development. JOM (Joint Optimization Metamodel) is proposed, as a cognitive artifact to help conceptualize and model joint optimization, and five types of JO are identified resulting from conceptual evaluation of the metamodel. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Engineering Socio-Technical Systems)
Open AccessArticle A Designed Framework for Delivering Systems Thinking Skills to Small Business Managers
Systems 2014, 2(3), 297-312; doi:10.3390/systems2030297
Received: 6 February 2014 / Revised: 5 June 2014 / Accepted: 12 June 2014 / Published: 25 June 2014
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Abstract
Many small businesses suffer from inadequate management skills which can lead to poor business performance and unsustainable businesses. Research to date has focused on traditional skills such as communication, time management and people skills, yet critically many business managers have no systems [...] Read more.
Many small businesses suffer from inadequate management skills which can lead to poor business performance and unsustainable businesses. Research to date has focused on traditional skills such as communication, time management and people skills, yet critically many business managers have no systems thinking skills. This paper presents a framework targeted at delivering systems thinking skills to managers of small businesses utilizing some key characteristic of small business managers. The design is also based on a systems analysis and guided by both adult learning theory and teaching theory. The quality of a training framework depends on the quality of the content design and the right training delivery methods. The systems thinking skills training framework structured systems thinking knowledge into three modules in order to meet the needs of different levels of managers. The framework advocates blended training delivery methods and it also presents possible pitfalls based on training experiences. Additionally, the framework incorporates a continuous improvement process for ongoing systemic improvement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet)
Figures

Open AccessArticle Using Systems Thinking to Educate for Sustainability in a Business School
Systems 2014, 2(3), 313-327; doi:10.3390/systems2030313
Received: 26 March 2014 / Revised: 18 June 2014 / Accepted: 20 June 2014 / Published: 11 July 2014
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Abstract
This paper explores what it means for a business school to embed systems thinking and sustainability into the curriculum by looking at both the application of systems thinking to the design of sustainable programmes and the teaching of system thinking to support [...] Read more.
This paper explores what it means for a business school to embed systems thinking and sustainability into the curriculum by looking at both the application of systems thinking to the design of sustainable programmes and the teaching of system thinking to support understanding of sustainability. Although programmes that include systems thinking and sustainability as “bolt ons” are becoming more common, how these may best be integrated throughout the curriculum is still largely unexplored. In this paper, curriculum design is viewed through the lens of Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model; viewing the management curriculum in this way emphasises the essential interconnectedness of the subject matter rather than its reduction into blocks of knowledge that are containable within standard size teaching modules. Merely recognising the interconnected nature of management knowledge does not go far enough, though, and there is a complementary need to equip students with approaches for describing more complex and pluralistic views of the world and to address such complexities. In this paper, the specification of a module, underpinned by Flood and Jackson’s System of Systems Methodologies, that might serve to achieve these ends by introducing business students to a range of systems approaches is discussed. The challenges that realizing such an undertaking in practice might involve are also reflected on. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet)
Open AccessArticle Emergy Evaluation of Formal Education in the United States: 1870 to 2011
Systems 2014, 2(3), 328-365; doi:10.3390/systems2030328
Received: 2 April 2014 / Revised: 4 July 2014 / Accepted: 16 July 2014 / Published: 24 July 2014
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Abstract
We evaluated the education system of the United States from 1870 to 2011 using emergy methods. The system was partitioned into three subsystems (elementary, secondary and college/university education) and the emergy inputs required to support each subsystem were determined for every year [...] Read more.
We evaluated the education system of the United States from 1870 to 2011 using emergy methods. The system was partitioned into three subsystems (elementary, secondary and college/university education) and the emergy inputs required to support each subsystem were determined for every year over the period of analysis. We calculated the emergy required to produce an individual with a given number of years of education by summing over the years of support needed to attain that level of education. In 1983, the emergy per individual ranged from 8.63E+16 semj/ind. for a pre-school student to 165.9E+16 semj/ind. for a Ph.D. with 2 years of postdoctoral experience. The emergy of teaching and learning per hour spent in this process was calculated as the sum of the emergy delivered by the education and experience of the teachers and the emergy brought to the process of learning by the students. The emergy of teaching and learning was about an order of magnitude larger than the annual emergy supporting the U.S. education system (i.e., the emergy inflows provided by the environment, energy and materials, teachers, entering students, goods and services). The implication is that teaching and learning is a higher order social process related to the development and maintenance of the national information cycle. Also, the results imply that there is a 10-fold return on the emergy invested in operating the education system of the United States. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet)
Figures

Open AccessCommunication Taking on the Big Issues and Climbing the Mountains Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities in Asia
Systems 2014, 2(3), 366-378; doi:10.3390/systems2030366
Received: 3 June 2014 / Revised: 2 August 2014 / Accepted: 6 August 2014 / Published: 11 August 2014
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Abstract
At the 2007 International System Dynamics Society Conference, Professor Jay Forrester posed a challenge: “We need books addressed to the public that are understandable, relevant, important and dramatic”. We need to overcome the “constraints of academe” that inhibit path-breaking work. We need [...] Read more.
At the 2007 International System Dynamics Society Conference, Professor Jay Forrester posed a challenge: “We need books addressed to the public that are understandable, relevant, important and dramatic”. We need to overcome the “constraints of academe” that inhibit path-breaking work. We need to address “the big issues”. We need to march “upward from the present aimless plateau and start climbing the mountains ahead”. This was a message that was intended to inspire and empower, not to criticize. Responding to Professor Forrester’s challenge, this paper first describes the work of three inspiring role models, Dennis Meadows, Junko Edahiro and John Sterman. They have demonstrated how books can have an impact on people’s lives, how “big issues” can be addressed, how the constraints of academe can be overcome and how mountains can be scaled. Second, it offers grounds for optimism about the future of system dynamics modeling in Asia, gained from my sojourn at the National University of Singapore. Third, it describes three “mountains ahead” to be scaled and highlights the work of individuals who have already begun the journey. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet)
Open AccessArticle Exploring and Explaining Complex Allometric Relationships: A Case Study on Amniote Testes Mass Allometry
Systems 2014, 2(3), 379-392; doi:10.3390/systems2030379
Received: 10 June 2014 / Revised: 5 September 2014 / Accepted: 16 September 2014 / Published: 22 September 2014
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Abstract
While many allometric relationships are relatively simple and linear (when both variables are log transformed), others are much more complex. This paper explores an example of a complex allometric relationship, that of testes mass allometry in amniotes, by breaking it down into [...] Read more.
While many allometric relationships are relatively simple and linear (when both variables are log transformed), others are much more complex. This paper explores an example of a complex allometric relationship, that of testes mass allometry in amniotes, by breaking it down into linear components and using this exploration to help explain why this complexity exists. These linear components are two size-independent ones and a size-dependent one, and it is the variations in the interactions between them across different body mass ranges that create the complexity in the overall allometric relationship. While the size-independent limits do not vary between amniote groupings, the slope and the intercept of the size-dependent component does, and it is this that explains why some amniote groups conform to allometric relationships with apparently very different forms. Thus, breaking this complex allometric relationship down into linear components allows its complexity to be explored and explained, and similar processes may prove useful for investigating other complex allometric relationships. In addition, by identifying size-independent upper and lower limits to the proportional investment in specific structures, it allows the prediction of when allometric relationships will remain simple and linear; and when they are likely to develop higher levels of complexity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Allometric Scaling)

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