INFORMS Annual Conference Follow #informs2011
INFORMS Annual Conference

Search the Program

Nov 16 11
by Matt Saltzman
Share on Twitter

Everyone’s doing wrap-ups and I have a few minutes before the last couple of sessions, so here goes (totally unstructured):

  • Things seemed to run phenomenally smoothly, compared to some of my memories.  Good job, INFORMS staff!
  • The BBQ was pretty passable.  Definitely among the better receptions in recent history.  (I know, BBQ is a matter of taste and regional bias so at least some folks will disagree vehemently.  De gustibus non disputandum est.)
  • It’s still not all that easy being green.  But Tuesday afternoon, Bjarni Kristjannson tweeted an announcement of a prototype mobile conference app. It’s kind of buggy and still has a ways to go before I would give up my printed bulletin (even as heavy as it is), but it’s a compelling proof of concept.
  • Big conferences have advantages and disadvantages.  Lots of interesting talks and activities at a large meeting, but people are scattered all across the area.
  • Surely we can do a better job of de-conflicting the schedule.  We’re OR professionals, after all.
  • I spend too much time in the exhibit hall and not enough time at sessions.  Or maybe not.  I got to talk to lots of interesting folks at the COIN-OR booth.  Hopefully, they will find our tools useful (and report back to us).

Safe travels home, y’all.

Nov 16 11
by John Angelis
Share on Twitter

One of the tricky aspects of INFORMS is knowledge management. After having absorbed the intellectual prowess of the brightest intellects in our field, one is left wondering about retention. Specific knowledge is buried rapidly under new knowledge. Quick quiz: can you remember three pertinent facts from the 8AM Monday session? It can be a bit disheartening.

However, what I appreciate about INFORMS is the cumulative effect of many different talks on one’s framework for approaching problems. I will give an example from my own experience and hope to hear yours as well. I am a member of the Technology Management Society (Shameless JOIN NOW plug) and attended many talks on innovation, entrepreneurship, new product development and technology evolution. I was pleased at how much my perspective was broadened.

Consider the classic problem of trying to find improvements to an existing solution, specialized to an innovation context. Some sort of mechanism (say, user-generated ideas through open innovation) provides you with a pile of potential improvements to your existing product or service. How can one sort through those improvements to find optimal (or satisficing) solutions? If you are trained in optimization, the answer seems simple: construct an objective function, note any constraints, and use an algorithm to find solutions.

What the conference helped me realize is how the innovation context creates a lot of interesting variations on traditional approaches, and how limited my prior perspective was.

Quick cautions: I am intentionally highlighting a problem that I am not working on so as to avoid self-promotion, but as such I am not an expert on all areas. This blog is being written to create discussion and ideas rather than serve as a complete (or accurate!) research document. Essentially, I am experimenting with using a blog format as a vehicle for addressing half-baked ideas, as I mentioned yesterday. Also, brevity.

First, in an innovation context, ideas must be judged by an authority (or authorities) to be cited as good, which takes time. As such, it may be more important to rapidly discard poor ideas, so authorities can judge only on ideas that have a higher probability of being improvements. The approach of discarding infeasible ideas vs. searching for feasible ideas is the same in many contexts…but it may depend on a larger debate on whether good ideas exist in a vacuum or are evolving in real time.

Second, the judgment of the authority itself can be perfect at the moment it is given, but due to fluctuations in markets and technology, firm capabilities, and other contextual factors, an option that once was an improvement is such no longer. Essentially, Type I and Type II errors may become correct decisions, and vice versa.

Third, the nature of the relationship between ideas that are actual improvements and the sources (users who provided the ideas) becomes important. Do improvements only come from a limited number of skilled users, or should the firm cast a wider net to include all sources? Essentially, it’s an explore-exploit trade-off, made more complicated by network effects of ideas and users.

Fourth, user learning  complicates the system. For example, given enough feedback from the authority, will users improve the quality of their ideas? But, that feedback takes time or accuracy away from judging. Thus, should users judge each other?

Some of these factors I once knew, or had seen in other contexts. Others were completely new to me. I apologize for any descriptive errors. I attempted to minimize overly technical explanations and citations. But I did this little exercise to start the conversation that I hope continues after we all leave Charlotte. I understand not all will want to share their new insights publicly in a comment, but I hope that you too can think of how many ways in how these talks have improved your perspective. Thanks for an excellent conference, and I look forward to further conversations via Twitter, email, and blogs.

Nov 16 11
by Anna Nagurney
Share on Twitter

As the conference draws to a close I wanted to thank the organizers for such a wonderful conference.

Although at first the size of it, in terms of the number of registrants (over 4,000) and the number of sites for talks and events from the Charlotte Convention Center to the various hotels may have seemed daunting, there was an intimacy to many of the sessions, business meetings, award ceremonies, and receptions.

In addition, the smiles and even hugs that greeted us brought a special warmth to this meeting.

The Charlotte conference brought us all together. I think that one of my former doctoral students at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, who is now tenured at the University of Sydney and traveled all the way from Australia, said it best — It is about the people and the ones who mean so much to me. I had to come to the conference.

Wishing everyone safe travels back and until we meet again!

Nov 16 11
by Tallys Yunes
Share on Twitter

It’s almost time to go home, which means it’s time for my last post. I made the mistake of leaving my laptop in the suitcase I stored at the hotel, so I’m writing from my phone, and I apologize in advance for any typos and bad formatting.

I had a great time at the conference this year: I engaged in productive work with co-authors, attended high-quality presentations, and met so many new people! My network of contacts has increased dramatically. Above all, I was very impressed with the attendance at the regular sessions. Almost packed rooms were the norm. That’s very encouraging for both session chairs and speakers.

Yesterday, before visiting the NASCAR museum, I had a chance to learn about MDP models for ambulance dispatching, location, and relocation, and finally got to shake hands with Laura McLay. I enjoy seeing non-deterministic problems being reduced to equivalent, deterministic ones, and I’m looking forward to reading Laura’s paper when it comes out. (I also need to learn more about MDPs in general.)

After that, I met with some tweeps on my way to photograph some NASCAR cars (strange sounding expression), and had the pleasure of shaking hands with Bjarni (INFORMS VP of IT), also for the first time. Bjarni’s energetic attitude is going to take INFORMS to the next level, where it deserves to be, so I want to congratulate him on his success so far.

I attended the Wagner plenary presented by Intel and I was very impressed by the complexity of their problem and the way they devised a multi-technique approach to tackle it. If anyone had any doubts about the effectiveness of genetic algorithms in practice (I never had), Intel’s successful implementation should dispel the remaining doubts. Here are a couple of interesting quotes I picked up from the presentation:

“We can fit 6 million transistors in the period at the end of this sentence, but not this monster period on the projector’s screen; think of the period at the end of a sentence on a printed newspaper article.”

“Intel became a fifty-billion-dollar corporation using spreadsheets for a lot of its decision making!” (I feel better about my MBA teaching tools now :-)

Well, not any more. The integrated decision support system that they developed is gradually changing Intel’s decision making from distributed local views to a more global and collaborative approach, with increased what-if analysis capabilities. Congratulations to this year’s finalists, and especially to Intel!

I still have some interesting talks to see in sessions WD15, WD19, WE20, and WE24, but for those of you who need to head home early, have a safe trip! See you next year in Phoenix!




Nov 16 11
by Barry List
Share on Twitter

As middle-age has overtaken me, I must confess that studies about healthcare interest me more and more. I go (mostly) to well-care visits; my kids deal with a variety of health annoyances; and of course, there’s the dog and the vet. So I find it reassuring that operations researchers are not only examining the big picture on the healthcare system and diagnostic issues in various diseases but are also paying attention to how long I’ll be in the waiting room.
This is not a problem that should be sloughed off as minor compared to true medical issues. At the Patient Flow session in the Healthcare Applications track this morning, a physician in the audience noted that most patients experience between 8 and 12 handoffs between medical staff. This takes its toll in patient dissatisfaction and irritability; it also wears down healthcare support staff, who turn over as they burn out. The system suffers.
That’s why a couple studies at the session caught my attention. In the first, Stephen Lawrence of the University of Colorado presented a paper he wrote with Linda Laganga and Michelle Samorani examining a few different ways that medical offices can plan for patients who don’t keep their appointments (an average of 20%) and others who come in at the last minute with a medical emergency.
One method for appointment scheduling with deterministic service and no-shows imagines eight slots. For the purposes of this model, it doesn’t matter how regular patients are scheduled. But when it comes to scheduling latecomers, you want to space them out – schedule the first overbook in slot 1, the second in slot 5, the third in slot 7, and the fourth in slot 2. Using this model, utility goes up as long as the office doesn’t exceed four overbooks.
In another, stochastic model that he presented, Prof. Lawrence envisioned a more fluid 12 slots, with wait times between patients shorter at the beginning of the day, longer in mid-day, and then again shorter as the day approaches its close. As you’re assigning slots, keep them away from one another until they fill to reduce the chance of overlap.
He previewed a session coming up this afternoon that looks at another approach, which takes into account patients’ history of punctuality. By gathering this data, you can schedule reliable patients early in the day and less reliable patients later. That’s a simple rule for a medical office to assimilate, and he notes that it improves performance measures substantially.
Yann Ferand of Clemson University presented another paper, which he wrote with a team from the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which showed pity for emergency room patients at the lower end of the critical care triage – patients who often wait for long periods as those at greatest risk are treated first. With emergency room visits up 20% from 1995 to 2005, how can a hospital fast-track these lower priority patients?
Ferrand’s team did their best to gather data at a small suburban hospital about process steps and times (one questioner in the audience noted that recording data reliably as a patient is in extremis puts at risk the reliability of the data). They studied the number of process steps in triage, treatment, and discharge, built a simulation model, and evaluated potential changes, in particular introducing a fast track for low priority patients at a peak time of the day. Since limited physician hours represent the major bottleneck, they concentrated on taking the pressure off doctors.
They designed the supertrack with three extra beds and bumped it up to five (INFORMS veteran Doug Samuelson has suggested dispensing with beds for non-critical patients and freeing up doctors and nurses to move more easily from patient to patient). When possible, they added a ‘scribe’ to gather medical information from patients. And they reduced the number of steps for those needing less than critical care.
The result, especially on days when the number of patients is high, is that the length of stay in both the main track and the supertrack improves.
That’s something I’ll keep in mind the next time my wife or I slips on the ice while walking the dog on a winter night and gloomily imagines how long we’ll be waiting for treatment at our local ER.

Nov 16 11
by Polly Mitchell-Guthrie
Share on Twitter

Duke Energy building displaying INFORMS blue

Not from Broadway but College Street, at the Westin Hotel

Now, for something lighter, pun intended.

INFORMS lit up this town, and these two photos show at least physical proof. One is from the sign over the Westin Hotel, where many attendees stayed and many sessions were held. The other is from the Duke Energy building, which they lit up last night in INFORMS blue in honor of our descendance upon this city. It’s been fun. I’m now off to some of my last sessions.

Nov 16 11
by Jim Orlin
Share on Twitter

It’s Wednesday, and I will soon be heading home.  Here are some final impressions of the conference, in no particular order.

