San Francisco 2014
blog home Home
Nov 4 14

Where are we heading?

by Marco Lubbecke

In a recent blog post, I asked the question where our field is heading. Our field, that is operations research, and I was asking for the next big research questions. My conclusion was that we should all work hard to establish operations research as the science behind “very popular notions” like big data, internet of things, industry 4.0, etc., before these are captured by non-scientists. It may sound like a purely academic endeavour but I believe that practice will hugely benefit from this in the end.

So, where are we heading? That much is sure: to San Francisco next week. I will post updates here, in my blog, and on twitter using #informs2014. Looking forward to meeting many of you there!


Nov 3 14

“good enough”

by Patrick Leach

My favorite phrase in the previous post is “…good enough in the context of our application.”  I continue to be amazed at the number of people who treat practical, real-life problems as though they were academic research problems – i.e., they want to find THE answer, rather than simply learning enough to make a confident decision.  Warren Buffet has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t care about what the exact results of an analysis are; in fact, if you have to know the exact result in order to be sure you’re making the right decision, you’re probably too close to a “decision boundary.”  Once Mr. Buffet is confident that he’s far enough away from such boundaries, he makes the decision and doesn’t look back.

Oct 25 14

Not Particularly Hard

by Shiva

While working on a new retail optimization problem a few weeks earlier, a colleague was a bit disappointed that it turned out to be NP-Hard. Does that make it unsolvable? No. The celebrated Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) is known to be a difficult problem, yet Operations Researchers continue to solve incredibly large TSP instances to proven near-global optimality, and we routinely manage small TSP instances every time we lace our shoes. Why did I bring up laces? In a moment …

Hundreds of problems that are known to be difficult are ‘solved’ routinely in industrial applications. In this practical context it matters relatively less what the theoretical worst-case result is, as long as the real-life instances that show up can be managed well enough, and invariably, the answer to this latter question is a resounding YES. The worst-case exponential ‘Simplex method’ continues to be a core algorithm in modern-day optimization software packages.

This issue of contextual optimization is not a new one. For some ancient people who first came across ‘irrational’ numbers, it was apparently a moment of uneasiness: how to ‘exactly’ measure quantities that were seemingly beyond rational thought. For some others, it was not much of an issue. Indeed, there is an entire body of Ganitha (the science of calculations, or mathematics) work in Sanskrit, the ‘Sulba Sutras‘, almost 3000 years old, where irrational numbers show up without much ado. ‘Sulba’ means rope or lace or cord. If we want to calculate the circumference of a circle of radius r, we can simply use (2πr) along with an approximation for ‘π’ that is optimally accurate, i.e., good enough in the context of our application. If we we did not have a good enough value for π, we could literally get around the problem: simply draw a circle of radius r, and line up a Sulba along its circumference to get our answer. For really large circles, we can use a scaled model instead of ordering many miles of Sulba. Not particularly hard. The discovery of a new NP-Hard problem can be a positive thing, depending on how we respond to it. This could well be an ORMS motto:

“When the going gets NP-Hard, Operations Researchers get going”.

And this November, many of the world’s Operations Researchers are going west, to San Francisco. Welcome to the INFORMS annual conference!

Oct 24 14

What you need to know before you go…

by admin

We are looking forward to your participation at the 2014 INFORMS Annual Meeting in a few days in San Francisco, California.  Thanks to you this will be the largest and best meeting yet!  With record attendance, it is important to build in time to register and navigate the facility and arrive at desired sessions early to get a good seat.  We do expect many sessions to be standing room only so plan accordingly. 

Local Transportation to Hotels from the Airport (SFO)

A fast and inexpensive way to get from the airport to the conference hotels is the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART. Trains arrive at the airport every 15 minutes and it is just a 30 minute ride to the downtown area. The closet BART station to the conference hotels is on Powell Street, a 5 minute walk away. Find more information about BART here:

Taxi fares are approximately $41 each way. The airport shuttle is $15 each way and reservations must be made in advance. Make reservations at the discounted rate here:

More information regarding the conference hotels and/ or travel:

Presenters: AV, Bring Your Laptop, Courtesy to Speakers

Computer projectors will be available in every technical session room. You must bring your own laptop (or plan to share with another presenter) and AC power adaptor. Technical assistance will be available for any AV problems. During technical sessions, please turn off cell phones and other mobile devices. Also note that the use of camera and recording devices is prohibited unless you have received prior permission from the speaker. Click here for additional speaker information.

Registration Hours and Location

Online registration is now CLOSED. If you have not yet registered, you will need to do so onsite in San Francisco.

Registration will be located in the Hilton Union Square, Yosemite BC, Ballroom Level. Hours: Saturday, 7:30am-5:30pm; Sunday, 7:00am-5:00pm; Monday, 7:00am-5:00pm; Tuesday, 7:00am-5:00pm; and Wednesday, 7:00am-4:30pm.

