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The Case for Evolving Systems Engineering as a Field Within Engineering Systems

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MIT Engineering Systems Symposium, March 2004 1

The Case for Evolving Systems Engineering as a

Field within Engineering Systems

Donna Rhodes and Daniel Hastings

Engineering Systems Division

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

77 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02139

The solution lies in the direction of taking a systems view of things. When you have the view from space,

you realize that the concept of fields within fields within fields, systems of functioning within systems of

functioning, is the only approach that will work. -- Edgar D. Mitchell, Lunar Module Commander Apollo 14, 1971

Abstract. Engineering Systems is an important new field of study focusing on the complex

engineering of systems in a broad human, societal, and industrial context. It takes an

integrative holistic view of large-scale, complex, technologically-enabled systems which have

significant enterprise level interactions and socio-technical interfaces. The establishment of this

new field has been a significant step toward evolving the holistic engineering-management

science needed to address the complex systems challenges of this century. Systems

Engineering is proposed by the authors as an essential field that appropriately lies within the

larger field of Engineering Systems.


The question often arises when Engineering Systems is introduced to systems

practitioners, educators, and researchers, "what is the difference between Systems Engineering

and Engineering Systems?" The response to this question is highly dependent upon the

beholder's view of Systems Engineering. The two coauthors of this paper acknowledge that

Systems Engineering can be and often is viewed quite differently. The extremes represent the

polarized views of the field today – which we will refer to as ‘classical view' versus an ‘expanded

view'. We will examine how each view of Systems Engineering is contrasted with Engineering

Systems. We assert that no matter which perspective


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