  • Whereas 30 years ago, I wanted to spend my time talking to established figures in OR, this conference, I seemed to spend at least as much time talking to young researchers.   Talking to people of my own cohort often leads to talking of the past.  Talking to younger researchers  leads more often of talking of the future.
  • Question:  If networking is “to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally”, what is it called if you are the one who can help?  Is it “being networked”?
  • One of the advantages of being an “old timer” is that my opinions are automatically taken more seriously;  or perhaps, others are giving me the impression that they are taking my ideas seriously.  If it is the later, it still feels good.
  • INFORMS seems to be doing very well.  And I’m not saying this just because Rina Schneur (who did her dissertation under my supervision) has been an outstanding President of INFORMS.
  • “Analytics” is hot.  It’s a great opportunity for our profession.  It’s also an opportunity for other professions who compete with us.  So, we do need to keep sharp and constantly improve.
  • There are a large number of really smart young researchers.
  • The field of networks is amazingly popular.  I take no credit for its surge in popularity, but I am willing to ride the crest of the waves.
  • A colleague described two types of attendees of a conference:  impressionists vs. ‘detail lovers’.  (Actually, I forget the name of the second type, and inserted something similar.) The impressionists want to hear the high level aspects of a talk, and will fill in many details themselves.  If the talk leaves a sufficiently positive impression, they will seek out the paper.  The ‘detail loves’ expect more details in the talk, and are disappointed if the talks stay at a high level.  I am clearly an impressionist.  This is the first time that I ever felt a common attitude of mind with Manet, Monet, and Van Gogh.
  • The quality of the presentations at this conference were on average much higher than the quality 25 years ago.
  • The mix of theory and applications is much better than the mix was 25 years ago.  At that point, the talks tended to be “theory or applications.”  Now there are many more talks that involve both.
  • Going to a conference with 4,400 other people is much more enjoyable than I ever would have predicted years ago.
  • The INFORMS conferences are very well organized.  We can all be proud of our professional society.
  • Some blog posts end abruptly.
Nov 16 11
by Paul Rubin
Share on Twitter

It’s early on rump day (also known as getaway day) … or equivalently, as I measure things, it’s the penultimate coffee break. I session-hopped the WA time slot and was pleasantly surprised to see a dozen or so people in one session and over forty in the other. (For those of you fond of your beauty sleep, the A time slot starts at 0800 hours local time. I know some of you are unfamiliar with it.:-) ) The 2.5 talks I caught were all quite good, and clear enough that my sleep-deprived, insufficiently caffeinated brain could grasp the gist of them.

Rump Day always feeds a bit odd. With fewer plenaries in the schedule, we encounter the somewhat counterintuitive phenomenon of extra sessions crammed in to accommodate a greatly diminished overall audience. Also, after three or four days of packed hallways, it feels weird to have an unobstructed path through the corridors (not to mention to the coffee urns).

As always, it’s been a good conference for me. I hope that holds for everyone else as well. See y’all in Phoenix!

Nov 16 11
by Matt Saltzman
Share on Twitter

Shout out and thanks to Robert Howley for his compliment on the session I presented in yesterday morning on Open Source Solvers and Modeling Languages.  We’ll cherish the award.  Robert’s comments and John Angelis’s entry on half-baked ideas prompted some reflections on where the work I presented is and how it came to be there.

There’s a principle in open-source software development: Release early, release often.  The idea is that if you release something useful, even if it isn’t “feature complete”, you can attract users to your community and get feedback.  If you release often, users can take advantage of new features and bug fixes as soon as they are ready, and you get even more feedback.

We are working on the COIN-OR Open Solver Interface (OSI).  OSI was one of the four original projects when COIN-OR debuted at MPS in the summer of 2000.  Its objective was to provide a “solver-agnostic” API for programmers using callable libraries such as CPLEX, OSL, XPRESS, and the COIN-OR volume algorithm package  to solve LPs.  It sort of achieved that objective, but with experience, we realized it was awkward to use and awkward to extend.  It took very little time for us to start thinking about redesigning it from the ground up.

Over the course of a couple of years and several INFORMS meetings (in those days, the spring and fall meetings had the same format), I presented several iterations of a proposed redesign.  As I developed the plan,  implemented test ideas, and (importantly)received feedback from my audiences and others,  I came to believe that the design didn’t really address some of the key concerns.  Finally, I dropped the project.

Last year, after leaving it alone and after improving my knowledge of C++ and object-oriented design, Lou Hafer and I started to rethink the problem again, with a fresh approach. We presented the basic idea at INFORMS2010 and reported our progress here.  Between our own thoughts and the feedback we’ve received, we are fairly confident that this time, we have the right set of abstractions.

The point here is that we have used this meeting to present ideas at very early stages of development and we’ve been able to leverage the experience to improve our work.  Not every meeting is as amenable as this one to this purpose, though, and John raises some issues that really weren’t big concerns for us.  Nevertheless, I think early dissemination of ideas is useful and the INFORMS Annual Meetings are underappreciated and underutilized for this purpose.

Nov 16 11
by John Angelis
Share on Twitter

I enjoyed the social media session the other day. I came away thinking about which market social media (blogs, Twitter, Youtube, etc.) is best for. Here are a few questions I’ve been thinking about based on various stakeholders:

1. Research

How can we best present and sell our research to expand the value of the work we’ve done to our colleagues, our schools/companies, and even media and government?

2. Students and the Next Generation:

How can we pitch Operations and create “Bill Nye the Operations Guy” to better reach younger students?

3. Internal Operations Community

How can we create stronger ties within the Operations community and build  better sharing and communication into the system?

4. New Markets for Operations

Can we get to a point where Operations content truly evangelizes outsiders who previously did not appreciate operations and makes them Operations consumers?

I’m looking forward to reading some of your input here and elsewhere on the ability of social media to address any of these four questions.

Nov 16 11
by Anna Nagurney
Share on Twitter

First, I would like to thank Barry List, the Communications Director of INFORMS, for organizing the Newsmakers Panel that took place at the 2011 INFORMS Charlotte conference. Barry was a terrific moderator and the panelists and the audience benefited a lot from the presentations and discussions. The session was videotaped.

The panelists were: Jack Levis of UPS, Margaret Brandeau of Stanford, Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois, and yours truly. The panelists have had experience with major news outlets, including the Associate Press, radio shows, TV programs, and documentaries.

Some tips on how to handle the media (and also on how to get the good news out about your research / work):

1. Nurture relationships with your organization’s Office of Public Information as well as with those in the media. If you have a publication that will be appearing in a good journal, let the relevant contacts know and work with them.

2. Be prepared: this is very important. When you get contacted by the media you need to be available, so when the news about your work gets out be ready to handle interview requests. There is a short time window. Your organization’s Public Information Office may be able to offer valuable assistance and even training as to how to handle interview requests.

3. Realize that the news is about the science behind your research / discoveries. Nevertheless, keep it simple (as far as possible) and be clear.

4. In speaking to the media make sure that you have items (almost irrespective of the questions asked) that you want emphasized. Remember that catchy phrases and counterintuitive results tend to get “picked up.”

5. Working with the media is a service and helps to promote not only your work and your organization but perhaps, most importantly, our profession of operations research and analytics.

And, of course, keep up the great work — sooner or later great work gets recognized!

Some additional highlights from the INFORMS Charlotte conference can be found at:

Nov 16 11
by Aurelie Thiele
Share on Twitter

A question crossed my mind this morning: what is the best time for PhD students to graduate? This question might seem trivial: when the economy is not in crisis, duh. But I don’t mean good vs bad years to be on the job market. I mean fall vs spring. Yes, really. According to my non-scientific observations, it is much easier for PhD students who want to work in industry to get noticed at the job fair if they can legitimately say they will be available within weeks. Companies often have positions open now, and they obviously want to fill them as fast as possible.

Because the best-known job fair happens at the fall annual meeting, it makes sense that industry-minded PhD students would graduate in December/January. (I never, ever recommend taking a job before the defense has happened and the dissertation has been handed in. On the other hand, it seems that some students (not mine) sometimes refuse to understand their adviser’s message that they won’t graduate that semester and apply for jobs behind the adviser’s back.)

The lead times involved in academia, however, make it appropriate for students to make contact with potential employers at the job fair in the fall but interview in winter or spring and receive a job offer (hopefully) somewhere during the spring semester for a start date in late summer. For academia-minded PhD students, a May graduation seems ideal.

Finally, I wonder about student presence at the Analytics conference in the spring: according to the webpage of the 2012 conference, we should expect an “Analytics Connect Job Fair” where students on the job market can “meet with employers from a wide variety of industries and sectors seeking new talent for their organizations”, and there will even be an INFORMS Professional Colloquium providing “intensive career guidance for practice-oriented master’s and doctoral students.” But the Analytics conference is much more expensive than its fall counterpart: at $375 per student, student registration is far from being a bargain. (I won’t even mention faculty registration for non-presenters.) The best deal for a student is to be nominated by one’s department, in which case the department is expected to pay the fee, which covers both colloquium and conference registration. A limited amount of funding has also be made available thanks to the generous support of sponsoring companies. But students’ supervisors might be less aware of the detailed content of the spring annual meeting and thus might not encourage their students to attend, especially if the student does not make an oral presentation, since the conference might provide less exposure to the adviser/student’s work.

Has anyone attended or taken part in the organization of the Practitioner Colloquium? How does it differ from the Future Practitioner Colloquium at the fall annual meeting? How many students do both colloquia and both job fairs attract? And more generally, how can we help our industry-minded graduates connect with the best possible employers? A good placement record of our doctoral students is in the interest of all.

Nov 16 11
by Ken Chelst
Share on Twitter

36 teachers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools participated in the INFORMS workshop that has been a regular event scheduled during the INFORMS conference for more than 20 years. Dave Goldsman wowed the teachers with simulation examples along with his special off-beat humor. I introduced the teachers to MAUT with an example based on a teenager helping her parents select a cellphone plan. They also learned to use Excel Solver to optimize a product mix scenario and interpret sensitivity analysis. Teachers discussed the various opportunities they had for integrating the material into existing courses and ten were ready to commit their schools to teaching an entire semester.
Channel 14 showed up at 10 am and interviewed one of the teachers, Bob Young of NC State and myself. I was asked what I felt was biggest weakness of current mathematics education. My response was that few hs teachers have ever used algebra to solve an actual problem they were interested in. Given their backgrounds how can they explain to students the relevance of math to their careers if they are not going to major in some STEM field.
An annoying part of teaching in this modern HS is the periodic loud speaker announcements that occurred several times each hour. Towards the end of the day these announcements were coming every 5 to 10 minutes. They were preceded by a loud beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Nov 15 11
by Nathaniel Bastian
Share on Twitter

Another fantastic day at the 2011 INFORMS Annual Meeting. For me, the two main highlights were 1) Susan DeVore’s plenary talk, and 2) General Reception.

Susan DeVore’s discussion on “Innovative Strategies that are Transforming the U.S. Healthcare System” was not only informative but presented a challenge to the OR/MS community. She scrutinized the healthcare problem with regards to spending growing at an unsustainable rate, and pinpointed the importance of re-defining value –> Value = (Health + Experience)/Expenditures. She concluded by expressing the importance of operations researchers to tackle this healthcare problem.

The food at tonight’s General Reception was delightful, with an eclectic spread of southern-style food. Clearly, my favorites were the barbecue chicken and mac-n-cheese. Following dinner, I enjoyed sauntering through the NASCAR Hall of Fame located adjacent to the reception hall. What an amazing place…

Well, tomorrow is the final day of the conference. Hopefully not too many people are leaving today because it is loaded with a plethora of technical sessions. Have a good evening!

Nov 15 11
by Anna Nagurney
Share on Twitter

Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences (WORMS) outdid themselves by hosting not only a delicious luncheon today but also in recognizing the 2011 WORMS Award winner, Dr. Berna Dergiz of Turkey. Dr. Alice Smith of Auburn University, who chaired this year’s WORMS award committee, made the announcement at the luncheon. She spoke of Dr. Dergiz’s professional achievements, having even served as a Dean of Engineering, and of her efforts in promoting the education of females in engineering and operations research.

The luncheon was sold out and this year there were even some fun competitions among the tables with awards coming in the form of gummy worms (enjoy the pun).

Our table got the award for most different countries of origin represented (9 different ones out of 10 at our table). Dr. Eric Wolman’s table got several awards and we cheered him on having turned 80 this year on September 25.

I hope that you enjoy the photos taken at today’s luncheon, which capture how great this community is.

