About the Merger [of Systems Research, and Behavioral Science] | 1976 | James Grier Miller

After 40 years of research, James Grier Miller reflected on the original direction for Behavioral Science in 1956, and how the field had evolved with Systems Research (which started publication in 1984).

Statement from the Founding Editor of Behavioral Science

About the Merger

After more than 40 years as the editor of Behavioral Science, it is time for me to turn that job over to someone else. The journal will continue under a new name, Systems Research and Behavioral Science. This reflects its merger with the journal Systems Research. I will remain with it in a secondary capacity under Mike C. Jackson, Editor-in-Chief.

From the beginning, Behavioral Science has been interdisciplinary in intent and fact. My editorial in volume 1, number I, asked: ‘Can the scientific method solve the larger, more pervasive questions about man as well as the smaller, more particular ones? Is the tool with which man has won his victories over the physical world applicable to uncovering the laws which govern man’s conduct, the deepest causes of our strife and our harmony? If the fragments of multiple sciences were brought together in a unitary behavioral science and all the separate skills focused on the study of human behavior, perhaps the time required to find answers to these questions could be reduced. It is possible that inadequacies in the present studies of man could be recognized; better communication among the established; generality of findings magnified; additional benefits derived from comparing theories in diverse fields, explaining both similarities and differences; and the validity and applicability of empirical work increased by planning individual studies as components of an explicit mosaic of research strategy?’

The original editorial board reflected this ambitious goal. It included, besides myself, Franz Alexander, a psychoanalyst; Alex Bavelas, a social psychologist; David Easton, a political scientist; Ralph Gerard, a neurophysiologist; Clyde Kluckhohn, an anthropologist; Marion J. Levy Jr, a sociologist; Donald Marquis, a psychologist; Jacob Marschak, an economist; Anatol Rapoport, a mathematical biologist; Ralph W. Tyler, Dean of the Social Sciences Division of the University of Chicago and later director of the Center for the Behavioral Sciences (the Ford Center) in Palo Alto, California; and Raymond W. Waggoner, a psychiatrist. All these people were leaders in their fields at the time.

My focus on interdisciplinary science began early, at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, of which I was a Junior Fellow. The Society was modeled after the Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. Like the young members of their English model, Junior Fellows received full support while pursuing studies in whatever field they chose. And all we had to do was go to dinner on Monday evenings! At those dinners I met as distinguished a group of scholars from all parts of the University as I have encountered anywhere since. Their interaction was fascinating, stimulating — and fun. The group of Junior Fellows I knew there were on their way to becoming leaders in the many fields they repre- sented. I met and became friends with James G. Baker, who specialized in astronomy and optics; Willard van Orman Quine, the logician; Arthur Schlesinger Jr in political science; Robert Woodward, Nobel prize-winning organic chemist, and Paul Samuelson, Nobelist in economics. Alfred North Whitehead, who had been my professor and mentor in my undergraduate studies, had been among the founders of the Society. He continued to be my friend and to encourage my interest in developing a comprehensive theory of human behavior comparable to those emerging in the ‘hard’ sciences.

After medical school and military service in the Office of Strategic Services, several years as Chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago again brought me in contact with distinguished people in my own and other disciplines. Among them was Enrico Fermi, whom I met at a discussion club made up of professors. He was certain that only a deeper understanding of human behavior could avert the destruction of human society on a scale vastly larger than he had helped to bring about with the atom bomb. He went with me to President Robert Hutchins and helped to secure funds and support for a Committee on the Behavioral Sciences, to be made up of people of a broad range of interests, who would work toward unifying theory in the sciences of human behavior.

The journal Behavioral Science was an outgrowth of that theory group. I invented the term ‘behavioral science’, which was later recommended by Donald Marquis as the name of the Center for the Behavioral Sciences to express the diversity of our interests. While our journal was planned and designed at the University of Chicago, it did not become a complete reality until several members of the theory group moved with me to the University of Michigan, which offered us an Institute, professorships, and a new building. We became the nucleus of an interdisciplinary group there. The new Institute was called the Mental Health Research Institute. Behavioral Science was published from there for several years, until I moved it to the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky in 1973, when I became president of that institution.

Behavioral Science was planned as an interdisciplinary journal to include all the sciences from those concerned with cells to those that studied supranational systems. We stated it clearly: ‘The editors especially want manuscripts of a theoretical or empirical nature which have broad interdisciplinary implications not found in a journal devoted to a single discipline. Papers should be based on precise observation and quantitative data, and present hypotheses testable at more than one level. Preference is for empirical studies whose findings lead to hypotheses which are testable at various levels . . . Simulation, modeling, and artificial intelligence manuscripts which can lead to verification of general theories applicable across all levels of living and nonliving systems are particularly welcome.’

A second important influence upon the new journal was the then new systems movement which began when Ludwig von Bertalanffy, a biologist, was able to publish his ideas after World War II had ended. He was opposed to the ‘vitalism’ of that day, which insisted upon a nonscientific origin for living things—a first principle or God. He emphasized that they were systems, like the systems of the non-living subjects of the sciences of non-living matter, and could be studied and eventually understood in the same way. The American systems society grew from discussions at the Ford Center in which some of our discussion group members, including Ludwig von Bertalanffy, were involved. We embraced that point of view and it was important to our journal from the beginning.Now this journal moves again, this time to England, where a new editor, a new pubisher and a new name will continue its interdisciplinary emphasis and its basic philosopy. I wish it well, remembering all the people who have worked on it, written for it, and influenced its history. So far the goal of a comprehensive theory of human behavior has not been reached but I believe it is attainable.

James G. Miller
Founding Editor, Behavioral Science


Miller, J. G. 1976. “Statement from the Founding Editor of Behavioral Science: About the Merger.” Systems Research and Behavioral Science 14 (1): 3–4. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1743(199701/02)14:1<3::AID-SRES153>3.0.CO;2-F.

Statement from the Founding Editor of Behavioral Science:  About the Merger

#behavioral-science, #systems-research