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Trained as an Engineer — first chemical (BSc, University of Exeter, 1970), then Control (PhD, University of Cambridge, 1973) — Bruce Beck came to IIASA as a Research Scholar and Task Leader in the Resources and Environment Area in 1977. What sparked his curiosity then, as now, were questions such as these: how to put the Environment on a computer; what to do with that computer model when empirical experience of the real thing proves it to be seriously inadequate; and how to explore options for our futures in the face of these inevitably flawed models. Beck’s 2002 monograph Environmental Foresight and Models: A Manifesto is the culmination of a decade of networked research pivoting on the Dynamic Systems Program at the Institute.
Professor Beck left IIASA in 1982, to take up a position at Imperial College London. In 1993, he was appointed Wheatley Georgia Research Alliance Professor and Eminent Scholar at the University of Georgia, where he worked until 2014. Over those three decades, his research on systems and the environment coalesced around responding to the challenge of how we might re-engineer the infrastructure of cities such that they may become forces for good in the environment. Cities as Forces for Good, in other words, or CFG for short (www.cfgnet.org). Again, IIASA played its role in this. Prof. Beck was an Institute Scholar from 2006-9. The essential (and enduring) challenges of CFG can be found in a 2006 essay on “Cities” co-authored with fellow Institute Scholars Paul Crutzen and Mike Thompson. The essay was commissioned as background material for a Blue Ribbon Panel of the (US) National Academy of Engineering, which at the time was assessing the “Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century”.
Now back in London where he is Visiting Professor at Imperial College, Prof. Beck collaborates closely with IIASA colleague Mike Thompson. Whereas once he was addressing questions of environmental forecasting, he is today exploring the very same issues in economic and financial forecasting, this time with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). Indeed, he is engaged with the IFoA in exploring the scope for establishing a Systems Thinking enterprise for the insurance and finance industries. Within the Risk and Resilience and Water Programs at IIASA, Beck and Thompson are enquiring into the social anthropology of “How Engineers Think”, specifically in respect of technological innovation in resource recovery, the urban metabolism, and the circular economy.
Currently, Prof. Beck is writing a book on Resilience. He says it feels a bit like a chronology of his interactions with the Institute, going all the way back to the mid-1970s, when he first heard of Buzz Holling (and, at times, reaching even further back to recall the very origins of IIASA).
Last update: 10-APR-2018
Beck MB, Thompson M, Gyawali D, Langan S ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0742-3658, & Linnerooth-Bayer J (2018). Viewpoint – Pouring money down the drain: Can we break the habit by reconceiving wastes as resources? Water Alternatives 11 (2): 260-283.
Beck MB, Das DK, Thompson M, Chirisa I, Eromobor S, Kubanza S, Rewal T, & Burger E (2018). Chapter 2. Cities as Forces for Good in the Environment: A Systems Approach. In: Systems Analysis Approach for Complex Global Challenges. Eds. Mensah, P., Katerere, D., Hachigonta, S. & Roodt, A., pp. 9-39 Heidelberg: Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-71485-110.1007/978-3-319-71486-8_2.
Beck MB, Gyawali D, & Thompson M (2018). Societal Drivers of Food and Water Systems 2: Applying Plural Rationality to Some Wicked Problems. In: The Oxford Handbook of Food, Water and Society. Eds. Allan, T., Bromwich, B., Colman, A. & Keulertz, M., Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-066979-910.1093/oxfordhb/9780190669799.013.62.
Thompson M, Beck MB, & Gyawali D (2018). Societal Drivers of Food and Water Systems 1: The Approach by Way of Material Flows, Household Consumption Styles, and Contending Schools of Engineering Thought. In: The Oxford Handbook of Food, Water and Society. Eds. Allan, T., Bromwich, B., Colman, A. & Keulertz, M., Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-066979-910.1093/oxfordhb/9780190669799.013.48.
Stigter JD & Beck MB (1995). Model Structure Identification: Development and Assessment of a Recursive Prediction Error Algorithm. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-95-105
Beck MB (1987). Water Quality Modeling: A Review of the Analysis of Uncertainty. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-88-003. Reprinted from Water Resources Research, 23(8) 
Beck MB (1985). Water Quality Management: A Review of the Development and Application of Mathematical Models. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-13986-9
Beck MB (1983). Uncertainty, system identification, and the prediction of water quality. In: Uncertainty and Forecasting of Water Quality. pp. 3-68 . ISBN 978-3-642-82054-010.1007/978-3-642-82054-0_1.
