From 10 to 13 April 2012 the Campus of the University of Vienna was the venue of the EMCSR 2012. 168 academics and practitioners attended the conference as well as 17 journalists (13 of whom were in training at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Hagenberg) (click here  and here for videos about the conference!).

The set-up

In plena and in 19 symposia and a PhD colloquium in five parallel tracks the discussion focussed on the self-understanding of a diverse field of systems thinking, cybernetic thinking, complexity thinking, network thinking and else and the reflection of aims, scope and tools of this multitude of approaches. This was attempted  by reflecting similarities as well as differences in the underlying, basic assumptions, on the one hand, and by assessing the impact of research based on these assumptions on society, on the other. The chair, Wolfgang Hofkirchner, laid out a framework for such a discourse (click here or on the picture below).

Logo of the EMCSR 2012 (Prof. Michael Keller, Gestaltung, München)

The contributions were asked to be accordingly written and/or presented in a way that makes understanding across disciplinary boundaries easy. Sessions were opened to different formats than conventional paper presentations only. Reports fed back to the starting point by trying to find answers to questions such as: have we actually made a step forward to the understanding of different fields and common features characteristic of our transdisciplinary way of thinking? Have we actually made a step forward to the understanding of the relation between underlying assumptions and how they enable us to practically affect the problem solving capability with regard to challenges of our time?

Wrap-up plenum (photo: emcsr)

The conference manager, Stefan Blachfellner, facilitated the overall process.

Stefan Blachfellner, conference management, managing editor of the proceedings (photo: emcsr)

Keynote speaker Edgar Morin on complex thinking for a complex world 

Edgar Morin, former Director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), going to celebrate his 92nd birthday this year, gave a talk with the Counsellor of the French Embassy in Vienna listening. He talked about reductionism and a way of thinking that disjoins. They are obstacles for changing the world in the right direction. Though it is rather uncertain that current societal trends will change, he said, there is still hope for humanity to master the global challenges. He referred to experiences made in history when fighting Nazism (click here for the full video of his keynote).

Edgar Morin (photo: emcsr)

The BCSSS awarded Morin with the Ludwig von Bertalanffy Award in Complexity Thinking. Prof. Rainer E. Zimmermann held the laudatio (click here for the text and click here for the video of the ceremony).

This document was signed and handed over to Edgar Morin together with a glass object

The keynote was sponsored by the BCSSS and Univ.Prof. Dr. Hubert Christian Ehalt, Wien Kultur.

Keynote speaker Ervin László on information and coherence in nature and the cancer of human-world incoherence

Ervin László, founder of the Club of Budapest, founder of the Giordano Bruno Globalshift University, warned that the window of opportunity for change is shrinking day by day. Current societal developments distort the planetary system. Information can help establish a coherent overall system (click here for an interview).

Ervin László in interview with Szabados Gabor (photo: emcsr)

PowerPoint slides of Ervin László’s keynote. Click on each image to enlarge

This keynote was sponsored by the Bertalanffy Center too.

Keynote speaker Péter Csermely on crisis responses and crisis management

Péter Csermely, specialist in network theory, author of the book “Weak Links”, demonstrated that we can learn from biology. His working group at Semmelweis University in Budapest identified creative nodes in cellular networks. The adaptation potential of networks is optimal when the tradeoff between the effect of adaptation and the possibility of adaptation is well balanced (click here for the full video of his keynote).

Péter Csermely with interviewer Sandra Woehs (photo: emcsr)

The book “Weak Links”

The PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here.

A short interview with OE1 from ORF in German can be found at this link.

Keynote speaker Péter Érdi on forty years in biocybernetics

Péter Érdi from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and the Wigner Research Centre for Physics at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences gave a memorial lecture on Luigi Ricciardi, a long-standing participant in the EMCSR, who passed away last year, against the background of the development of systems thinking in biology.

Péter Érdi (photo: emcsr)

Keynote speaker Merrelyn Emery on open or closed systems? – bridging the gap

Merrelyn Emery held the traditional W. Ross Ashby Memorial Lecture sponsored by the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR). She outlined the major developments of open systems theory and confronted closed system conceptions from an engineering perspective.

Merrelyn Emery explaining the theories during her talk (photo: emcsr)

The basic text can be found here.

Round table on the past, present and future of cybernetics and systems research

A round table about the history and the future of different approaches to systems was hosted by Carlos Gershenson from the Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas y en Sistemas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City.

