Cybernetics and Systems '96: Preface


Since their inception in 1972, when 82 scientists came to Vienna to present 75 papers, the "European Meetings on Cybernetics and Systems Research" have developed into the internationally leading con ference in cybernetics and systems research.

As much as the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies is proud of this fact, it also puts an obligation to it: to make this conference an even better forum for the presentation and discussion of accomplishments and ideas in the areas covered.

During the preparations, which already started in the fall of 1994, several decisions were made, and it is now up to you to decide if they really led to improvements. The first three decisions were "conservative":

  1. to retain the habit of not giving each conference a "motto", as several other conferences are doing,
  2. to retain the symposium structure as a general principle, as it has been since 1972, and only gently phasing out topics which have become of less interest while introducing new ones on "probation"
  3. to retain the effort to invite the best possible scientists, worldwide, not only to chair jointly with an excellent scientist from Austria the respective symposium, but also to encourage colleagues to submit papers to their symposia.
The fourth decision was a hefty one - but which was successfully implemented - namely to raise the quality of the conference by considerably improving the evaluation procedure: Thus, each paper should be sent to two, preferably three, referees, of which at least one should not be a chairperson of the respec tive symposium to which the paper was submitted. Each referee should be requested not only to propose acceptance, acceptance with revision, or rejection, but also to state the arguments on which his/her decision was based, and, in case of conditional acceptance, give clear instructions for the revision of the paper. We were aware that this procedure would increase considerably the work-load of the referees and the secretariat and - me.

As a result, you are holding in your hands the most carefully prepared proceedings in the 24 year long history of the meetings, which should make the progress in cybernetics and systems research even more visible. 327 papers were submitted, the largest number ever received. In the first stage, 62 were rejected, 162 accepted with revision and 103 accepted unconditionally. Finally, 214 papers were accepted and found their way into the proceedings, approximately only two thirds of the originally submitted.

The fifth decision, which long-term readers of the proceedings will have noticed at first glance, concerned the format of the papers: We decided to adopt the two-column format on a larger page (in our case: A4) like the AAAI Conference or the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, thus reducing the number of pages to be printed while giving the authors more space for their papers.

Finally, it was decided not to give the papers to an "outside publisher", especially someone approximately ten thousand miles away, but to have them printed in Vienna, thus, by shifting the deadline closer to the conference, reducing the stress of the authors for preparing the final papers.

These volumes contain all the papers presented at the Meeting. The 381 authors of these 214 papers stem from 34 countries from five continents: 313 from Europe (only 53 from Austria), 34 from North America, 5 from South America, 24 from Asia, and 5 authors from Australia. These volumes therefore present a really international spectrum of the ongoing research.

Also, four new topics were introduced into the conference, which are represented by already 46 papers in these proceedings: "Complex Systems Analysis and Design", "Theories and Metaphors of Cyberspace", "Knowledge Discovery in Databases", and "System, the Quantum, and Complexity". Two more topics were handled more informally in workshops: "Making Watersheds Visible" and "Cybernetics in Psychotherapy and Healing". Those presentations which will be developed into papers, plus edited transcripts of parts of the discussions will be published in special issues of "Cybernetics and Systems: An International Journal" (publisher: Taylor & Francis, London & Washington, DC).

A conference and one of its results, the proceedings, only become a reality as the result of the concerted efforts of many persons: First of all, I would like to thank the contributors who undertook so many important and interesting research projects, then condensed their results to six pages and submitted them in time to make the proceedings available at the Meeting. Second, I thank the chairpersons of the symposia of the Meeting: they helped in the selection of the topics, often invited scientists to contribute, helped in the evaluation of the papers, and finally chaired their sessions. They joined me in the editorial board of this volume.

Third, I would like to especially thank Mrs.Isabella Ghobrial-Willmann and Mag.Gerda Helscher for their great organizational help: Our efficient and charming secretarial staff not only handled hundreds of letters, faxes, e-mails, drafts, final papers, phone requests, etc. with care and diligence - I hope the contributors share my impression! - but also did most of the preparatory work for this conference with great initiative and independence, for which I am especially grateful to them. Furthermore, Dipl.-Ing.Dr.Johannes Matiasek provided the professional "computer-background" of both the Meeting and the proceedings, based on his valuable experience through many conferences, Prof.Dr.Werner Horn adapted the style sheets for LaTeX, and Dipl.-Ing.Johann Petrak helped in the preparation of the subject index.

I hope you will enjoy studying "Cybernetics and Systems '96". Perhaps you are even persuaded to join our group at its Fourteenth Meeting in 1998 in charming Vienna - your last opportunity in this millennium. See you then.

Vienna, February 1996

Robert Trappl