The International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) is among the first and oldest organizations devoted to interdisciplinary inquiry into the nature of complex systems, and remains perhaps the most broadly inclusive. The 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 collaboration with James Grier Miller, it was formally established as an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1956. Originally founded as the Society for General Systems Research, the society adopted its current name in 1988 to reflect its broadening scope.
The initial purpose of the society was "to encourage the development of theoretical systems which are applicable to more than one of the traditional departments of knowledge," with the following principal aims:
- to investigate the isomorphy of concepts, laws, and models in various fields, and to help in useful transfers from one field to another;
- to encourage the development of adequate theoretical models in areas which lack them;
- to eliminate the duplication of theoretical efforts in different fields; and
- to promote the unity of science through improving the communication among specialists.
In the intervening years, the ISSS has expanded its scope beyond purely theoretical and technical considerations to include the practical application of systems methodologies to problem solving. Even more importantly, it has provided a forum where scholars and practitioners from across the disciplinary spectrum, representing academic, business, government, and non-profit communities, can come together to share ideas and learn from one another.