Nov 15 11
by Robert Howley
Share on Twitter

Each of the last two days I essentially did a word search through the program for anything finance-y and put it up on the calendar. I got largely what I expected, a great deal of elaborate machinations through PDE’s, simulation algorithms and pricing routines that were, by and large, quite nice. By the end of the day yesterday, however, I was one more Laplace transform away from my head exploding; it was time for something new. So, last night I looked at the listings and decided to get out of my comfort zone; I put Open Source Solvers and Modeling Languages into my 11 am slot and Selling Analytics: A Multi-Industry Panel Discussion in at 1:30 pm.

While I appreciate open source projects and software development (I’ve contributed to a project here and there in the past), I’m more or less a hack and my research is certainly not “optimal implementation” based. Sitting in on a discussion of advances in open source contributions was definitely not what I envisioned when I arrived on Saturday, so it fit the bill as a change of pace. By the end of the 90 minutes there was no doubt in my mind that it was the most entertaining session I sat through. The work being done was impressive, the presenters were quite good and the tools were all interesting and helpful. A former coworker of mine who was the network admin for the company said that developers do their most inspired work for free and used open source contributors as well as hackers as his examples. Today I add the 11 am session to proof of this notion.

Second least important award of INFORMS: Best Session According to Rob is … “Open Source Solvers and Modeling Languages”

The panel discussion in the afternoon was just as entertaining. While I was more observer and less contributor to the discussion (shyness) I enjoyed listening to insight that I certainly could have used 4.5 years ago when I started my brief stint in industry. There are lots of people who need analytics and very few who know it. The panel that was assembled was a group experienced in the ways of gently getting people to see the light. The audience was largely practitioners who shared my former plight of having to build trust in the math among nontechnical users. All in all, it was an enjoyable session.

Newbie’s second lesson: Mix it up. You’ll end up reading the papers in your field anyway, so branch out and learn something new.

Now it is time to do the final edits to my slides and get ready for the reception. Oh, and grade some homeworks.

Nov 15 11
by Polly Mitchell-Guthrie
Share on Twitter

Neil Biehn of PROS, Erick Wikum of IBM Global Services, Eric Bibelnieks of Target, and Warren Hearnes of Home Depot shared their experiences selling analytics – both internally within their own organizations and externally to customers – on a panel this afternoon. A few random tips on this challenge:

  • Learn how to explain analytics to those who know their business but may not know the math. Determine some kind of baseline (from someone who took a linear programming course in college to someone who has no idea what operations research is at all).
  • Sometimes it is important to know when to say no, when the job at hand isn’t a good fit for your skills. But especially if this is for an internal customer beware that saying no can establish an unintended perception that you always say no.
  • Starting with small problems that can become quick wins can help establish credibility and trust, whether it be internally or externally. Short-term success can breed long-term opportunities.
  • Involve your customer in defining the “solution” to increase both of your chances of success. Learn their language, their business, their challenges.
  • Don’t sell analytics, optimization, management sciences – sell solutions to business problems. People don’t care what you call it if you can solve it.
  • People may be wary of someone who offers to do what they do but do it better, but they may be more open to someone who is more of a coach or consultant, which assumes they have skills but are open to improvement and guidance.
  • Listen well and be authentic - most people will trust that you have the math skills but will have a harder time trusting that you’ll take their input until you show them that you can and will.
  • Building internal networks can help with cross-pollination and gain executive buy-in. When they created the Target Analytics Network (similar to ones for hobbies like running and biking) they went from 10 to 1500 members in six months, and THAT got management attention.
  • Finally – remember to ask for what you want. You won’t get the contract/business/opportunity if you don’t ask for it!
Nov 15 11
by Barry List
Share on Twitter

The increasing role of analytics in INFORMS’ future stood
out in presentations during this mornings’ analytics track.

INFORMS Practice VP Jack Levis of UPS recalled the planning
stage: Last year the INFORMS board asked the consulting firm Capgemini to thoroughly examine ways that INFORMS could begin integrating analytics in its offerings to members and to a larger public interested in a term that was virtually coined by Tom Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris in their book and article, Competing on Analytics.

Among Capgemini’s recommendations that are now helping INFORMS were:

  • rebranding the INFORMS spring practice meeting
    as an analytics meeting, a move that sent 2011 registration soaring 30%
  • creating a new section on analytics, which has
    seen membership of 100 in April grow to 500 on the eve of this conference; and
  • developing strategic partnerships with analyst
    firms like Gartner and Forrester, which has been the subject of initial
    collaboration in the INFORMS spring meeting and ongoing discussions

The adoption of analytics, Jack noted, has been accompanied
by good things: a 7% growth in INFORMS membership, which had been flat for
years, and a projection that INFORMS’ budget will close out the year in the
black after suffering in the wake of the recession.

Before INFORMS adopted a full-fledged campaign, Matthew
Liberatore of Villanova School of Business surveyed INFORMS members about the analytics movement, and the research that he did with co-author Wenhong Luo showed widespread support among practitioners and academics for continuing to incorporate analytics in the association’s work.

Speaking this morning, he noted that INFORMS members who
responded to the survey felt strongly about the benefits and were not worried that
there might be major risks. Enhancing INFORMS’ ability to advance improved
organizational decision-making ranked as the number one benefit. Concern that
the society might reduce its involvement with O.R. was the major concern,
although the intensity of concern was not great.

INFORMS members are still trying to determine the relationship
between O.R. and analytics: 30% say O.R. is a subset of analytics; 29% says
analytics is a subset of O.R., and 28% say that advanced analytics is the
intersection of the other two.

Internationally, he detected greater awareness of analytics
in North America and greater support for the analytics campaign among members
in Asia and the Pacific Rim.

He saw considerable willingness to become involved by
joining the analytics section, subscribing to Analytics Magazine, and attending
the INFORMS Analytics Conference.

With a mandate of member approval, INFORMS will pursue association
dominance in analytics.

Nov 15 11
by John Angelis
Share on Twitter

By now many of us have descended on INFORMS with our research ideas encoded in powerpoint and prezi form. However, I find myself wondering about the ideas that (to mangle the newspaper catchphrase) are not yet fit to print or present.

I think all of us have had a moment where we watched a student struggle with a homework problem they didn’t understand. “SOLVE it? I don’t even know how to START it!” the student mutters under their breath. You may chuckle when you are not that student! But what happens when the topic is no longer homework, but a research area that you can’t quite synthesize your thoughts on?

Also, the other day I overheard a fellow professor talking about a paper they wrote that at first was seen as useless by a fellow senior colleague. The professor let the paper languish, only to submit the paper years later and to win a best paper award from a good journal. I suspect his experience is not unusual.

So what’s the point of these random anecdotes? I enjoy how INFORMS allows us to present our research to the community and gain valuable feedback. However, there will always be three tricky areas for research conferences to handle:

1) Research ideas that we possess that are too unfinished or unorganized for presentation purposes.

2) Research ideas that are outside our field of expertise or focus but may be valuable to people in that particular field

3) Research papers that are so unusual relative to the existing mindset that there is some concern that presenting them may harm one’s scholarly reputation.

Some of the typical concerns are that one does not want to be rewarding scholarly laziness or deliberate eccentricity. In addition, there are definitely valid concerns about possible free-riding and theft of intellectual property. However, I thought it worth asking, do you think an INFORMS meeting can (or did) help you with half-baked ideas? If so, how did it happen? Or what other methods have you used to help bring these ideas to fruition?

Nov 15 11
by Barry List
Share on Twitter

‘Boffo’ is the word that comes to mind for the peering,
spirited look at America’s healthcare crisis by Susan DeVore in today’s plenary
at the INFORMS annual meeting. Despite the complex reasons for today’s
problems, she showed a way to improvement.

DeVore, President and CEO of the Premier healthcare alliance,
examined the systemic problems with American healthcare to hundreds of meetings

Medicare and Medicaid spending is growing at 1 to 1.5% more
than America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At that rate, the average American’s
tax rate must climb from 10% to 25% or 35% – a clearly unsustainable prospect.

One problem is that thousands of hospitals and medical
centers are seeking solutions individually – this doesn’t work.

Identifying key problems is step 1, says DeVore, and those
key problems start with high administrative costs that result, in large part,
from lack of standardization. Fraud, overtreatment of patients, failures like
medication errors, overpricing, and insufficient coordination among healthcare
providers of individual care all take a costly toll.

Creating wedges that force down these costs is the key to
bringing healthcare costs back down to a reasonable level.

The role of metrics and modeling plays a pivotal role in
reducing costs. Finding metrics for measuring good health that the vast
majority of healthcare providers can support allows the development of
incentives to better care. Emphasizing preventive care by measuring a person’s healthy
days and sick days and the expenditure required to achieve these is one such

Quantifying individuals’ experience within the healthcare
system is another.

You have to get the fundamental processes right in a
measurable way, said DeVore. So if you’re suffering a heart attack, you want to
know that 100% of evidence-based care is used in your care. For Americans
today, the actual rate of applying EBC to heart attack victims is only 50%.

Healthcare reform requires moving away from payment for healthcare
delivery to payment for better performance, said DeVore. Premier’s QUEST
is shepherding a collaboration among 300 hospitals to test for the kind of
innovation that can examine the metrics as a way to improve care.

Premier’s Partnership for Care Transformation (PACT)
is modeling improved care delivery.

Measuring the right thing comes with risk. One New Jersey
hospital system created a wellness center to focus on the sickest patients and
key metrics: their smoking rate, their compliance with medications, and the
number of times they return to the hospital within 30 days of visiting an
emergency room.  The program reduced
smoking by 63%, got 97% of patients to fill their prescriptions, and
substantially reduced the rate of return hospital visits.

But hospital revenue declined by 12% in reaction.

Balancing the needs of the healthcare system and healthcare providers
is among the challenges that Susan DeVore and participating hospitals in
Premier have accepted in their advocacy to improve the American healthcare

Nov 15 11
by Anna Nagurney
Share on Twitter

I very much enjoyed the panel yesterday morning at the 2011 INFORMS Charlotte Conference on “Leaders Offer Professional Advice to Both Women and Men.”

The panel was sponsored by WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences).

Joining me on the panel: Dr. Eric Wolman, Dr. Radhika Kulkarni, Dr. Les Servi, and Dr. Mark Daskin.

Below I highlight some of the advice offered that resonated:

1. Find your passion and stick with it — have fun and make your life worth living.

2. Your character, credibility, and integrity matter — be fair and others will respect and trust you. Also, realize the importance of your organization’s culture and that culture is local.

3. Hire the best people that you can for your team and believe in your plan. Understand the big picture.

4. Celebrate accomplishments and make sure that you give “pats on the back” for great performance.

5. Communications are key — how can your ideas be used by the organization? Innovation happens when you put great ideas into action. Also, remember the human element.

6. You, as an individual, should define success for yourself so know yourself.

7. Find a great mentor and also mentor others.

8. Take advantage of opportunities and engage in networking. Be open to opportunities and new responsibilities.

9. Realize that you are a member of different communities and gain support from them and solace, if need be.

10. Look at the trajectory that you are on and imagine yourself 5 years from now.

Many thanks to WORMS for sponsoring this great session which also had a terrific discussion!

Thanks to all the panelists — We all learned alot from them and from one another.
Posted by Dr. Anna Nagurney at 9:23 AM

Nov 15 11
by Ken Chelst
Share on Twitter

Teacher experiences – Had dinner with a group of North Carolina teachers who were asked to discuss their experiences. All were extremely positive about the classroom experience. One noted how much improved our books were as compared to 3 years ago. One mentioned that a number of parents were excited when they saw what their kids were doing. A former math teacher told her daughter that this was the first time that her child was learning something in math that she did not know about. However, they did bemoan the increasing stresses of being a math teacher. One teacher taught a class with 36 students but had chairs for only 28. Another described the extreme pressure to pass students no matter how poorly they had done and the ethical dilemma she faced.
A Michigan teacher who I interviewed last week called the OR course a high school teacher’s dream. Normally extra practice is greeted with bored looks. In contrast, she said students jump at the opportunity to tackle more problems each with its own scenario.
Seven hours from now Dave Goldsman of Georgia Tech and I will lead a one-day workshop for 36 high school teachers in the area. There may be some television coverage. I will keep you posted.

