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Systems Engineering

Editors: Harold "Bud" Lawson (coordinator), Jon P. Wade and Wolfgang Hofkirchener

The discipline of Systems Engineering has, since World War II continued to become recognized as vital for the creation and operation of viable complex systems. While initial efforts focused upon technical systems, the focus has shifted to include the multiple aspects of sociotechnical systems.

The two premier professional organizations that promote Systems Engineering are INCOSE (International Council on Systems Engineering) and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering) via its Systems Council.

While there are a variety of definitions of Systems Engineering, in a major effort to capture a Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK) for the discipline, the following relevant terms describe the essence of the discipline. (Pyster, A. and D.H. Olwell (eds). 2013)

* A system is "a set of elements and a set of inter-relationships between the elements such that they form a bounded whole relative to the elements around them" (Bertalanffy 1968) which exists in an environment which contains related systems and conditions. While there are many definitions of the word "system," the SEBoK authors believe that this definition encompasses most of those which are relevant to SE.

* An engineered system is an open system of technical or sociotechnical elements that exhibits emergent properties not exhibited by its individual elements. It is created by and for people; has a purpose, with multiple views; satisfies key stakeholders' value propositions; has a life cycle and evolution dynamics; has a boundary and an external environment; and is part of a system-of-interest hierarchy.

* Systems engineering is "an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems" (INCOSE 2012). It focuses on holistically and concurrently understanding stakeholder needs; exploring opportunities; documenting requirements; and synthesizing, verifying, validating, and evolving solutions while considering the complete problem, from system concept exploration through system disposal.

* A systems engineer is "a person who practices systems engineering" as defined above, and whose systems engineering capabilities and experience include sustained practice, specialization, leadership, or authority over SE activities. These activities may be conducted by any competent person regardless of job title or professional affiliation.

As the complexity of modern sociotechnical systems continues to increase, it becomes increasingly important for Systems Engineers to understand the impact of Systems Science and Systems Thinking upon their discipline. Book proposals are most welcome that provide important insights into the field of Systems Engineering; especially where the publication will promote the usage of all of the disciplines. It is vital to convey the importance of both "thinking" and "acting" in terms of systems.

Bertalanffy, L. von. 1968. General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, Revised ed. New York, NY, USA: Braziller.

INCOSE. 2012. Systems Engineering Handbook: A Guide for System Life Cycle Processes and Activities, version 3.2.2. San Diego, CA, USA: International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). INCOSE-TP-2003-002-03.2.

Pyster, A. and D.H. Olwell (eds). 2013. The Guide to the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK), v. 1.1.2. Hoboken, NJ: The Trustees of the Stevens Institute of Technology. Accessed DATE.

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