Systems science is an interdisciplinary field that studies the nature of systems—from simple to complex—in nature, society, cognition, engineering, technology and science itself. To systems scientists, the world can be understood as a system of systems. The field aims to develop interdisciplinary foundations that are applicable in a variety of areas, such as psychology, biology, medicine, communication, business management, technology, computer science, engineering, and social sciences.
Systems science covers formal sciences such as complex systems, cybernetics, dynamical systems theory, information theory, linguistics or systems theory. It has applications in the field of the natural and social sciences and engineering, such as control theory, systems design, operations research, social systems theory, systems biology, system dynamics, human factors, systems ecology, computer science, systems engineering and systems psychology. Themes commonly stressed in system science are (a) holistic view, (b) interaction between a system and its embedding environment, and (c) complex (often subtle) trajectories of dynamic behavior that sometimes are stable (and thus reinforcing), while at various 'boundary conditions' can become wildly unstable (and thus destructive). Concerns about Earth-scale biosphere/geosphere dynamics is an example of the nature of problems to which systems science seeks to contribute meaningful insights.
Since the emergence of general systems research in the 1950s, systems thinking and systems science have developed into many theoretical frameworks.
Systems sciences cover formal sciences like dynamical systems theory and applications in the natural and social sciences and engineering, such as social systems theory and system dynamics.
Main article: List of systems scientists
General systems scientists can be divided into different generations. The founders of the systems movement like Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, James Grier Miller, George J. Klir, and Anatol Rapoport were all born between 1900 and 1920. They came from different natural and social science disciplines and joined forces in the 1950s to establish the general systems theory paradigm. Along with the organization of their efforts a first generation of systems scientists rose.
Among them were other scientists like Ackoff, Ashby, Margaret Mead and Churchman, who popularized the systems concept in the 1950s and 1960s. These scientists inspired and educated a second generation with more notable scientists like Ervin Laszlo (1932) and Fritjof Capra (1939), who wrote about systems theory in the 1970s and 1980s. Others got acquainted and started studying these works in the 1980s and started writing about it since the 1990s. Debora Hammond can be seen as a typical representative of these third generation of general systems scientists.
Main article: List of systems sciences organizations
The International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) is an organisation for interdisciplinary collaboration and synthesis of systems sciences. The ISSS is unique among systems-oriented institutions in terms of the breadth of its scope, bringing together scholars and practitioners from academic, business, government, and non-profit organizations. Based on fifty years of tremendous interdisciplinary research from the scientific study of complex systems to interactive approaches in management and community development. This society was initially conceived in 1954 at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, and Anatol Rapoport.
In the field of systems science the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR) is an international federation for global and local societies in the field of systems science. This federation is a non-profit, scientific and educational agency founded in 1981, and constituted of some thirty member organizations from various countries. The overall purpose of this Federation is to advance cybernetic and systems research and systems applications and to serve the international systems community.
The best known research institute in the field is the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States, dedicated to the study of complex systems. This institute was founded in 1984 by George Cowan, David Pines, Stirling Colgate, Murray Gell-Mann, Nick Metropolis, Herb Anderson, Peter A. Carruthers, and Richard Slansky. All but Pines and Gell-Mann were scientists with Los Alamos National Laboratory. SFI's original mission was to disseminate the notion of a separate interdisciplinary research area, complexity theory referred to at SFI as complexity science. Recently, IIT Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India started inculcating system science and engineering to its students through Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate programs. This makes it the first institution to offer system science education to students in India.