Nov 15 11
by Aurelie Thiele
Share on Twitter

I became Junior VP of Communications for the Forum on Women in OR/MS this year, so this (Monday) evening I attended the WORMS Business Meeting. This was my first WORMS Business Meeting and, in fact, I believe it was my first Business Meeting ever too. (It was great. Eva Regnier, WORMS President, made a great presentation, and I’m not saying that just because of the cute new WORMS logo. Plus, there was wine.) We voted on the by-laws to make them more consistent with INFORMS practice and discussed the state of membership, WORMS at the conference and the upcoming year. The focus of this post will be on how to grow membership.

Membership has been edging upward since 2002 and is now at 221 members as of October, including student members in the high 40s. While it is great to see more and more people (not only women) being interested in WORMS issues, we would love to see more students involved. Given the many outstanding events WORMS has been organizing at the annual meeting (such as panel discussions and, this year, a brand-new “best of WORMS research” session about often-cited papers that were authored by members of the WORMS community), it is hard to believe we can only find fewer than 50 students who believe they would benefit from membership. At the same time, we have to think about the value we can offer to these students. Since everyone can attend the panel sessions, how can we make membership valuable to them, and to our other members too? If you have ideas, please don’t hesitate to let us know either by leaving a comment to this post or emailing any of the officers, for instance the Senior VP of Communications Sandra Eksioglu at: sde47 at ise dot msstate dot edu or myself at: aut204 at lehigh dot edu .

I have to admit I only became a WORMS member when I renewed my INFORMS membership for this year. In fact, the reason I got involved in WORMS is that WORMS had a table at the general reception last year and Susan M., whom I know from grad school and is a previous officer, invited me to drop by. I started talking with Susan and Eva and here I am now, proud Junior VP of Communications. I mention this to say that recruiting doesn’t happen in a vacuum, with someone getting out of bed one morning and thinking “Gee, what can I do today? Subscribing to WORMS sounds nice!” If you benefit from membership in an INFORMS society, subdivision or the like, please tell those of your friends whom you think would benefit too. Your friends will never know otherwise. Also, tell your students. If we find value in those memberships, our students should too, but many won’t think of joining unless we point out it would be a good thing for them. Furthermore, if benefits of membership are clear to students, they are more likely to remain members once they graduate.

I think WORMS is a wonderful way to make new acquaintances in the same line of work, but that is also true of other INFORMS-related communities (although WORMS is taking an active role in organizing panels on work-life balance, faculty retention and the like that I can’t imagine any other subdivision doing.) The message readers should take away from this post is not that they should join WORMS, although that would be an excellent outcome. It is that you don’t get the full benefits of being part of INFORMS if you simply become a member without becoming involved in any of its subgroups.

Nov 14 11
by Tallys Yunes
Share on Twitter

I’d like to begin by saying that coming to INFORMS always makes me happy. It’s one of those things I look forward to every year. To prove it to you, here’s a photo of me at Miami International Airport right when I was about to go through security on Saturday:

Today was one of those especially happy days with many good/happy things going on:

1) I found out that John Turner (former CMU classmate) won the Dantzig Award. Amazing accomplishment! Congratulations John! I had a good feeling when I decided to attend his presentation yesterday. Can I call it, or can I call it?

2) I found out that my friends from the University of los Andes in Colombia (I went there to teach a mini-course on CP two weeks before INFORMS) won the Railway Applications Section (RAS) Challenge. Great job team KOPPA! Well deserved!

3) Got some amazing feedback on my talk about Semantic Typing this afternoon. Thanks to all of you who attended and offered comments, suggestions, and pointers to related research.

4) Attended the Tepper School of Business alumni reception and caught up with some of my grad school friends.

5) Discovered that the Social Networking Panel (MC03) was videotaped, so I’ll be able to watch it online (YouTube, I guess?).

6) Had a great time during a tweetup with (in alphabetical order of Tweeter IDs) @mlesz1 (Mary L.), @MrBoJensen, @parubin, and @tdhopper. That meeting included, among other things: me serving as witness to help Mary believe that Paul’s evil twin indeed exists, me learning how to pronounce Mary’s last name, and a group photo in which @MrBoJensen gets hugged. I wish I had had the chance to talk to @bjarnimax, but that will have to wait till another time. At least now I know what everyone’s voices sound like, and I will get all the tall-person jokes by/about @tdhopper going forward.

7) On top of all this, I had a great lunch at Halcyon. Did you know they are a “from farm to fork” restaurant? They don’t even have a fridge! Everything you eat there has been brought in on the same day from local farmers. Here’s a funny dialog I participated in: Me: “Do you have freshly squeezed OJ?”, Waiter: “Hmm…it’s not freshly squeezed in the sense it wasn’t squeezed here. But it was squeezed today, locally.”, Me: “OK. That’ll do.” As I waited for my food (which was delicious, by the way), I couldn’t stop thinking about the OR issues: what are the logistics behind their daily deliveries? Does the fresh food really taste better because it’s so fresh (I’ve never had a better tasting lettuce in my entire life), or is our perception biased by the fact that we know it’s fresh? Anyone care to perform an experiment to test this?


Nov 14 11
by Nathaniel Bastian
Share on Twitter

Another eventful day at the 2011 Annual Meeting of INFORMS, as my goal was to maximize the combination of both technical and plenary sessions and networking events. Specifically, I started the day earlier with the poster session sponsored by the Health Applications Society. Following this, I enjoyed the plenary talk about the growing need for analytics as well as a session covering operations research used in various healthcare applications.

Following a delicious lunch at Aquavina (which is located across the street from the Convention Center), I listened to the plenary talk on how simulations go bad. The speaker had excellent examples throughout the talk, and he made four key points: 1) We forget that we control error to measure risk; 2) We use an old experimental design or none at all; 3) We settle for what the optimizer tells us; 4) We ignore a big risk: input uncertainty.

My afternoon consisted of a great session with the Military Applications Society on social network theory in defense analysis. These talks included determining the significance of detected clusters in network data, evaluation reliability of multi-scale social network under conditional influences, imperfect data in social network analysis, and a new approach to network disruption. Today concluded with business meetings for both Health/Military Application Societies (both included yummy food and drinks).

Looking forward to another great day tomorrow.

Nov 14 11
by Gary Bennett
Share on Twitter

Word on the street is that Duke Energy will light up their building “INFORMS blue” on Tuesday evening in honor of us gracing their fair city with our Annual Meeting this year. Duke Energy is close by and has been a good friend to INFORMS. So, just before you go the General Reception on Tuesday evening, be sure to mosey on by the Duke building to see this wonderful tribute. Thanks to Duke Energy for the shout out!

Don’t forgert to produce a homemade short video about your experiences at the Annual Meeting and send to us. You could win an iPad2! That’s right, best video, as judged by our panel of judges, wins an iPad2. So be creative and show us INFORMS through your eyes. Send your videos to Short and sweet instructions are here:

Nov 14 11
by Paul Rubin
Share on Twitter

The afternoon panel session on social media for O.R. was standing-room only. Thank you to everyone who took time to attend (including resident skeptic Irv Lustig, who kept us at least somewhat grounded). Props to Tim Hopper, who didn’t flinch at being the one student on a panel loaded with extinguished faculty (and Bjarni K., the Wotan of Web 2.0). It probably didn’t hurt that Tim is as tall as the rest of us put together.

Those of us on the panel appreciated the questions and comments from the audience. Discussion continued into the coffee break after the session (and you have to be pretty interested to delay your dash to the free coffee).

The audience included Peter Horner, editor of Analytics Magazine. Chatting with Peter later, I found out that the recent change in the magazine’s URL (from to may have broken some people’s RSS subscriptions to the web site, not to mention having a negative impact on their Google ranking. So if you subscribe to their RSS feed, you might want to test the feed and resubscribe if necessary. If you don’t subscribe to their web site, I invite you to check it out; if you like the content, there’s an RSS button at the lower left. Also, if you are active on social networks, please spread the word.

Nov 14 11
by Polly Mitchell-Guthrie
Share on Twitter

Keith Collins, Sr. Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of SAS, opened his plenary talk at INFORMS today reporting the dream he woke up to this morning. In that sleepy state upon awakening he pictured researchers on Antarctica, and as consciousness came to him he tried to determine the signficance. Was it about the mountains of data from core samples, sensors, temperatures, etc. or simply about being a computer scientist, a lonely island tasked with speaking to a sea of operations researchers? His talk turned out to be about both, since he addressed the phenomenon of the deluge of data from the perspective of a computer scientist who leads an R&D team focused on finding new ways to glean insights from this deluge.

So what trends does Keith see from his Land of Computer Science?  Whether you call it Big Data or not (he doesn’t like the term, since what will the next generation call it – Bigger Data?), analytics is more important than ever. Our existing approaches to dealing with this data won’t work, so he encouraged collaboration across disciplines to integrate techniques for more robust solutions. And he said three things he’s especially excited about are the possibilities for new insights from high performance computing, visualization, and text analytics.

He gave a shout-out to INFORMS for broadening its reach from a traditional operations research audience and embracing the entirety of advanced analytics. The experience SAS has had facing the problems customers bring to us has called us to make this same move. One example was markdown optimization for a major retailer. They needed to know which products to discount when by SKU at a store level, which involves combining a complex estimation challenge with optimization. Their immense scale of 3 terabytes of data used to take 30 hours to run, but with in-memory distributed processing and high performance analytics the window came down to 2 hours, allowing models to be rerun with several iterations by Monday morning instead of one time per weekend.

Next Keith addressed visualization, which can be most useful to test a hypothesis and prevent business analysts from having to hunt and peck for an answer. He gave an example of social network analysis applied to preventing fraud at the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services. Taxpayers saved $31 million in the child welfare public assistance program, aided by a visual network that could quickly and easily cue investigators toward uncovering fraud rings.

The final trend Keith spoke about was changes in the kinds of data we are seeing and the value of text analytics to understand it. The number of transactions/person is no longer increasing, but the attributes/transaction is, which means growing amounts of unstructured data. Warranty analysis looking at product complaints, health outbreaks predicted looking at EMS logs, and consumer buzz about products can all be understood far more effectively with text analysis.

Keith closed by speaking to the importance of relationships between industry and academia. As interest in analytics grows the demand for talent does as well, so programs are needed to turn out ever more talent with the necessary skills. And he charged the audience with helping reform computer science education by helping them understand the value of getting information out of data in addition to teaching how we get the data in.


Nov 14 11
by John Angelis
Share on Twitter

Believe it or not, we are almost halfway done with the conference! I’m sure many of you have already settled into your conference routine. Often I find myself asking a fellow INFORMite (INFORMian? INFORMster?) how their day is going. If they are a longtime attendee, I often get a shrug and a comment about how the session was “typical.”

But to keep things fresh, allow me to present the “Typical Presentation” Game, to see which one of you has attended the most typical INFORMS session ever. Can you score a Typical 10? Keep yourself alert during this last session with this lighthearted little gimmick.

Award +1 if a presenter nervously asks “Is anyone coming?” before it starts.

+1 if there are technical difficulties at the start of the presentation

+1 if 5+ people rush into the room promptly at 4:30PM

+1 if the presenter mentions someone “who couldn’t be here today”

+1 if the author makes promises of more data or simulations at a later date

+1 if the phrase “Cannot be solved analytically, but…” is used

+1 if one presenter gives significant portion of talk with name badge flipped backward

+1 if an audience member starts question with “Have you thought about…?”

+1 if the presenter uses computer programming or operations slang such as “take you offline on that” or “program you into my schedule.”

And last and delightfully not least,

+1 if members of an enthusiastic crowd are still present in the room 15 minutes after the scheduled end of the talk.

Enjoy the last session of the day!

