Notes on ethics and activity of the

Italian Systems Society (AIRS)

 

Systemics is introduced as connective tissue of the scientific and cultural activity, having the purpose to induce, facilitate and represent properties and systemic concepts (such as openness, self-organisation, complexity, dissipative structures, etc.) in different disciplinary contexts (such as biology, economics, biology and music).

In short, we have

1)      Interdisciplinarity when problems, approaches, models and methods of a discipline are used by another one (e.g. the study of the neurological structure of the brain allowed the establishment of Neural Networks in Informatics, then very diffusely applied as simulation models in different disciplinary contexts; the study of evolutionary models in biology allowed the establishment of Genetic Algorithms having very general usability; the study of self-regulation - such as in the Wattís regulator Ė allowed the study of self-regulation in biology, sociology and economics with first-order cybernetics);

2)      Transdisciplinarity[1] when systemic properties (such as ones mentioned above) are considered and studied in general [2] (see the distinction between general and generic introduced later), i.e. without considering specific disciplinary contexts and studying their relationships.

In the systemic approach it is created and used interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary modelling for studying both disciplinary and systemic problems in order to cross conventional divisions between disciplinary contexts. Disciplinary contexts have been established in time having no or little interactions between them, to the detriment of global, simultaneous and multi-dimensional research (the Babelís tower).

 

Ideal and reference value of Systemics is generalization, i.e. the possibility to use same approaches, methodologies and theories for different disciplinary contexts, thanks to usage of systemic properties recognizable in different disciplinary contexts. For instance the study of adaptability as systemic property in biology, physics, psychology and economics (interdisciplinarity) and per se (transdisciplinarity).

Generalizing is, in short, transdisciplinarity (study of systemic properties per se), based on abstraction, rigorousness and complexity in the belief that such a cognitive disciplinary crossing cannot leave aside communication, mutual representation and equality between different kinds of knowledge.

 

Generality, related to popularisation and reasoning by using partial and occasional analogies, also allows using same concepts and approaches for different disciplines, but paying inaccuracy and approximation. For instance considering corporations as machines because, similarly, using resources and producing, or reasoning in a reductionistic way, thatís by reducing an higher level of description to a lower one, such as reducing psychology to neurology, life to biology, learning to memorizing, by considering physic-chemical aspects only. In such a way popularising pays generic understanding by lack of rigorousness, often considered as inappropriate and concessive border violation of the considered discipline.† For instance intelligence considered as processing ability, such as for computers.

 

1. Guide-lines

 

We introduce in the following some guide-lines for the scientific and cultural AIRS activity, specific of the adopted ethics.

 

1.1 Cultural and scientific AIRS interest

 

A very introductory consideration relates to the fact that different disciplines developed contents, results, and languages having different effectiveness for dealing with systemic properties. It also relates to nature of problems and importance of results.

This situation doesnít allow any disciplinary approach (with reference to concepts, methods and language) to predominate when dealing with Systemics. Single disciplines have their contexts where carry out researches and it is not appropriated AIRS be one of them. On the other hand AIRS is not to be intended as popularising resonance chamber for disciplinary results, nor as a generic cultural context where introducing disciplinary results as such. Moreover, it is AIRSís mission to realize and elaborate weak systemic contents, implicit in any discipline.

The AIRSís cultural and scientific interest is transdisciplinarity, in its turn necessarily based on disciplinary and interdisciplinary scientific and cultural interests.

A single disciplinary vision will never be predominant in AIRS.

 

1.2 Knowledge production and distribution

 

This point relates to scholar knowledge production and distribution processes.

The theoretical change of the methodological attention from problems, per their nature systemically open, to tools and models in specific contexts, has important influences on the process of knowledge production and on researchers motivations. †AIRS has the policy to avoid focusing on disciplinary contexts and maintaining of institutional approaches in order to prevent from sustaining self-referential, redundant and, often, parasitic activities only justified by particular interests (the tools) more than by genuine problems. Distorted attention on disciplinary contexts rather than on problems has very negative effects on the shaping of new intellectual resources, induced in this way to assume interests of a disciplinary group through often tyrannical and short-sighted dependency relations (examinations, publications, founding).††

AIRS wants to avoid that such distortions also impact on the process of selection, acceptance and submission of proposals. Too often such an approach is a kind of control system for interests when publishing on journals and edited books.

AIRS wants to avoid to become a context where attribution and originality of a contribution, fundamental criteria for evaluation, be substituted by cultural property focusing on capitalizing and on added-value for career.

