Special Issue "Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet"


A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2013)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Ockie Bosch
Systems Design and Complexity Management, Business School, The University of Adelaide, 10 Pulteney Street, 5005, Adelaide, Australia
Website: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/ockie.bosch
E-Mail: ockie.bosch@adelaide.edu.au
Phone: +61 8 8313 6460
Interests: systems thinking; designing systems curricula; incorporating systems concepts in disciplinary education for different types of students; establishing evolutionary learning laboratories for managing complex issues

Guest Editor
Dr. Robert Y. Cavana
Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand
Website: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/som/about/staff/bob-cavana
E-Mail: bob.cavana@vuw.ac.nz
Interests: systems thinking; system dynamics; management systems; quality management; sustainability; tobacco policy modeling; public policy analysis

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We live in a world in which complexity characterises all human endeavours today, such as healthcare, economic development, environmental protection, gender relationships, poverty, mental health, business management and social responsibility (just to name a few). The issues facing our world have become increasingly complex due to the fact that they are embedded in a global web of ecological, economic, social, cultural and political processes and dynamic interactions. These complex problems and challenges cannot anymore be addressed and solved in isolation and with the single dimensional mindsets and tools of the past.

One of the most challenging conceptual and practical issues today is that our society and economy have to craft innovative approaches to building capacity to rapidly redesign for the new world we are living in. It is this capacity to redesign, in systems and sustainability terms, that will increasingly be what society will require.

This “requirement” has globally become one of the biggest challenges for education. Educators have to ensure they meet the growing need for graduates, from all areas of interest, to have not only an understanding of the disciplines they study, but also a realization of how they fit into societal and global systems in a century when humanity will meet ever more limits.

Systems thinking and dynamic approaches offer a holistic and integrative way of appreciating all the major dimensions of a complex problem and are essential mechanisms to help achieve the attributes that industry wants from future graduates. This demand for a systems-based focus in the education of all disciplinary areas is very rapidly increasing in global society. However, it creates a significant pedagogical challenge in that current university education tends to be focused on discipline specific teaching which has no room for a wider systems approach. Didactic autonomous discipline based courses fail to foster a social networking culture that has been proven to enhance the process of deep learning, nor do they promote interactions with other students in other disciplines. To address this problem we need innovative curriculum designs and learning environments that address academic paradigms as well as industry requirements.

This special issue will highlight several of the key developments in the area of systems education and how the many challenges are being addressed.

Prof. Dr. Ockie Bosch
Dr. Robert Y. Cavana
Guest Editors


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Systems is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. For the first couple of issues the Article Processing Charge (APC) will be waived for well-prepared manuscripts. English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.


  • systems education
  • systems thinking
  • systems theory
  • systems sciences
  • complexity sciences
  • cybernetics
  • sociotechnical systems theory
  • system dynamics
  • systems engineering
  • sustainability

Published Papers (9 papers)

Systems 2014, 2(2), 159-167; doi:10.3390/systems2020159
Received: 12 February 2014; in revised form: 28 March 2014 / Accepted: 11 April 2014 / Published: 16 April 2014
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Systems 2014, 2(2), 137-158; doi:10.3390/systems2020137
Received: 6 November 2013; in revised form: 21 March 2014 / Accepted: 1 April 2014 / Published: 16 April 2014
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Systems 2014, 2(2), 119-136; doi:10.3390/systems2020119
Received: 24 January 2014; in revised form: 25 March 2014 / Accepted: 3 April 2014 / Published: 15 April 2014
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Systems 2014, 2(2), 77-88; doi:10.3390/systems2020077
Received: 8 February 2014; in revised form: 14 March 2014 / Accepted: 1 April 2014 / Published: 8 April 2014
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Systems 2014, 2(1), 54-76; doi:10.3390/systems2010054
Received: 11 February 2014; in revised form: 12 March 2014 / Accepted: 19 March 2014 / Published: 21 March 2014
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Systems 2014, 2(1), 24-33; doi:10.3390/systems2010024
Received: 7 January 2014; in revised form: 11 February 2014 / Accepted: 17 February 2014 / Published: 24 February 2014
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Systems 2014, 2(1), 1-23; doi:10.3390/systems2010001
Received: 29 November 2013; in revised form: 3 January 2014 / Accepted: 15 January 2014 / Published: 24 January 2014
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Systems 2013, 1(4), 66-84; doi:10.3390/systems1040066
Received: 11 September 2013; in revised form: 14 October 2013 / Accepted: 16 October 2013 / Published: 23 October 2013
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abstract graphic