Nov 14 11
by Jim Cochran
Share on Twitter

Today I look forward to attending several interesting sessions on sports analytics (11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.) in the North Carolina room of the Hilton Hotel.

I also look forward to paying my respects to Paul Jensen during the INFORM-ED sponsored session, “In Memoriam: Paul Jensen’s Influence on
OR Pedagogy,” from 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. in Suite 403 on the 4th Floor of the Hilton. Paul passed away in April. He was a good friend and colleague who served INFORMS in a variety of roles, and he made several important contributions to ORMS education and applications. To learn more about Paul and his contributions, I suggest you visit

Nov 14 11
by Robert Howley
Share on Twitter

It took a few years in the “real world” before I took a stab at academia, so I really didn’t know what to expect at my first major conference. Needless to say, but I got an interesting awakening.

I won’t give away the session at which I experienced this, but I learned that not all academics are “good”. At an earlier in the day session I was sitting in a relatively empty room* for some solid lectures and was exposed to a rather “interesting” side of academic gatherings: the person determined to show up the presenter**. In a gathering of thousands of people this seemed appropriate for my first talk, so I watched with a certain amount of interest as the accuser/attacker opened with, “I’m not familiar with the literature but …”. Well, that is all the presenter (who was quite good) needed, because they promptly informed the questioner about the rock solid statistical literature behind their research. Boom. Question dominated.

Newbie’s first lesson: Don’t attack if you’re clueless.

I do my best to be a man of reason, so any time I talk research I want inquisitive/critical questions and comments. Some people apparently express it somewhat differently than I would aka in (my opinion) somewhat rude manners. One of the beauties of INFORMS is that, later in the evening, I had a beverage with a fellow conference attendee (and now acquaintance***) that said, “Some of the best ideas come from questions of those who know virtually nothing”.

So, I guess rudeness has its place. An unfortunate occurrence perhaps, but the poor treatment of the presenter by this one individual reminded me of the proverb, “it takes a town to raise a child”. All people, rude or otherwise, share in the academic discourse. INFORMS facilitates that. Thankfully, 99.9% of what I’ve seen has been constructive. One bad apple does not spoil the bunch. Anywho …

Least important award of INFORMS: Best Talk of Sunday According to Rob is … “Valuation and Hedging of Commodity Storage in the Presence of Term Structure Model Error” by Guoming Lai. Like the title said, I’m a practitioner in an academic’s world, so I certainly appreciated research into improved hedging technique. There was competition for my favorite of the day that included Kay Giesecke‘s talk on default losses. Call me biased, but after a day full of fancy mathematics, I thoroughly enjoyed Lai’s hedging heuristics.

There is much more to share, but I’ll leave that for the person who gets me a nightcap at the Westin bar. For the rest of you, until tomorrow.

* Schedulers of INFORMS, you don’t need 120+ seats for non-plenary talks. I admit my sample size is small, but I haven’t been in one with more than 35 attendees.
** Trial by fire I suppose. Please don’t do this to me for my first INFORMS talk this week. I’ll battle, but I’d rather not.
*** What honest discussion hasn’t happened over a beverage or at least the expectation of one?

Nov 14 11
by Tallys Yunes
Share on Twitter

The Sunday at INFORMS began with myself waking up too early, given the time I went to bed the night before (no, I wasn’t partying). To my surprise, the Starbucks at the Westin was empty and I had no trouble obtaining my morning dose of caffeine. It was right then that someone approached me and said “Hi! I read your blog!”. It took me a few seconds to fathom what had just happened and I said “Really? That’s great!”. We chatted for a little while and I learned his name was Hugh Medal, a PhD student from the University of Arkansas, whom I had never met before. At least now I know he works on network problems with disruptions. What a great way to start an INFORMS Sunday! Thanks, Hugh!

I had a research meeting at 10am, so I tried to squeeze in a couple of talks before that. Unfortunately, I completely overestimated my knowledge of Stochastic Programming when I assumed I’d be able to follow Suvrajeet Sen’s talk on “What is Common and What is Not Between Differential DP, Nested Benders and Stochastic Decomposition”. Not to worry, though. I learned I need to learn more. That’s still learning, right?

The second talk I had picked for the morning slot was “New Media Planning Models for New Media” by John Turner from UC Irvine. It was a fascinating application of OR to a real-world problem: how to serve ads to people playing video games while respecting a number of constraints on campaign goals set by the product manufacturers. Next time you see soda X on a vending machine of a shooting game, or politician Y on a billboard of a driving game, rest assured that those ads were strategically placed there to target a specific demographic, during a specific time of the year. John and his co-authors achieved dramatic reductions in penalty costs (which are charged when goals aren’t met), while also improving how well the campaign reaches its weekly target demographics. Even though their method requires solving large-scale quadratic transportation problems, they employ a smart aggregation procedure to significantly reduce the problem size and make it manageable. They’re now working on generalizing their approach to other kinds of digital advertisement.

Between then and 5pm I had two very interesting (and long) research meetings with some of my collaborators. The goal of the first meeting was to come up with a list of problems we think are worth studying; and the second meeting aimed at deciding which of those problems we want to tackle first. If only I could find more than 24 hours a day… All in all, I’m happy with the outcomes of those meetings and I’m excited to start playing around with Multi-Valued Decision Diagrams (MDD). In case you don’t know what MDDs are, I suggest you attend the MC08 session I’m chairing on Monday. Fascinating stuff! On a sad note, that means I’ll have to miss the panel on “Bringing OR into the 21st Century with Social Networking and Web 2.0 Tools” (MC03). Someone please let me know what happens in that session! (e.g. send me a tweet :-)

At 6:15pm I attended the INFORMS Optimization Society business meeting and spoke for a few minutes about the upcoming IOS meeting that will take place at the University of Miami in February next year. Yes, you read it correctly: Miami+February = nice! (At least for those who live in the northern heimsphere.) This is my first time helping organize a conference, and I must say it’s shaping up to be a very nice one. Make sure to check out our web site We will be accepting abstract and poster submissions until January 6, 2012. I left some brochures about the conference on the appropriate table in the Exhibits Hall. Feel free to take one and show it to all of your friends.

That’s about it for my exciting Sunday adventures. Looking forward to finding out what Monday has in store for me. One thing I know already: I’ll be waking up early once again because my first research meeting starts at 7:30am. Hopefully, another one of my blog readers will be walking by to cheer me up.

P.S. If you’re vegetarian, go to the Mimosa Grill and ask the chef for a “vegetarian creation” (not on the menu; they’ll make it on the spot). You won’t regret it.

Nov 14 11
by Ken Chelst
Share on Twitter

This has been the breakthrough year for NSF funded Project MINDSET which has developed a two semester curriculum and textbooks in Operations Research for high school students. Last year a few hundred students in a handful of schools and studied MINDSET’s OR curriculum. This year there are more than 2,000 OR students in 50 high schools in North Carolina, Michigan, and Georgia.
Panel discussion 8am Monday Hilton room 402

Nov 14 11
by Matt Saltzman
Share on Twitter

Congratulations to Andrew Mason and Iain Dunning, who were awarded the 2011 COIN-OR Cup for their OpenSolver project.  OpenSolver is an open-source plugin for Excel that provides sophisticated optimization modeling features and that uses COIN-OR’s CBC MIP solver to generate solutions.

Thanks to committee chair Pietro Belotti and committee members Matt Galati, Kipp Martin, and Stefan Vigerske for their hard work, and thanks to IBM for sponsoring the Cup reception at the Fox and Hounds tavern.

Nov 13 11
by Jim Orlin
Share on Twitter

I have found that a useful strategy at INFORMS conferences is to not have too great an expectation of the quality of the talks.  Today, I was pleasantly surprised.  I went to three technical sessions where the speakers gave good talks, and where I felt that I learned something of value.  I also met some new people today and touched base with some old friends.

The one plenary talk I went to was Salah E. Elmaghraby, who gave a talk on project networks.  I hope that I look that cute when I’m his age.  Salah was scheduled to give a talk from 10 AM to 10:50 AM.  I think that he misunderstood the schedule, and he seemed to think it was scheduled to 11:30.  Under the circumstances, he decided that he needed to compromise, so he ended the session promptly at 11, just in time for the 11 AM sessions to start.

At dinner I saw a colleague who complained about the quality of presentations in the technical sessions.  It was my time to show my experience and my acquired wisdom.  I said, “Compared to talks from 25 years ago, today’s talks are eloquence par excellence.”  Actually, I didn’t say that.  Instead, I said something that meant the same thing, but it wasn’t as eloquent.

To summarize, I had an enjoyable day.  I hope you enjoyed yourself too.

Nov 13 11
by Aurelie Thiele
Share on Twitter

The INFORMS conference is now in full swing and it has been wonderful to see so many familiar faces – and many more new ones as well. For my first post, I decided to write about our host city: Charlotte, NC. Because of Charlotte’s recent ascent – and struggle – as a financial center and renewed renaissance as a hub for energy companies, and because both finance and energy are themes of interest to many operations research practitioners, I hope learning a bit more about Charlotte will be of interest to many.

First, the basics, thanks to Wikipedia: Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and the seat of Mecklenburg County. With a population over 730,000 in the latest US census, it is the 17th largest American city in population.  (The metropolitan area counts about 1.75 million residents.) Charlotte is viewed as a major financial center because Bank of America is headquartered there; Wachovia also had its headquarters in Charlotte before its demise during the financial crisis and merger with Wells Fargo (which is said to bring its headquarters of East Coast Operations to Charlotte). Charlotte is also the home of the Carolina Panthers (NFL), the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Charlotte was ranked No 8 in the 2008 rankings of “Best cities to live and launch” compiled by Money Magazine. The pros included “Steady influx of young educated workers, business-friendly banking community, local sports entertainment”, as well as the proximity of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus, while the main con was the increase in housing costs due to the influx of new residents. (Charlotte’s fortune as a banking center originated in new laws passed in the 1980s lifting restrictions about banks operating in multiple states, which explains it only rose to prominence relatively recently. For an article explaining Charlotte’s trajectory, I recommend the article “How Charlotte became a banking giant, outpacing Pittsburgh’s banks” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 2006.)

The appeal of Charlotte – a vibrant city that is also an airline hub in a sunny climate with great opportunities both job-wise and leisure-wise – has also brought its share of challenges during the economic crisis. Many people moved to Charlotte in the hope to find a job but were unable to gain employment, leading to an unemployment rate of 12% in 2009, according to this Washington Post article.  I find it striking that in 2008 Money magazine put Charlotte’s population at just below 600,000, and only 2 years later the population had increased by over 20%. Such an increase would be difficult to absorb seamlessly in the best of situations, and the financial crisis certainly did not help.

The Washington Post article “Hard times in Charlotte, a city depending on the banking industry”, published in October 2009, paints a rather sad picture of Charlotte at the time, and its high hopes of becoming a national powerhouse dashed by the economy. For instance: “In Charlotte, the number of people served by the soup kitchen at Urban Ministry, a local charity, has increased 22 percent since August 2007, while the number of private airplanes arriving and departing from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport has dropped by 38 percent.”

Even in 2009, many people remained optimistic about the future of Charlotte. “This is a great city with a deep talent pool”, said the CEO of GMAC Financial. Also, the journalist wrote: “Some local leaders have suggested that Charlotte diversify its economy. But it is much more common to find people who say the city’s destiny as a financial center has simply been postponed.”

Two years later, we can better judge the future of Charlotte, and it is looking up. In fact, in September the Washington Post published another article about Charlotte, this one entitled: “Charlotte looks beyond financial sector in effort to become energy capital.” It starts as follows: ”

By the end of this year, a tower built as a home for Wachovia will be the new headquarters of Duke Energy… While the tidy North Carolina city of 730,000 people still counts itself as the nation’s No. 2 financial center and is looking to expand in a number of arenas — including health, motor sports and defense — the area’s energy sector is showing particular promise.” Charlotte has ambitious plans, in areas that should be of interest to many operations researchers: “In addition to luring energy firms, the city is expanding recycling, “smart” grid projects and public transit, with plans to add 10 miles of light rail and a commuter line in years to come.” Leaders in the Charlotte community also aim at making the city “the most energy-efficient in the world.” The article also provides a long list of energy-related companies adding jobs to the area, from Siemens to ABB Group to Celgard and SPX. The renewed ascent of Charlotte as a national economic powerhouse should be fascinating to watch!

