INFORMS Annual Conference  

INFORMS Annual Meeting 2012, Phoenix, AZ, October 14-17

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Operations and the Presidential Debate: What Opportunities Exist?

by John Angelis on October 16th, 2012

INFORMS occasionally occurs at the same time as a big news event. For example, you may recall seeing researchers glued to the TV as their favorite football team played. This year, INFORMS takes place at the same time as the second American presidential debate, happening tonight.

Fitting operations to news events can be tricky, but can lead to an increased appreciation for the relevance of operations from non-operations people. (I should add that it also challenges the operations researcher to be as objective as possible about occasionally highly controversial topics). I would be interested in reading how you have been able to apply operations to news events in near-real time.

With full appreciation for the potential foolishness of this exercise, here are some possible applications of operations to tonight’s debate. For example, one could use game theory to explore the optimal personality strategy for a candidate in a debate. Given the different payoffs available for being poised versus being passionate, and the possible choices of the rival candidate, what is the candidate’s optimal strategy? And how does that strategy change given pre-debate signalling by both candidates as to which strategy they will select?

Or, consider that a candidate once rescued a basket of kittens from a burning pet shelter and wants to remind voters of this heroic fact. What is the optimal time for the candidate to mention this fact to impress the maximum number of undecided voters? Too early, and it may be forgotten: too late, and fewer voters may be watching.

Please do avoid the temptation to be partisan in the comments, but I am interested in reading how your favorite operations methodology may apply to tonight’s debate. I’d also like to read your favorite application of operations to a news event.

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