Governing New Realities: The Negotiation Proceedings for the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Michael HUTTER, University of Vienna, Austria
In 1972 in Laxenburg, near Vienna, scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) started to work on methods of global modeling or the evaluations of models that dealt with complex social and environmental systems. Scientists of this new facility coped with advanced problems in society due to the growth and intensification of industrial production. They were sent by their member states to Laxenburg to enhance prognostic tools such as simulated mathematical models. Twelve members from Academies of Sciences (or similar entities) from the USSR, USA, FRG, GDR, JP, CDN, CZ, PL, FR, IT, BUL and the UK created with IIASA a formerly unknown discipline of "applied systems analysis". This lack of genealogy should liberate scientists from binding influences of specific national academic settings, although they shared a common nucleus through the traditions of systems theory, operation research, linear programming, cost-benefit analysis or game theory. Their focus was to improve methodological work in relation to human-nature and human-machine interactions. The controlling of urban systems, the measuring of environmental quality or the evolution of energy resource depletion provided first examples of research. IIASA became the rare case of an international think tank with a specific diplomatic role with a proper expert knowledge.
I followed the main negotiation bodies between 1967 and 1972 to denote the diverging regimes of interest that were involved before they homogenized in the spectrum of applied systems analysis. I reconstructed the discourses whereupon the founding members of the IIASA contested the inertia, broke with blindness of evidence-bases or agreed with the efficiency of prior knowledge of representing reality. With this historical perspective I wanted to enhance the understanding of IIASA as an important actor in the history of modeling environmental problems and as a forerunner for the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.