AIRS, as policy and attitude, has not and wants not to have any power. Actually, its cultural authoritativeness is also based on that. Moreover, its scientific production and its authoritativeness publishing with scholar publishers, allows the establishment of personal interests (the referred publication).

AIRS must protect from possible instrumental usage of its emerging authoritativeness.

 

1.3 Systemic knowledge production

 

Systemics is the practice of scientific and cultural thinking applied to increasing,per extension and complexity, contexts. In no way Systemics may be reduced to a discipline managed with the closed logic of specialized institutions.

Systems research should be not considered just as extension or eccentric casual dispensation to usual disciplinary contexts, but as permanent cultural framework always active during disciplinary and interdisciplinary research (during transdisciplinary research itís active by definition).

Adhering to Systemics means to bring into question the model of scientific production based on cultural property, capitalization and added-value for career, inevitably confining to an only apparent prolific production, hiding depriving of authoritativeness.

 

1.4 Explicit systemic contribution

 

Scientific and cultural contributions to Systemics may be considered based on two aspects:

1.      Identifying systemic contents in disciplinary research;

2.      Introduce systemic proposals as inter- and transdisciplinary research.

It must be remarked how itís generically possible to artificially find systemic content virtually in any kind of contributions.

Submitters of contributions to AIRS must take the charge of making explicit the systemic content, by avoiding to leave it implicit and undefined. Submitted papers must have aside to the traditional abstract a systemic abstract explanatory of the specific systemic contents. In the same way this issue must be explicitly dealt with in the body of the proposal.

The explicit systemic content must be central.

Only in this way AIRS may avoid to became receptor of any kind of contribution, even if scientifically acceptable, with the reason that itís possible to generically take out from it systemic content.†††††

In this case too it must be distinguished generality (generic configurations of interacting elements may be realized anywhere: machines, people, corporations, components, etc.) allowing de facto almost any contribution be considered suitable for a systemic context (journal, conference), from conceptual generalization specifying emergence, role of the observer, systemic properties and levels of description considered.

 

1.5 Codes and rules

 

It is very important that rules formulated and adopted in reference to the points listed above be not reduced to static codes or regulations, but be kept continuously emergent from the processes and the activity, as expression of vitality of the cultural approach. We must deal with the distance between

†in an transdisciplinary context.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The short considerations introduced above cannot be in any way exhaustive of a problem suitable to be considered by using systemic approaches, but have the purpose to bring the attention on ethical aspects in the process of knowledge production and management. If underestimated they could have as consequence a degeneration of the meaning of our research activity.†


 

2. The principles in short.

 

We list in the following the general principles adopted by AIRS for its cultural and scientific activity:

 

2.1 Making explicit the† systemic contents.

 

It will always be explicit in any contribution the specific systemic contents of considered processes and phenomena by referring to systemic properties, processes of emergence, role of the observer and levels of description (what is the specific systemic contribution).

 

2.2 Interdisciplinarity.

 

It must always be indicated interdisciplinary contents and consequences with explicit references to examples in disciplines and applications.

 

2.3 Transdisciplinaity.

 

It must always be indicated trans-disciplinary contents of proposals with explicit references and examples of systemic properties considered and their theoretical relationships.

 

2.4 Non-predominant disciplinary view.

 

It must be distinguished formulation of systemic properties and concepts realized in a specific discipline from making it explicit (not approximated or popularised) by using systemic concepts, thatís generalised.† It may be carried out through exempla, models, simulations and applications.

 

2.5 Production of knowledge not as† property.

 

This point relates to avoiding that effective usability of knowledge could take place only by completely sharing and accepting contexts (e.g. a simulation experiment may be published on a specific journal only if it has been carried out by using a specific software in a specific laboratory, to be mentioned, or it is possible to publish on a journal only if the contribution is co-authored with someone or if some specific books or papers are mentioned).

 

 

 

 

 

Rome, January 2005

 



[1] Transdisciplinarity also allows a very powerful approach in research when, according to the principle of unity of science (very important for General Systems Theory, as introduced by Von Bertalanffy in 1968), it is assumed that a systemic property detected in a disciplinary context, must be meaningful in the others too, even where this property has been not considered yet.

 

[2] As introduced in the fundamental book by Luwig von Bertalanffy, 1968, General Systems Theory. Braziller, New York Ė Italian Edition Luwig von Bertalanffy, 2004, Teoria Generale dei Sistemi, Oscar Saggi Mondatori, Milano. bolding by us -