Friday, April 11, 2008

Geoffrey Vickers Archives now available on-line

A new on-line catalogue of the Geoffrey Vickers papers is now available from the OU Archive web pages.

The catalogue is also available from the Archives Hub website. The Archives Hub is a national gateway to descriptions of archives within UK universities and colleges. As part of the Hub, the Vickers catalogue is now cross-searchable with hundreds of other collections.

For further information or to arrange a visit to consult the Geoffrey Vickers collection, contact Ruth Cammies, the Open University Archivist, at or on +44 1908 653378.

To learn more about Vicker's scholarship see this special edition of Systems Research & Behavioral Science or look at the OU/BBC website 'Systems practice: managing complexity'.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Explore your political compass

This site is designed to break out of the trap in our language and thinking associated with 'the old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789'. The site's authors argue that these categories ' are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape'.

I found this exercise revealing. Do systems thinkers, I wonder, tend to occupy a particular place on the grid? I suspect not - but this exercise in itself might go along way to explain some of the divisions within the so-called systems community!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Professor of Systems Sciences, The Faculty of Environmental, Regional and Educational Sciences, University of Graz, Austria

Applications for this post close on 21st April 2008. It is good to see new Chairs in Systems being advertised.

Research and teaching duties include:

Coordination and direction of activities in research and teaching related to systems sciences, in particular of those activities related to the interdisciplinary study programme in environmental systems sciences. This programme is unique in Austria.

Particular focus needs to be placed on the following areas of competence:

(a) Strong ability to integrate the methods and subject areas of a very diverse range of disciplines, in particular those of the social, natural, and environmental sciences. This includes the ability to break out of and overcome individual disciplinary paradigms.

(b) Internationally recognized research and the ability to initiate applied research based on interdisciplinary systems sciences.

(c) Advanced ability to deal with and, in research and teaching, apply methods from a wide spectrum of systems science methods.

(d) Application of research guided teaching (in German and English) in a study programme which is popular among students.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Changing some boundary conditions seems to offer possibilities on an intractable issue

The means to provide effective education to Australian Aboriginal children in an environment of community safety has been a long-term intractable problem. Two innovations which broaden the boundary around community - a shared residential facility with some parental access and an education that promotes aboriginal 'ways of being' seem to offer some new hope.

Now Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin is being congratulated on 'developing dormitory-style accommodation attached to some remote community schools and a residential facility at Weipa, near Cape York. It is claimed that her:

'observation that there is growing support for children to go to school outside of communities, and an understanding that there is "a world of difference" between removing children under past practices and giving them better opportunities in boarding colleges and hostels is soundly based'.

'Residential education is not the solution, and should not be used, as was pointed out at the September roundtable, to "let governments off the hook" of their responsibility to provide P-12 schooling in remote communities. For many indigenous young people, however, and in the short term, it is the only way to access quality education in a safe, supportive environment.

At the same time, boarding school education must be provided in the context of celebrating Aboriginality (encouraging pride, banishing shame) and promoting Aboriginal culture and ways of being.'

The beauty of April snow is welcome relief from mismatch between rhetoric and reality of UK government.

Having been back in the UK all of four weeks it has not taken me long to experience the mismatch between what is espoused by the UK government - especially with respect to climate change mitigation and adaptation - and what it does. The budget was a case in point. The continuing commitment to airport expansion at Heathrow (despite the recent systemic failures associated with the opening of Terminal 5) is another example. Targets are still rampant - and their distorting effects. Small incidents on the motorways create gridlock - and the train system is fragile (the west coast line will close on weekends for much of the summer).

But the landscape this morning lifted my spirits.