Carlos Gershenson (photo: emcsr)

Keynote speaker Péter Érdi stressed the importance of the ideas of the founders of systems theory and cybernetics. Others brought modern developments to the fore. Helena Knyazeva stressed complexity, Stefan Thurner underlined complex adaptive systems, and keynote speaker Péter Csermely accentuated networks. Csermely placed emphasis on scientists being humble and open to the discussion of approaches that compete with their own ones. One point of such a discussion was touched by Alexander Laszlo – the relationship between predictability and emergence (click here for the full video of the round table).

Round table. From the left Helena Knyazeva, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Péter Érdi, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Stefan Thurner, Medical University of Vienna, Péter Csermelyi, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Alexander Laszlo, Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University, Washington (photo: emcsr)

See Gershenson’s summary here.

The Ludwig von Bertalanffy Young Scientist Award

The Bertalanffy Center donated a prize of € 1.000,00 for the PhD day. Four applicants out from six made it, eventually, to the conference. The PhD Colloquium and Award Committee included representatives of the International Academy of Systems and Cybernetic Sciences (IASCYS), the Giordano Bruno Globalshift University (GBGU) and the BCSSS. A decision was taken based upon the reviews and based upon an evaluation of the performance of the competitors. The Ludwig von Bertalanffy Award for Young Scientists went to Jessica Dylan Foley from Ireland “in recognition of the most promising transdisciplinary research demonstrating the principle of Unity through Diversity”.

Members of the PhD Colloquium and Award Committee: Pierre Bricage, IASCYS, Alexander Laszlo, GBGU, Peter Fleissner, BCSSS (photo: emcsr)

The winner of the Ludwig von Bertalanffy Young Scientist Award, Jessica Dylan Foley from Trinity College, Dublin (photo: emcsr)


Every participant is encouraged to submit a full paper. Extended abstracts that were accepted for presentation shall be elaborated and reworked in the light of the discussion at the meeing. For the publication the Bertalanffy Center founds a new open access online journal for transdisciplinarity called “Systems. Connecting Matter, Life, Culture and Technology”. The editor-in-chief is Univ.Prof. Dr. Manfred Füllsack, professor for systems sciences at the University of Graz. Managing editors are Stefan Blachfellner and Robert Bichler.

Manfred Füllsack, Editor-in-Chief (photo: emcsr)

Robert Bichler, Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication, University of Salzburg (photo: emcsr)

The future of the EMCSR

It is the vision of the BCSSS that the next European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research will have an even stronger focus on the foundations of the different approaches to sort out which fundamental assumptions are helpful or needful to actually affect the course of civilisational development.

For the first time the European Union for Systemics (EUS/UES) and the World Organisation for Systems and Cybernetics (WOSC) have become partner of the event. The International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences (IASCYS) did not only play an essential part in the PhD day but welcomed five new academicians. Robert Trappl, became the new President of IASCYS.

40 years for EMCSR – Robert Trappl, new President of the IASCYS (photo: emcsr)

The IFSR hosted afterwards a reflecting session with the aim to strengthen cooperation among different scientific societies and invited all partner organisations of the EMCSR 2012. Partner organisations were five national societies of four European countries (Austria, Greece, Spain, Ukraine), one European society and, in total, six international societies (like the ISSS, the International Society for the Systems Sciences, whose predecessor was founded with Ludwig von Bertalanffy participating).

In the forthcoming EMCSR even more organisations of the systems movement shall be involved.

The Rector’s first deputy, Univ.Prof. Mag. Dr. Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, University of Vienna, assured the continuing commitment of their university – which has been hosting the conference series since its beginning – to support EMCSR and serve as hub for other institutions to join in.

Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, representative of the patron of EMCSR, the Rectorate of the University of Vienna (photo: emcsr)

Also the City of Vienna declared its support.

Welcome address of DI Omar Al-Rawi, Vienna University of Technology alumnus, on behalf of the Mayor of Vienna at the social dinner (photo: emcsr)


Thanks goes to Robert Bichler, Manfred Drack, David Horvath, Jürgen Lenk, Esther Nowy and Lena Putz who assisted on site. The registration was organised by the Austrian Computer Society.

Manfred Drack (photo: emcsr)

On the right David Horvath, next to him Lena Putz, partly hidden by Jürgen Lenk in the foreground (photo: emcsr)

Esther Nowy (photo: emcsr)