Nov 13 11
by Nathaniel Bastian
Share on Twitter

I am sure that most of the INFORMS conference attendees agree that today was a major success. Not only were there excellent sessions throughout the day, but the evening closed with a scrumptious welcoming reception. Additionally, it was great to meet face-to-face with research partners and colleagues. Some highlights of the technical sessions I attended include: inter-agency partnership selection in disaster management, cultural influences on inter-agency cooperation, planning tools for emergency response, quantifying and explaining access to H1N1 vaccine, patient prioritization and triage in MASCAL incidents, improving the performance of ED-track, optimal mix of surgical procedures under stochastic LOS, and queues with delay sensitive service times. Although I have been an INFORMS member since 2009, I also attended the New Member Orientation as this is my first INFORMS conference.

Tomorrow will be another busy day of poster/technical sessions, plenary talks, community business meetings, and the student reception and networking event in the evening. Looking forward to another great day…

Nov 13 11
by Polly Mitchell-Guthrie
Share on Twitter

I attended a session bright and early this morning on Adoption of Analytics and OR Methods, and one of the primary topics was barriers to this adoption, the thorniest of which were people problems.

My colleague Gary Cokins from SAS categorized barriers to adoption of optimization and advanced analytics into four groups: technical (e.g. dirty data), perception (e.g. ill-formed assumptions about cost and ease of use), and design deficiencies (e.g. poorly designed models), but spent the majority of his time talking about organizational behavior. It’s these soft skills that can be such a challenge – things like leadership, communication, and change management. And trying new methods requires openness to new ways of thinking and not expecting magic bullets.

Lisa Kart from Gartner sounded a similar theme, scratching her head around why financial services hasn’t adopted optimization at the rate she would expect, since it is an industry with such a wealth of advanced analytic usage. Banks are well-versed in descriptive and predictive analytic techniques for such areas like customer segmentation and credit scoring. They even apply optimization to some areas like branch site selection or credit line optimization. So then why is optimization not pervasive? Lisa agreed with Gary and added concerns about perceived loss of control, misalignment of incentives (e.g. an overall better solution that permits uptick in an area like fraud might be unacceptable to an executive measured on fraud activity), perceived competition, and even skepticism that it will work in “my industry.”

Many of these people problems are general management issues, but areas like skepticism might be lessened if there were more OR practitioners in industry. But is it the chicken or the egg that came first? Adoption rates won’t grow without people, but my experience and that of many I’ve spoken with here is that it is hard to find those people. There is a supply and demand gap, because it is a challenge to find people with strong OR theoretical training and the ability to apply that education to solving business problems.

But as I look around and see the streets of Charlotte crawling with thousands of INFORMS attendees (those conference bags and nametags give us away) I wonder why such a large gap exists. I expect to mostly attend the analytics track over the next few days, and I know at least one of the sessions is on university programs in advanced analytics. I worked with the SAS Academic Program for years, so I know this is a perennial challenge. I’m eager to listen and learn and look out for new ideas and signs of change. Ideas anyone?

Nov 13 11
by Mike Trick
Share on Twitter

COIN-OR is a project to spur open-source activities in operations research.   Every year COIN-OR gives out an award called the COIN-OR INFORMS Cup.  This year’s winner has just been announced, and I think the committee has made an inspired choice:

The submission “OpenSolver: Open Source Optimisation for Excel using COIN-OR”, by Andrew Mason and Iain Dunning, has been selected as the winner of the 2011 edition of the COIN-OR INFORMS Cup. OpenSolver is an “Open Source linear and integer optimizer for Microsoft Excel. OpenSolver is an Excel VBA add-in that extends Excel’s built-in Solver with a more powerful Linear Programming solver.” (from

This year’s award recognizes that lots and lots of people want to use top-notch optimization code, but would like to stay in the world of Excel.  The authors of this work (who I am very proud to say come from the University of Auckland (at least in Andrew’s case), where I was a visitor in 2007) have done a great job in integrated the optimization codes from COIN-OR into an easy-to-use interface in Excel.  It is a fantastic piece of work (that I blogged about previously) and one that I believe does a tremendous amount of good for the world of operations research.  If you can model in Excel’s Solver, then you can plug in OpenSolver and start using the COIN-OR solvers with no limits on problem size.  I am also delighted to see that that they have moved to CPL licensing, rather than GPL, which was my only whine in my original post.

Congratulations Andrew and Iain.  If you would like to celebrate this award, there is a reception to attend, thanks to IBM:

All entrants and their supporters are welcome to join in the celebration and regale (rile) the prize winners.

Date: Sunday, November 13
Time: 8pm-10pm

Location: The Fox and Hound
330 North Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

The celebration is sponsored by IBM.

Good work by the committee:

The COIN-OR INFORMS Cup committee:

Pietro Belotti
Matthew Galati
R. Kipp Martin
Stefan Vigerske

Kiwis and open source rule!

Nov 13 11
by Paul Rubin
Share on Twitter

I thoroughly enjoyed the tutorial session by Saul Gass and Arjang Assad titled “History of Operations Research”. It was both enlightening and entertaining, with a good leavening of humor. Looking around the room, I saw quite a range of ages in the audience, from “new to OR” to “I lived it”. Happily, this contradicted my prior assumption that it’s mainly old goats who are fascinated by history.

I believe a written vesion of the session will appear in this year’s TutORials in Operations Research, so if you missed the session, you may have a chance to get caught up. The presenters have two books published by Springer, An Annotated Timeline of Operations Research: An Informal History and Profiles in Operations Research: Pioneers and Innovators. A book signing is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. at the Springer booth in the Exhibit Hall.

Nov 13 11
by Jim Cochran
Share on Twitter

Hello fellow INFORMS 2011 Conference Attendees,

There is a lot to see and do today. For me the highlights are

  • the presentations by the finalists in the Doing Good with Good OR Competition in Charlotte Hall (on the 3rd floor of the Hilton hotel) from 1:30 – 3:00 and 4:30 – 6:00 (the award will be given during the Award Ceremony later this evening)


  • the presentations by the finalists for  annual Case Competition in Suite 403 of the Hilton from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (the winner will be announced at the INFORM-ED Reception and Business Meeting later this evening).


Nov 13 11
by Paul Rubin
Share on Twitter

Having arrived later than expected (if anyone is looking for an OR project for a class, baggage claim at CLT can use the help), I headed in the direction of registration, planning to skip the Membership Meeting. That plan died when I bumped into the benevolent goddess of DSI (am I allowed to mention competing societies here?), Professor Kathy Stecke of UT-Dallas, who insisted that I join her at the MM first (and who “fake married” me in a quick ceremony presided over by nobody, so that I could partake of the MM and associated open bar without my ID badge).

Besides scoring a free beer or two (and the shortest marriage by anyone not named Kardashian), I was treated to a very upbeat and deftly run meeting, courtesy of INFORMS president Rina Schneur. (Academic committee meetings should be run this tightly — although the shock would probably do in more than a few of my colleagues.) The metrics were favorable: membership is up; attendance at the meeting seems to be at least a local max; and the budget is showing a surplus (at least before the bar tab was reconciled). The current and incoming officers were introduced, and I finally got to meet Melissa Moore (previously a disemboided voice during IT committee conference calls).

After the MM, my interim spouse kindly invited me to the UT-D potty … which, after adjusting for her Kennedy-level Boston accent (and much to my relief) turned out to be a party. There I had a chance to chat with Doug Samuelson, who (among many activities) writes the end-of-issue column for OR/MS Today. Doug’s column provides a number of valuable managerial insights of sufficient generality that I got mileage out of at least one while teaching — pardon my language — organizational behavior. Sadly, there does not seem to be a reliable mechanism for disseminating these insights to the needy. Hopefully in the Web 2.0+ era, we’ll find them collected and indexed someplace accessible in the near future.

Nov 13 11
by John Angelis
Share on Twitter

It’s the day before our Christmas, World Cup, and Super Bowl combined. INFORMS is about to be treated to a smorgasboard of delicious research, served up in a four-day feast. I’ve already gotten a chance to nibble on some appetizers via a pre-INFORMS conference. I look forward to meeting all the nice and certainly not naughty INFORMS folk at the conference this year.

As an opening question, I’d like to address those of you who have been to multiple INFORMS conferences. Which session or speaker is still on your want list? We all have our given topics that we tend to see a lot of, but how do you intend to broaden your interests?

Each year I find myself saying “Well, next year I’ll attend a session on X or see so-and-so talk.” But it never quite happens, of course. This year I definitely want to see some game theory talks, or perhaps public policy: I’ve missed seeing research in both areas. How about yourself? What’s on your want list?

Nov 12 11
by Nathaniel Bastian
Share on Twitter

Although today did not mark the official start of the 2011 Annual Meeting of INFORMS, I did receive some valuable information as I explored various OR/MS software platforms at the vendor workshops. My programming and modeling language background includes C++, Java, GAMS, and Microsoft Office/VBA. Because my research efforts have started delving into predictive modeling techniques, my objective at the vendor workshops was to learn about applicable software packages. Therefore, I decide to begin the day with the SAS Global Academic Program, where we learned about SAS Rapid Predictive Modeler. Following this, I checked out Maximal Software to discover more about MPL (an algebraic modeling language for optimization). Last, I ventured over to Frontline Systems to learn about XLMiner (for predictive modeling) and their Risk Solver Platform (optimization, simulation, and decision analysis). Each of the vendor workshops had something unique and useful to offer, so they were definitely worthwhile.

Well, time to get cozy with the pillows again to get some rest for Day 1 of the INFORMS conference. See you bright and early…

Nov 12 11
by Ken Chelst
Share on Twitter

: North Carolina leads nation with more than 1,200 high school students in 26 different high schools taking a course in Operations Research developed by Project MINDSET. Six of these schools are in the Charlotte area. For more info about the project check out

Nov 12 11
by Robert Howley
Share on Twitter

This is my first trip to the annual INFORMS conference and I’m already impressed. There is a buzz in the hotel lobby of people looking to jump right into this OR Woodstock. Even on the flight here, a quick hop from Philadelphia, there was research chatter and slide edits aplenty (my own included). Maybe it’s not Woodstock, but Cancun for OR people. Maybe both. Either way, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in it all and hopefully giving the seasoned vets a few chuckles when they read my sense of bewilderment put to “paper”.

Amongst the inflight INFORMS gossip I did learn one piece of valuable wisdom: “When in doubt, go where there are the best snacks.” Couldn’t agree with you more, person sitting behind me.

First order of business for me is to figure out what sessions I’ll be attending tomorrow; right now the frontrunner appears to be Credit Risk. We’ll see. Financial Engineering at 11, however, is a no brainer for me. Noticing a trend?

Question for the INFORMS regulars: When you’re looking for a session, do you branch out of your comfort zone or try and stick within your area?

Unrelated note: Westin is nice, but no internet included?! Come on. I’d trade in the minibar and cable for a little broadband any day.


