Transdisciplinary Systems Engineering: Exploiting Disciplinary Convergence to Address Grand Challenges
By Azad M. Madni
IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine
We are living in an era driven by exponentials and defined by hyperconnectivity, growing complexity, and increasing convergence among disciplines. In response to these trends, and at the urging of the research community, systems engineering (SE) is undergoing a timely transformation that includes developing formal underpinnings and reaching out to other disciplines to make connections and identify synergies. The impetus for this transformation stems, in part, from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges, which are mostly complex systems problems requiring contributions from multiple disciplines. Against this backdrop, this article defines various convergence types and the integrative discipline of transdisciplinary SE (TSE). TSE, enabled, in large part, by the growing convergence of engineering with other disciplines, has the potential to achieve unprecedented advances in both the thinking and the methods needed to address complex sociotechnical system problems. Using an NAE Grand Challenge problem as an example, this article illustrates the relevance of TSE and the opportunities available to the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society (SMCS) to contribute to this important area through collaboration between its technical committees and working groups from sister societies, such as the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).