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Doctoral project earns international complexity science award for Southern Cross researcher


Sharlene King, media office at Southern Cross University
5 September 2022

Dr Shae L Brown, a Southern Cross University academic, is passionate about designing learning material that meets the educational needs of 21st century students.

Shae is also a familiar face for those who’ve used the services of the Lexsa Student Association, at the Lismore campus, where they work as a Senior Student Advocate.

In today’s challenging times, complexity thinking and understanding, and the relationship of complexity with Indigenous Knowledge, are high on the list of required capacities for students as they engage with the emerging future. Shae’s practice-based doctoral project, titled ‘Complexity patterning: A language and strategy for the teaching and learning of complexity competence’, focused on these required capacities.

Shae was recently awarded the Spirit of Sir Geoffrey Vickers Award by the International Society of Systems Sciences (ISSS) in recognition of how their doctoral project contributes to complexity education, and also for the transdisciplinary nature of the project that emerges from relationship of complexity science, Indigenous Knowledge and Barad’s interpretation of quantum physics known as agential realism.

“I’m thrilled to receive this award. I graduated in June, and was honoured with the Sir Geoffrey Vickers Memorial Award in July by the International Society for the Systems Sciences,” said Shae.

“This prestigious international award recognises promising work that advances systems sciences towards Sir Geoffrey’s vision of integrating the humanities within science, of including ethics within all knowledges.”

The ISSS is one of the oldest organisations dedicated to the study, development and application of systems science, systems thinking, cybernetics and complexity science.

The Sir Geoffrey Vickers Memorial Award was presented to Shae at the 2022 ISSS General Meeting, after the 60th ISSS Conference at which they presented a paper outlining their doctoral project.

According to the International Society of Systems Sciences, Geoffrey Vickers’ 20th century work was ahead of the times, seeing society as evolutionarily emergent. With participative and interactive communication as a creative agent; humanisation as the necessary normative component of socialisation — all this as part of what he called ‘a science of human ecology’. It is through a truly integrative and systemic approach to our humanity that Sir Geoffrey believed we can learn to navigate multi-valued choice in the ways we structure and value our situation.

Vickers is regarded as a systems practitioner rather than an academic. He introduced many of the basic systems thinking terms, and derived the concept of appreciative systems to describe human activity. He recognised that appreciation of systems requires the participation of not only the observer, but also that of the subject.

Shae is currently involved in collaborative writing projects within the Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples and the Faculty of Science and Engineering, while considering possible paths towards bringing their work to the world.

At the same time Shae is writing articles from their thesis and preparing for invited participation in the Laszlo Institute of New Paradigm Research’s 2023 symposium in Italy on new paradigm education.

Through the goal of developing materials for pre-service teachers and professional development for educators, including curriculum and learning materials for students, Shae aims to contribute to transformational education for the 21st century.