Print-Ready Program Now Available Online

If you chose not to receive a printed program in San Francisco or if you want to print out sections before you travel, the PDF can be found here:

You can also use the itinerary tool in the Program Search and plan your day. All registrants will receive a “Quick Reference” brochure which includes the master track schedule, maps and floor plans, and other key information.

Saturday Workshops & Events

  • INFORMS CIST-Conference on Information Systems and Technology
    Saturday-Sunday, November 8-9
    Go to the INFORMS registration counters in the Hilton, Yosemite BC, beginning at 7:30am on Saturday for your badge and registration materials. A separate registration fee is required for this event unless you have already pre-registered.
  • INFORMS Data Mining & Analytics Workshop
    Saturday, November 8
    Go to the INFORMS registration counters in the Hilton, Yosemite BC, beginning at 7:30am on Saturday for your badge and registration materials. A separate registration fee is required for this event unless you have already pre-registered.
  • Vendor Workshops: In-Depth Training in Software Solutions
    Saturday, November 8, 9:00am-5:00pm
    Free when you registered for the meeting. Choose from three time slots for each workshop that are 2 ½ hours long. Click here for more information, including the workshop schedule.

Interactive/ Poster Sessions: Competition Winners Announced Each Day

Be sure to stop by the interactive sessions on Monday and Tuesday, 12:30-2:30pm in the Hilton, Grand Ballroom. On display will be 40+ posters each day on diverse OR/MS topics. Authors will be on hand to describe their work during this time. Three prizes will be awarded each day to competition participants.

Plenary/ Keynote Presentations

An impressive list of plenary speakers includes Alvin E. Roth, Stanford University; Dimitris Bertsimas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Philip McCord Morse Lecture); and Jonathan P. Caulkins, Carnegie Mellon University (OMEGA RHO Distinguished Lecture). Keynotes will be presented by Richard Cottle, Stanford University; the 2014 Edelman Award Winner, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with Kid Risk Inc.; Mark Rothleder, California Independent System Operator Corporation;  the 2014 Daniel H. Wagner Prize Winner; Lyn Thomas, University of Southampton (IFORS Distinguished Lecture); the 2014 UPS George D. Smith Prize Winner; and Anthony Levandowski, Google.

Enhanced Mobile App

INFORMS is pleased to offer a free mobile app. Use the app to access the conference information on the go, including the schedule of talks, maps showing meeting locations, exhibit details and much more. As this is a native app, you do not need an internet data connection to use it during the conference.

The app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Simply search for “INFORMS Mobile” in your app store.

When you click on the program button in the app you can either browse through the parallel sessions and special events or search for a specific speaker or keyword. As you locate the events, sessions and presentations that you are interested in, click on the star button and those items will be bookmarked into the My List itinerary.

Membership Meeting- Saturday Evening

November 8, 5:00-6:00pm, Hilton, Imperial A, Ballroom Level

The INFORMS Board encourages all members to stop by the Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday. Get a snapshot of 2014 accomplishments and 2015 plans. Bring your ideas, opinions and suggestions.

Welcome Reception- Sunday

Sunday, 7:30-9:00pm, Hilton, Grand Ballroom

The Welcome Reception is the perfect venue to meet colleagues, visit the exhibits and enjoy light refreshments.

Awards Ceremony- Sunday: Honor Your Colleagues and the Profession

Sunday, November 9, 8:30-9:45pm, Hilton, Imperial Ballroom, Ballroom Level

Celebrate the achievements of your colleagues. Doors will close at 8:45pm. A dessert reception open only to guests who attend the ceremony will follow.

General Reception

Tuesday, November 11, 7:30-10:00pm, Hilton, Continental & Golden Gate rooms

San Francisco is just as famous for its cuisine as it is for its cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge. Join us as we serve up an eclectic menu showcasing the delectable fare the Bay area has to offer. This year’s general reception will also feature a jazz band for entertainment so dust off those dancing shoes! There will be a variety of food stations, along with complimentary soft drinks and a cash bar. This reception provides the perfect atmosphere for fellowship and networking while also having a bit of fun after a long day of sessions.

 INFORMS Community Meetings

All are welcome to these meetings featuring business meetings, receptions, and networking sessions. For a complete listing please click here.

Technology Center- Wireless Internet

Free wireless internet is available in the Technology Center in the Hilton, Grand Ballroom. A limited number of computers will also be available. Name badges must be worn for admittance. The Technology Center will be open Sunday, 12:00-5:00pm; Monday-Tuesday, 9:00am-5:00pm; and Wednesday, 9:00am-3:00pm.

2014 TutORials – Free Access to Meeting Registrants

Now on INFORMS PubsOnLine! All attendees receive free access to the INFORMS 2014 TutORials in Operations Research online content concurrently with the meeting. Attendees will have online access beginning on November 1, 2014 (members on January 1, 2015). Check the Annual Meeting web site for information on how to access using your INFORMS member account or your username and password printed on your conference registration receipt. For more information, visit the INFORMS booths in the Exhibit Hall.