Nov 11 11
by Paul Rubin
Share on Twitter

Things I wish I’d known the first time I attended an INFORMS (or TIMS/ORSA, as it was known back then) national meeting:

  • Unless you are receiving an award, delivering a keynote address, or interviewing for a job, the dress code is casual. Nerds Rule!
  • When reading the program, there is no lifeguard on duty. It’s up to you not to drown.
  • Intimidated by all the technical stuff in the program of which you have no inkling?  So is everyone else, at least until they learn not to worry about it. (To quote the late George Carlin: “Don’t sweat the petty stuff.  And don’t pet the sweaty stuff.”)
  • Arguably the most valuable part of the conference is networking.  If you don’t already have a network of contacts, hang out with someone who does. If you’re already well networked, be on the lookout for orphans, and invite them to join you. (Old timers: Remember how you felt at your first meeting?)
  • No disrespect to academic papers (I’ve inflicted a few myself), but the good stuff will eventually show up in a journal somewhere. It’s nice to get a look at what others are doing, and it’s helpful for the presenters to get comments from the audience, but I don’t think the academic papers are the most important part of the meeting. Presentations by industry people, on the other hand, have extra value because you’re not likely to see them in print.
  • Doors to meeting rooms are designed to slam when closed. It’s probably the maintenance staff’s revenge on all the nerds making work for them, but the reason is irrelevant. If you’re skipping out of a session early (which is a perfectly fine thing to do, unless you’re the next presenter or the session chair), it’s polite to close the door carefully and gradually behind you.
  • Looking for a heuristic to determine the narrowest points in a traffic flow network?  Turn a bunch of nerds loose, and watch for where they stop to talk to each other. I think it’s related to particle swarm optimization, but I don’t have a formal proof.
Nov 11 11
by Nathaniel Bastian
Share on Twitter

After 10 long hours on the plane from Hawaii and a 30-minute bus ride on the CATS Sprinter bus, I have finally arrived to Charlotte. Unlike typical pre-gaming for sporting events, I am getting cozy with the hotel pillows to re-set my body clock for the full week of events at the 2011 Annual Meeting of INFORMS. This conference is particularly important to me because it will be my last prior to deploying to Afghanistan in January in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Moreover, as we thank those combat veterans around us today who have dutifully served this nation, let’s also be thankful for both the birth and growth of the OR/MS field.

As a junior analyst still learning the trade of OR/MS, I trust that this conference will forge the opportunity for networking among professionals, mentorship from the experienced, learning and sharing new OR/MS theory and applications, and having fun. I look forward to tomorrow as we kick-off the conference with numerous vendor workshops and the INFORMS membership meeting.

Nov 11 11
by Polly Mitchell-Guthrie
Share on Twitter

My office at SAS in Cary, North Carolina is only a few hours drive from Charlotte, but to save money and reduce the carbon impact I took the corporate suggestion to take the train. Out of curiousity I did a keyword search of the program and found 35 hits for “rail,” so perhaps I’ll attend one to continue the theme. I love trains and associate them with holiday travel, so perhaps it is time to add a new association with optimization or scheduling.

Nov 11 11
by Tallys Yunes
Share on Twitter

I’m very excited about the INFORMS conference in Charlotte and the opportunity to have productive face-to-face meetings with some of my research partners. This will be my first time blogging for INFORMS. I’m also looking forward to the Social Networking Panel, and maybe even a tweetup.

For my first blog, I’d like to tell you about a conversation I recently had with a friend who works on the industry side of OR. We spent some time talking about what academics think practitioners would like to read (in terms of the latest and greatest OR research) and what practitioners actually would like to read. To preserve this person’s anonymity, I’ll call him Mr. X.

Disclaimer: I do not mean to say that all industry folks want the same thing. The point of this post is to verify whether Mr. X’s point of view is shared by a large number of practitioners. Here’s what Mr. X had to say about what he wants:

  • I’d like to Google a term I’m interested in, such as “lot sizing” or “order quantity”, and find out who is working on that kind of problem. It’s OK if I have to go to a specific web site to perform this search, instead of Google.
  • When I find the person or group of people I’m looking for, I’d like to have easy access to their contact information (phone or email).
  • I don’t want a link to a paper or an abstract. I don’t have time to read the paper. Besides, papers often make assumptions that do not apply in practice. It’s easier to speak directly to the person, tell them about my specific issue, and see if their research still applies (or can be adapted) to the case that interests me.
  • Instead of a paper, I’d like to see a simple story, with no OR jargon. It would be even better if there were Powerpoint slides with pictures to help convey the main ideas. (NOTE: Mr. X has a Ph.D. in an OR-related field. He is perfectly capable of reading the math. He just doesn’t want to.)
  • Another important thing would be for the researchers to explain/indicate the direction in which they think things are going. For example, ‘this is what’s going on in area A, this is our new contribution, and this is where we think things are headed, or this is what we expect to be able to do in area A in the near (or not so near) future.’

This is the point at which I’d like to have input from other people who work on the industry side of OR. Do you agree with Mr. X? Let me know what you think in the comments below. It seems to me that, with its OR professional search, provides some of what Mr. X wants. Is that not good enough? If not, what kind of improvements do you think it needs?

Mr. X should also check out the INFORMS Public Information Committee (PIC) initiative headed-up by Aurelie Thiele. The PIC puts together the O.R./Analytics in Action blog, which is already up and running with three great posts: here, here, and here. Posts like these partially address some of Mr. X’s wants but, if he’s right, we need to do more.

That’s it for now. If you enjoy reading my O.R. by the Beach blog, please stop and say hi when you see me in Charlotte. I’d love to shake hands with my readers!

Nov 10 11
by Jim Orlin
Share on Twitter

I haven’t written a post to my own blog in a VERY long time. But Shirley Mohr from INFORMS asked me if I wanted to write some posts for the upcoming conference. She said that people really enjoyed reading the posts that I have written in the past. I felt pleased about the compliment and said yes.

Later, it occurred to me that I would flatter someone if I wanted them to blog for the conference. This realization did take a little away from my pleasure at the previous compliment, even though the previous compliment was undoubtedly sincere.

For those of you who have looked at my other blog (, you will know that I have a tendency to write posts when I am annoyed (especially at Republicans), and many of them are on the critical side. This would be totally inappropriate for an INFORMS blog, and I intend to avoid such negativity. Also, if and when I do write something critical and negative, I intend to alert the reader by writing “Warning: negative comments follow.” Then any reader who believes like I do that negative, critical comments are inappropriate can skip over the offending comments.

This INFORMS meeting will have a different feeling for me. First, I forgot to submit a talk. Really. (It’s not as bad as Rick Perry forgetting what federal department he wants to eliminate, but that is no excuse.) Second, I will be attending mostly plenary talks and tutorials. In my younger days, I viewed such sessions as “fluffy”. But now that I have matured (that is, gotten much older), I view them very positively. The truth is that I enjoy these sessions more than the technical sessions, and I usually learn more as well.

So, I’m ready to blog for the conference. I plan to be uniformly positive and enthusiastic, starting with my next post.

– Jim Orlin

Nov 9 11
by Mike Trick
Share on Twitter

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard, an’t shall go hard

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4

I am greatly looking foward to this year’s INFORMS Annual Conference in Charlotte. There is nothing like getting together with 4000 of my closest friends, raising many a coffee (and other liquids) in toasting the successes of our field.

I could see the successes of operations research over the last couple of days as I tried to change my flights and hotel in reaction to some family issues. I had booked everything months ago, paying a pittance for the flight and getting the conference rate for the hotel. Of course, trying to rebook things three days in advance was a different story: $150 change fees, along with quadrupling of airfare was the opening bid, with the opportunity to pay about six times the airfare if I wanted to fly at a time when humans are normally awake. And I’m not sure why this happened, but the hotel took the chance to increase my daily rate by $10, even though I just knocked a day off my reservation. The conference suddenly became a lot more expensive, just because my wife pointed out that if I don’t rake the leaves on Saturday, when will it ever get done!

I know who to blame for all this: operations research, of course. The subfield of “Revenue Management” makes change fees and differential pricing a science. And that field is one of the great success stories of operations research, as shown by such things as the string of Edelman finalists that focus on revenue management. So, while I rue the extra expense that operations research has caused me, I can take solace in knowing that I will eventually gain far more due to the overall success of our field.

See you in Charlotte!

Nov 8 11
by Aurelie Thiele
Share on Twitter

I am looking forward to the annual meeting in Charlotte. It will be great to catch up with everybody and hear so many informative talks in such a short amount of time! My 3 doctoral students are very excited too. Ruken attended the meeting in Austin last year, but it will be the first trip to INFORMS of both Elcin and Yang. My own first INFORMS annual meeting was in 2002 (Atlanta, for those of you with a good memory). So many years later, it is hard to remember the excitement of discovering a venue that brings together so many operations researchers with their different domains of expertise and areas of application, but when I watch my students I am reminded of the milestone it was to go and give my first talk. Giving talks truly makes students feel part of the O.R./Analytics community. I am sure the Charlotte meeting will amaze them!

Nov 7 11
by Anna Nagurney
Share on Twitter

The President of WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences) had emailed me whether or not I had received the latest announcement about the newsletter and upcoming activities at the INFORMS Charlotte meeting and I had responded that I had not but since I had spoken at McGill last Friday only to return to what is being called the biggest snowstorm on record for October with power outages that left over 3 million people in the dark, I figured that perhaps it was an Internet or related problem. (By the way, some of our neighbors as well as colleagues in Amherst and surrounding communities still do not have electric power and have been without electricity since last Saturday night and this is Wednesday).

Further inquiries revealed that others also had not received the message so it was forwarded today and is reposted below.

WORMS activities are some of my favorites at the annual INFORMS meetings from the WORMS lunch to the panels. These forums serve as great get-together and networking events as well.

Dear WORMS members,

The latest WORMS newsletter is available here.

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the INFORMS annual meeting in Charlotte in two weeks. WORMS has several great events happening, including our biggest event – the Tuesday luncheon – two panels of thoughtful and high-profile panelists and the first-ever “Best Of” session featuring influential publications by women in OR/MS. In chronological order:

Best of WORMS – Sunday November 13, 1:30 PM – 3 PM

Amy Ward, Dorothee Honhon and Waverly Ding present their highly influential papers published in INFORMS journals in 2010. References including coauthors available by link.

Panel Discussion: Can we do anything about women dropping out? – Sunday November 13, 4:30 PM – 6:00PM

Panelists: Mor Armony, Cynthia Barnhart, Cheryl Gaimon, Ann Marucheck, and Linda Whitaker

In 1979 women made up less than 1% of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty in engineering. More than thirty years later, how much has this percentage increased?

Panel Discussion: Leaders offer professional advice to women and men – Monday November 14, 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

Panelists: Mark Daskin, Radhika Kulkarni, Anna Nagurney, Les Servi, and Eric Wolman

Business Meeting – Monday November 14, 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM

Meeting in the Convention Center, Room 209A, we will vote on amendments to the by-laws. Refreshments will be served to sustain a quorum. Please bring your energy and ideas for WORMS in 2012.

Luncheon – Tuesday November 15, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Held in the Westin, Grand C, the luncheon will include reports on WORMS activities in 2011 and plans for 2012, as well as the presentation of the 2011 WORMS Award for the Advancement of Women in OR/MS. The biggest WORMS event of the year, the luncheon is almost sold out, so buy your tickets if you haven’t already ($15, $8 for students).

Please remember to renew your WORMS membership for 2011 and for 2012. Many of us (including me) tend to renew just in time for the annual meeting – over 3/4 of the way through the year. Starting in 2012, non-members will be removed from the WORMS mailing list early in the year, so in order to be able to post to the list and continue receiving e-mails from WORMS, you’ll need to be a current member. There are (at least) three ways to renew: “Forum for Women in OR/MS (WORMS)” under Fora.
2. Renew by phone by calling INFORMS member services (800-446-3676 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-446-3676 end_of_the_skype_highlighting). Old-fashioned, but fast and easy, you can state specifically what you want to pay for, and have your questions answered on the spot.
3. Renew by mail using the form you will receive by mail or by downloading the form and following the instructions at Even more old-fashioned, but it works!