Systems 2013, 1(2), 27-28; doi:10.3390/systems1020027
Received: 28 April 2013; Accepted: 2 May 2013 / Published: 2 May 2013
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: The Art of Interconnected Thinking—Starting with the Young
Nam Nguyen * and Ockie Bosch
Affiliation: Systems Design and Complexity Management, University of Adelaide Business School, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia; E-Mail: nam.nguyen@adelaide.edu.au
Despite many efforts to deal with various complex issues facing our societies, from city planning to international relations, plans and problem solutions are seldom long lasting, because we, as individuals, and our leaders, are most likely to fall into the evolutionary trap of using traditional linear thinking. It is natural and easy, but does not usually deliver long-term solutions in the context of highly complex modern communities. Linear thinking might be satisfactory if you are deciding where to build a house if there are no councils and no environmental regulations. And powering modern economies would be easy if we could burn oil and coal without consequence. But these activities, like all activities, have consequences. And current approaches to complex problems and consequences are almost universally ad hoc. Silos of ideas, policy and activity abound, while issues bubble along without satisfactory resolution, ranging from environmental protection to city planning. There is an urgent need for innovative ways of thinking and a fresh approach to dealing with the unprecedented and complex challenges facing our world. It is essential for future leaders and citizens to be prepared for ‘interconnected’ thinking to deal with complex problems in a systemic, integrated and collaborative fashion—working together to deal with issues holistically, rather than simplistically focusing on isolated features. “Starting with the Young” could be regarded as a small rudder that serves as a leverage to influence a big ship that is moving strongly in one direction (as in the past) to change its direction in the long term. This requires first to expose the young generation to systems design thinking and how it offers a holistic and integrative way of appreciating that all sectors in life are highly interconnected. Second will be the realisation that interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral communication and collaboration are the only ways in which issues of a multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary nature can be addressed. Third, will be an understanding that short term fixes can only “treat the symptoms” and problems need to be addressed systemically at the root causes. The main aim of our project is the evolution of typical, simple cause and effect, linear thinking among the young generation to more sophisticated and realistic ‘interconnected’ thinking. An educational tool (Ecopolicy) is used as a main mechanism to achieve this aim. The Ecopolicy cybernetic simulation ‘game’ is a challenging but playful method by which students are introduced to the idea of thinking in terms of relations, in feedback cycles, in patterns, in networks, and in systems. Participation in this stimulating simulation introduces new ways of thinking and behaviours, enhancing the capacity of young people, preparing them more effectively for a complex and challenging future as leaders or citizens. Since its instigation in 2005 this holistic simulation game has become one of the most popular competitions in various countries in Europe. For example, in Germany more than 3000 schools and 200,000 pupils per year are now taking part in the competitions. Many schools and pupils in Australia and Vietnam have also participated in the Ecopolicy competitions. The first International competition (Ecopolicyade) will be held during the 57th World Conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. Managers and decision makers in Government, companies, businesses and organisations, and systems scientists will provide advice to the students during the Ecopolicyade, while some of the guests also play the game and became familiar with how investments in one sector could have unintended consequences in another. The value of the Ecopolicyade will not only lie in the benefits to the students, but the event itself will also serve as a most valuable inter-generational and inter-cultural co-learning experience.
Keywords: systems thinking; systems education; complexity; Ecopolicy simulation game; lifelong learning; evolution; management; sustainability

Last update: 27 March 2014

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