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This edition of Systems Research and Behavioral Science contains a stimulating set of papers that demonstrate the theoretical and practical relevance of system ideas.

The work of one of the founding fathers of systems theory is addressed in the paper by Drack and Schwarz. Bertalanffy's general system theory (GST) was conceived as a unifying research programme, a science of 'wholeness' to complement reductionist approaches. In this paper, two questions about GST are addressed: Are there recent contributions towards enhancing GST and are there simplifications compared to Bertalanffy's original programme? To answer these questions, Drack and Schwarz analysed 161 articles in peer reviewed journals that referred to GST and appeared between 1995 and 2006. On the basis of this research, it is concluded that a synthesis of the various system approaches is still missing, but GST concepts may provide a good starting point for the bringing together of approaches from different fields.

Georgiou offers an insightful analytical review of Miller's classic paper on 'the magical number 7'. The paper begins with a brief historical overview and then each of Miller's points are commented on in turn. Guidance on interpreting Miller's text is given throughout, leading to a number of technical conclusions. Finally, two general conclusions are proposed: one referring to the decision-making literature, and the other more synoptically to science itself.

'Going global' is a popular theme. Georgantzas, Katsamakas and Solowiej use a system dynamics (SD) approach to explicate the effects of globalization based on the work of Giddens. The papers shows the recursive relations among technology, institutional structures, beliefs and social behaviour and outline the components of a system dynamics modelling example. The model reflects concerns about unemployment and welfare and, most importantly, it shows how welfare support can fail in the long run. Clearly, dynamic simulation modelling has the potential to play an important role in the analysis of the globalization process and its effects.

McGregor also adopts an SD approach in evaluating strategies that a minor profession might successfully undertake to gain market share held by a dominant player when a jurisdiction is contested. A case study approach positing medicine as the dominant (major) profession and chiropractic as the competitor (minor profession) was developed based on SD modelling and, informed by theory of inter-professional competition, two strategies to aid a minor profession in gaining or securing market share were evaluated. The potential for applying learning from this research to other fields where the jurisdiction of dominant player is contested is apparent.

Following this SD theme, causal loop diagrams (CLDs) are a popular qualitative diagramming language for representing feedback-driven systems. Despite their popularity, this approach is not without criticism and Schaffernicht makes an important contribution by surfacing these issues, providing guidance in how they might be addressed and proposing several areas of further research.

Donaires introduces the concept of 'programming in the complex', to refer to the development and maintenance of software systems in environments where frequent unpredictable changes occur. The article proposes a systemic-cybernetic process model, which is a composition of Stafford Beer's viable system model (VSM) and Barry Boehm's spiral model to understand and improve programming practice in such environments.

Cheng provides us with an account of an interesting software development for computerized assessment. According to Cheng, key to the success of such an approach is the measurement of the complexity of an expert's cognitive structures containing assessment criteria and criteria preferences and he presents an intelligent cognition-based systems approach to do this. It first utilizes text-mining techniques to identify important meaning themes that frame as assessment criteria. Human experts' criteria preferences are then derived from the pre-assessed essays by applying a multiple criteria decision analysis. Meanwhile, the optimal parameter set for the assessment system is determined using the genetic algorithm. The effectiveness of this approach is demonstrated by the evaluation of the essays of university students majoring in information management. The results show that the proposed method can not only effectively model expert cognitive structure but also report high classification accuracy under different assessment settings.

Edition 25 (6) of this journal contained a paper by Kira and van Eijnatten on social sustainability in work organizations. The authors made some serious criticisms of sociotechnical systems theory and, in this issue, we are pleased to include a note by Merrelyn Emery who takes each of their criticisms and contrasts it with the original work of the Emerys and their colleagues. In the light of Merrelyn Emery's comments, Kira and van Eijnatten offer a note clarifying some aspects of their earlier paper.

As usual, this issue of SRBS concludes with news and book reviews.

This is the final edition of 2010 and, on behalf of the SRBS Editorial Team, I would like to thank all of you who, in a variety of different ways, have supported the journal in the last year. In particular, I personally would like to express my grateful thanks to the referees who give their time freely to help develop the work of others.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

DOI: 10.1002/sres.1072

Amanda Gregory

Deputy Editor, UK
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Author:Gregory, Amanda
Publication:Systems Research and Behavioral Science
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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