Best wishes,


Eva Regnier, Ph.D.
President, WORMS
Associate Professor
Naval Postgraduate School
1 University Circle
Monterey, CA 93943-5219
phone: 1 (831) 656-2912
begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1 (831) 656-2912 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
fax: 1 (831) 656-2595

Nov 2 11
by Gary Bennett
Share on Twitter

Posted by Gary Bennett, INFORMS Director of Marketing and Member Services

From a marketing standpoint, you’d be surprised how much it takes to get ready for the Annual Meeting,  After all, you are a captive audience (pretty much) and we don’t weant to miss an opporunity to make you aware of all the great products and services we have available for you as an INFORMS member.  We are especially proud of all the “extra curricular activities” we have planned for the Annual Meeting.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining about being busy.  Going to the Annual Meeting is really a treat for all of us in the home office, but especially for Marketing, I think.

We are happy to bring you these activities.

Marketing is currently making plans to reprise our popular Annual Meeting eNews Daily that we’ve featured at the last four meetings.  Student reporters, bloggers, and advertisers are currently being recruited to provide content and financial support to this daily round up of Annual Meeting news.  Issues will be distributed to all Annual Meeting attendees Sunday – Wednesday at the meeting by 7:00 am.

Marketing will hold an attendee video contest this year.  Attendees have been provided instructions and suggested topics to base their homemade videos on.  INFORMS staff will post all entries and select one grand prize winner for best video who will receive an Apple iPad2. The best completed videos will be featured in appropriate areas of the INFORMS website.

Marketing has once again recruited a stable of bloggers to report on their experiences at the Annual Meeting, drive discussion, and add flavor.  Blog postings will appear on front page of meeting website. Both well-known and not-so-well-known bloggers have been recruited:

Mike Trick
Tallys Yunes
Matt Saltzman
Robert Howley
Nathan Bastian
Ken Chelst
Mike Gorman
Jim Orlin
Polly Mitchell-Guthrie
Jim Cochran
Paul Rubin
Anna Nagurney
Matt Liberatore
Aurelie Thiele
Robert Bordley

A dedicated LinkedIn group has been established for the Annual Meeting.

Marketing will set up the appropriate Twitter feed, and tweets will be encouraged from all attendees. Tweets appear on front page of meeting website. New this year – a monitor devoted to tweets will be set up near registration for all to check.

Marketing will once again engage Blue Sky Broadcast to capture all 2012 Wagner Prize presentations for placement on the INFORMS Video Learning Center shortly after the meeting. These videos will be heavily promoted to INFORMS members and the entire community at large.

This year Marketing and other INFORMS staff have set an aggressive videotaping schedule with a goal of capturing as many key talks as possible for on-demand access to members after the meeting. Included in the taping schedule are all plenary talks, many analytics track talks, JPS panels and Tutorials talks.

Again this year, Marketing and Publications staff will coordinate the availability of Tutorials in O.R. online to attendees during the meeting and to all INFORMS members beginning on January 1, 2012. This popular new attendee and member benefit has been available online for two years now.

Marketing staff will once again organize a Speakers Book Store in the INFORMS booth to allow speakers and other key attendees to display and sell their books. This speaker benefit also benefits attendees by providing a low cost, all in one place book store that serves members when their demand is at its peak.

Marketing also takes a leadership role in coordinating the new member orientation session on Sunday, 4:30 pm in Grand C (Level 2) of Westin Hotel – and membership meeting on Saturday evening, 5 pm in Providence II (Level 2), Westin Hotel.

Marketing has arranged for an IOL Reception Sunday evening that will focus on assisting others with their social networking strategy. Come see us Sunday at 6 pm in Trade Room, Westin Hotel. (IOL is INFORMS OnLine — our institution website.)

Shirley Mohr, INFORMS fine staff webmaster, will host her annual session on EZ Publish, the website content management system that subdivisions can adopt to revitalize their websites. Bring your questions and issues to Shirley on Tuesday at 4:30 pm, Charlotte Hall, Hilton Hotel.

Nov 1 11
Share on Twitter


LCD (computer) projectors will be available in every technical session room. Please note that you must bring your laptop (or share with another presenter) and AC power adaptor. Technical assistance will be available for any AV problems.


Complete information on transportation from the airport to local hotels is here. Cab service from the airport to downtown is $25.00 for one or two people. $2.00 for each additional person. There is no shuttle service (such as Super Shuttle) operating out of the Charlotte airport. You can save money by arranging to meet colleagues at the airport and sharing a cab. If you take a taxi, be sure to specify the full name of your hotel because INFORMS is using several downtown hotels with similar names. Another transportation option is the Sprinter Bus, operated by the Charlotte transit authority, which runs 20 minutes from the airport to Charlotte Center City and costs $1.75. Click here for map showing the location of the Transit Center. You can either walk to your hotel or transfer to the light rail at no charge to a station closer to your hotel.


If you haven’t registered yet, do it now and avoid lines at on-site registration. Online registration is open through Friday, November 11 at 11:59pm EST; after that, you must register onsite. Please note: if you have a balance due when you arrive, please go to the Balance Due counter to submit your payment and pick up your registration materials.


Registration will be located at the Charlotte Convention Center, Concourse C. Hours are: Saturday – 2:00-7:00pm; Sunday-Tuesday, 7:00am-5:00pm; and Wednesday 7:00am-4:30pm. Guest registration is available for $100.


If you chose to not receive a hard-copy printed program in Charlotte, you can print out sections of interest before you travel. You can also use the ITINERARY tool in the Program Search. Details here. Select “Print PDFs of the Program.” This year we have added tracks with 30 or more sessions to the list of printable PDFs. All registrants will receive a summary brochure in Charlotte. This “Quick Reference” includes the master track schedule, maps and floor plans, speaker information, and listings of special events and community business meetings.


This year, the Addendum containing updates to the technical sessions will be available through a variety of mechanisms: daily updates in each morning’s eNews, postings on monitors at the INFORMS Registration Desk, and on the conference web page. For current Addendum information, check here.


Registration for these events takes place in the Convention Center, 7:00am-1:00pm, Concourse C. The Vendor Workshops are free; a separate fee is required for the DM-HI and DSS workshops. If you have not pre-registered for these workshops and wish to do so onsite, stop by the INFORMS registration desk to see if space is available. Descriptions are here, click on the workshop buttons.


Registration for these events takes place in the Westin, 7:00am-12:00pm, Grand Ballroom Promenade, Level 2 (Colloquia registration on Friday is also in this location).


The INFORMS Board encourages members to bring your ideas, opinions and suggestions: Saturday, 5:00-6:00pm, Westin, Providence II- III (Lobby Level).


New INFORMS members are invited to attend a welcome and orientation session, Sunday, 4:30-5:50pm, Westin, Grand C (Level 2). INFORMS leaders will provide information on membership benefits, communities/subdivision services, and tips on how to navigate the INFORMS meeting.


The perfect venue to meet colleagues, visit the exhibits and enjoy some good food: Sunday, 7:30-9:00pm, Convention Center, Exhibit Hall.


Celebrate the achievements of your colleagues: Sunday, 8:30-9:45pm, Convention Center, Room 217. A dessert reception will be served following the ceremony, open to guests who attend the Ceremony. Doors will close at 8:45pm.


Convention Center, Crown Ballroom & NASCAR Hall of Fame (only entrance to NASCAR is through the convention center). Join us for a meal of real Southern cooking plus all the excitement and fun of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


INFORMS Communities encourage members and interested attendees to attend their meetings and receptions. Click here for a complete listing.


Students will find food, drink and networking opportunities at a special career-focused student reception on Monday, 7:30-9:00pm, Westin, Grand C (level 2). Practitioners and academics will share advice in a panel discussion.


Free wireless Internet and an email center will be located in the Exhibit Hall in the Convention Center. Name badges must be worn for admittance. Email access will be available Sunday-12:00pm-5:00pm; Monday & Tuesday – 9:00am-5:00pm; Wednesday – 9:00am-3:00pm. Please note: Hilton has wireless access on the third floor Piedmont Promenade. Â Westin has wireless in the lobby.


Enter the exhibit hall raffle to have a chance at winning the new Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet that Amazon is releasing November 15. Watch for information in Charlotte.


Free access to the INFORMS 2011 TutORials online book is available here to meeting registrants. Log in using your INFORMS username and password. Non-member meeting attendees: use the username and password you selected as part of the online registration process. For more information, visit INFORMS booth #121, 125, & 127.


Be sure to stop by the General Interactive Sessions on Monday and Tuesday, 12:30-2:30pm in the Convention Center, Ballroom Foyer. On display will be 50+ posters and laptop demonstrations each day on diverse ORMS topics. Authors will be on hand to describe their work during these times. Two subdivisions have incorporated poster sessions into their tracks: Health Applications, Monday, 8:00-9:30am (MA31), Convention Center, Room 217A; Quality, Statistics and Reliability, Monday, 11:00am-12:30pm (MB33), Convention Center, Room 217D.


Be part of the largest gathering of O.R. and analytics job seekers and employers. The Job Fair takes place Sunday, 12:00-5:00pm, and the Job Placement Service is open Monday-Wednesday. Check here for more information. In addition, panel discussions in the technical program focus on the academic job search (Tuesday, 8:00-9:30am) and industry job search (Tuesday, 11am-12:30pm).


You can print out sections of the program before you travel to Charlotte here. You will find PDF files for all four days of the meeting, plus other important information.


Each morning of the meeting, attendees will receive an electronic copy of ENews Daily with feature articles, preview of the day’s key events, photos, reminders and more! Updates to the technical program will also be available each day through eNews.


Blogs, tweets and LinkedIn – INFORMS is using all the online tools to keep you connected before, during and after the meeting. Check the meeting website for commentary from our bloggers, let us know what you are seeing and doing at the meeting by tweeting about it, and join the Annual Meeting LinkedIn group. Attendees are also encouraged to take photos and video - in fact, the best Annual Meeting video will win an Apple iPad2!


Your Charlotte registration badge must be worn to all meeting events. All attendees, including speakers and session chairs, must register and pay the registration fee. Lost badges can be replaced at the Registration Desk ($5 fee).


If you have been an ORSA-TIMS-INFORMS members for 25 or more years, stop by the INFORMS booth in the Exhibit Hall to pick up a ribbon designating your 25+-year membership. We salute our long-time members!


You can stop by the visitor information booth at the Convention Center, near the College Street entrance, for brochures and advice on what to see and do in Charlotte.


Charlotte in November can be warm during the day and cool in the evening. Get the latest forecast here. Be sure to bring a sweater or light jacket, since meeting rooms are often cool.
We look forward to seeing you in Charlotte!

1-800-446-3676 or 1-443-757-3500.
print pdfs of the program.

Aug 31 11
Share on Twitter

Today’s world has fast-growing needs for natural resources, products and services – ranging from water and energy to nanotechnology and healthcare. Across the globe, industries are transfORming to create sustainable and innovative approaches to meet these needs. Our community is at the heart of this transfORmation, generating new ideas and technologies to enable this change. Academics, practitioners, policy makers and invited speakers will present the state-of-the-art in best practices, new developments and challenges.

What better place to showcase our critical role in this process than Charlotte, a city that has gone from cotton fields to a major financial and Fortune 500 hub. Charlotte is the city that’s transfORmed with the times and is gaining momentum in the Southeast as the destination to live, work and play.

The INFORMS meeting will be held at the Charlotte Convention Center, conveniently located between the two largest conference hotels, the Westin and the Hilton. Tours to regional high-tech firms and museum and outdoor tours are planned. Attendees can look forward to an exciting conference, exhilarating attractions, unbeatable dining and nightlife, and Southern hospitality. On behalf of the organizing committee, I invite the worldwide OR/MS community to join us in Charlotte.

Important Dates:

  • September 9: Authors’ deadline for final abstract changes
  • October 7: Early registration deadline
  • October 10: Hotel reservation cut-off date



Thanks to Our Sponsors

GAMS      IBM      AIMMS       AIMMS      McGraw Hill       NC State       UT Dallas

Note: Browsers like this one (Internet Explorer 6) are very, very out of date. So, you get this stripped-down, boring version of the website. To get around this, upgrade, or download Safari, Firefox or Google Chrome. Thanks!