This week, the MIT Engineering Systems Division (ESD) and MIT Press celebrate the launch of the Engineering Systems Book Series with a special event on Thursday, Nov. 17 (5-6:30pm in E14-674). The first four books, two of which are available now, give an introduction to engineering systems and provide an in-depth view of some elements of systems thinking and design.
ESD was founded in 1998 to address the challenges encountered in large, complex systems such as energy, transportation and health care delivery. These systems involve not only technology, but also people and their needs and behaviors. As a result, successful design and operation require an interdisciplinary approach composed of engineering, management and social science. ESD brings together engineers, managers and social scientists who apply their expertise and ideas to those large systems, seeking to solve the most difficult, complex problems in the world.
“Part of ESD’s strategic plan was to develop a journal or book series,” says Robert Prior, executive editor at MIT Press and editor of the book series. “ESD was unique among universities and wanted a way to export the ideas.”
“We needed a way to explain what engineering systems is about,” says Institute Professor Joel Moses, chair of the book series editorial board.
Engineering Systems: Meeting Human Needs in a Complex Technological World, by Olivier L. de Weck, Daniel Roos and Christopher L. Magee, “is the anchor book for the series,” says co-author de Weck, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems.
“It’s the first book [of the series] people should read. It explains what engineering systems is and gives a framework for thinking about sociotechnical engineering,” he says.
“Chapter four of our book covers the lifecycle properties of systems, in terms of flexibility, reliability, evolvability,” de Weck continues. The other book currently available, Flexibility in Engineering Design, by Richard de Neufville and Stefan Scholtes, answers the question of how to design systems when you don’t know what the future holds, de Weck says.
Two books will complete the initial set of four:
Engineering a Safer World: Systems Thinking Applied to Safety, by Nancy G. Leveson, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems, will be available soon. It offers a new framework and way of thinking about safety, de Weck says. In complex systems, he says, dysfunctional interactions lead to accidents, rather than a simple cascade of usually mechanical failures.
Design Structure Matrix Methods and Applications, by Steven D. Eppinger, professor of management science and engineering systems, and Tyson R. Browning, due out next spring, presents a network modeling approach to developing and understanding complex systems.
The book series editorial board includes individuals from outside MIT, representing Stanford, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon University and other institutions, Prior says. And MIT Press will be “looking for suitable manuscripts from anywhere in the world.”
“There are plenty of engineering publishers, but none were focused on combining the disciplines of engineering, management and social science,” Prior says. “It’s exciting for MIT Press to have this connection to the Institute.”