Beck MB (1982). Time-Series Analysis of Nutrient Loadings in the Zala River, Lake Balaton. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-82-116
Beck MB (1982). Identifying models of environmental systems' behaviour. Mathematical Modelling 3 (5): 467-480. DOI:10.1016/0270-0255(82)90043-4.
Beck MB (1981). Identifying Models of Environmental Systems' Behaviour. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-81-158
Beck MB (1981). Operational Water Quality Management: Beyond Planning and Design. IIASA Executive Report. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: ER-81-007
Fedra K, van Straten G, & Beck MB (1981). Uncertainty and arbitrariness in ecosystems modelling: a lake modelling example. Ecological Modelling 13 (1): 87-110. DOI:10.1016/0304-3800(81)90008-9.
Beck MB (1981). Operational Estimation and Prediction of Nitrification Dynamics in the Activated Sludge Process. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-82-007. Reprinted from Water Research, 15 
Beck MB (1981). Operational estimation and prediction of nitrification dynamics in the activated sludge process. Water Research 15 (12): 1313-1330. DOI:10.1016/0043-1354(81)90004-X.
Beck MB (1981). Systems Engineering and Microelectronics in Water Quality Management. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-82-008. Reprinted from Microelectronics in the Water Industry, Supplement to the Journal of the Institution of Water Engineers and Scientists, F. Fallside (ed.), pp. 5-15 [November 1981]
Fedra K, Straten G van, & Beck MB (1981). Uncertainty and Arbitrariness in Ecosystems Modelling: A Lake Modelling Example. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-81-026. Reprinted from Ecological Modelling, 13 .
Whitehead P, Beck MB, & O'Connell E (1981). A systems model of streamflow and water quality in the Bedford Ouse river system—II. Water quality modelling. Water Research 15 (10): 1157-1171. DOI:10.1016/0043-1354(81)90091-9.
Beck MB (1980). Real-Time Water Quality Management Proceedings of a Task Force. IIASA Collaborative Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: CP-80-038
Fedra K, Straten G van, & Beck MB (1980). Uncertainity and Arbitrariness in Ecosystems Modelling: A Lake Modelling Example. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-80-087
Beck MB (1980). Applications of system identification and parameter estimation in water quality modelling. In: Hvdrological forecasting-Prévisions hydrologiques. pp. 123-131 International Association of Hydrological Science.
Tong RM, Beck MB, & Latten A (1980). Fuzzy control of the activated sludge wastewater treatment process. Automatica 16 (6): 695-701. DOI:10.1016/0005-1098(80)90011-4.
Beck MB (1979). Time-Variable Water Quality Management - A Policy Study. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-79-125
Tong RM, Beck MB, & Latten A (1979). Fuzzy Control of the Activated Sludge Wastewater Treatment Process. IIASA Professional Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: PP-79-007
Beck MB (1979). Applications of System Identification and Parameter Estimation in Water Quality Modeling. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-79-099
Beck MB, Halfon E, & Straten G van (1979). The Propagation of Errors and Uncertainty in Forecasting Water Quality - Part I: Method. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-79-100
Beck MB (1979). System Identification, Estimation, and Forecasting of Water Quality - Part I: Theory. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-79-031
Beck MB (1979). The Role of Real-Time Forecasting and Control in Water Quality Management. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-79-001
Beck MB (1979). Model Structure Identification from Experimental Data. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-80-004. Reprinted from Theoretical Systems Ecology: Advances and Case Studies, E. Halfon (ed.), Academic Press, London, UK, pp. 259-289 
Beck MB (1978). A Comparative Case Study of Dynamic Models for DO-BOD-ALGAE Interaction in a Freshwater River. IIASA Research Report. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-78-019
Beck MB, Latten A, & Tong RM (1978). Modelling and Operational Control of the Activated Sludge Process in Wastewater Treatment. IIASA Professional Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: PP-78-010
Beck MB (1978). Mathematical Modeling of Water Quality: Summary Report of a IIASA Workshop, September 13-16, 1977. IIASA Collaborative Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: CP-78-010
Beck MB (1978). A Comparative Case Study of Dynamic Models for a DO (Dissolved Oxygen) - BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) Algae Interaction in a Fresh Water River. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-78-016
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