Certified Analytics Professional Reception

Tuesday, 6:15-7:15pm, Hilton, Franciscan C, Ballroom Level

We welcome all those attendees who would like more information about the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP ®) program. Please join us.

Badge Required for Technical Sessions & Meeting Events

Badges MUST be worn to all meeting events. All attendees, including speakers and sessions chairs, must register and pay the registration fee. Lost badges can be replaced at the INFORMS registration desk for a $5.00 fee.

25 Year and 35 Year Member Ribbons

If you have been an ORSA-TIMS-INFORMS member for 25 or more years, stop by the INFORMS booths in the Exhibit Hall to pick up a ribbon designating your 25 or 35+ year membership. We salute our long-time members!

San Francisco Visitor Information

Every neighborhood in San Francisco has its own personality, from the hippie chic of the Upper Haight to the hipster grit of the Mission. The Marina district boasts trendy bistros and postcard-perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge, while Noe Valley offers quaint and quiet boutiques. Wave hello to the sea lions at Pier 39 and sample local cheese and charcuterie at the Ferry Building. Sit in on a yoga session in Dolores Park or marvel at the Dutch Windmill across from Ocean Beach. Click here for information. Assistance is also available at the Hilton and Parc 55 concierge desks.


San Francisco average temperatures rest in the low 70s in November. Skies are consistently sunny but prepare for bayside breezes by packing a few layers just in case. Bring a jacket for outdoors and sweater for indoors. Click here for weather updates.

INFORMS Annual Meeting Booth

Visit the booth and bookstore to talk with INFORMS staff about journals, magazines, membership benefits and services, awards, continuing education, communities, networking opportunities and our new Career Center. INFORMS staff is available to assist with purchasing books, subscriptions, INFORMS t-shirts and adding a subdivision or renewing memberships. Learn more about our upcoming meetings, Certification and Continuing Education. We look forward to seeing you!

Participate in Social Networking!

  • Guest Bloggers
    Be sure to check the Annual Meeting web site frequently for insightful posts from our team of guest bloggers.  Feel free to post your own comment. See the blogs from last year.
  • Tweeters
    All attendees are encouraged to tweet by adding hashtag #informs2014. Tweets will be displayed on front page of the annual meeting website and on video monitors. See what others are saying already! Follow @INFORMS2014 for official conference updates. Pick up your tweeter ribbon in the INFORMS booth.
  • Join the Annual Meeting LinkedIn Group
    Click here to join the Annual Meeting LinkedIn Group and connect with fellow attendees, discuss key topics of the day, and set up appointments.
  • Find Us on Facebook
    Like” INFORMS on Facebook, and let other INFORMS members know you are attending the 2014 INFORMS Annual Meeting by RSVP’ing.


Check out the INFORMS Annual Meeting Board on Pinterest for interesting places to visit, eat, and enjoy San Francisco. Follow the board for updates.

Don’t Miss the Career Center Job Fair

Be a part of the largest gathering of O.R. and Analytics job seekers and employers. The Job Fair is free to meeting registrants but please register in the INFORMS Career Center so employers know you are there. Employers must register in the INFORMS Career Center to participate. Direct questions to for more details. The job fair includes employer/job seeker meet and greet, on-site interviews and panel discussions.

INFORMS Continuing Ed before the Annual Meeting

Upgrade Your Skills, Apply Innovative Methods and Leverage New Tools

  • Foundations of Modern Predictive Analytics
    Learn data mining techniques and tools that will allow you to make the link between business needs and your technical skills. This course gives you hands-on practice in handling real data types, real business problems and practical methods for delivering business-useful results.
  • Data Exploration & Visualization
    Hands-on training that focuses on the critical steps in the process of analyzing data: accessing and extracting data, cleaning and preparing data, exploring and visualizing data. This course uses several of the most popular software tools intensively, and provides an overview of the range of available software options. 

November 7-8, 2014 at the Annual Meeting

REGISTER TODAY! Visit the CE website to review these and other upcoming courses:

Renew your Membership for 2015 at INFORMS Booth

Get ahead of the crowd and cross one thing off your list.  Stop by the INFORMS booth and renew your membership online for 2015.  vYour membership dues show your support for our vitally important field and guarantee uninterrupted access to member benefits. See great reasons to renew from Steve Robinson and L. Robin Keller.

Aug 12 14

Join us in San Francisco

by admin

cablecarINFORMS returns to the City by the Bay for its 2014 Annual Meeting with a rich and varied program, bridging data and decisions. Each year, the INFORMS meeting brings together experts from academia, industry, and government to consider a broad range of ORMS and analytics research and applications. In 2014, we’ll offer that program excellence in one of America’s most exciting cities. Join us for INFORMS 2014!