For me, the highlight of Tuesday was the keynote by Susan Athey “Learning Personalized Policies”. Susan is an incredibly versatile economist who is probably best known for merging two very different streams of research: causal inference in economics and machine learning in computer science. If you want a simple intro to this topic, this Science article is a good start. To put it simply, causal inference tries to prove that “A causes B” using any means possible: ideally through a controlled experiment, but if not possible, then through other tricks (instrumental variables, matching etc.). Machine learning approaches often use the same exact data or application to answer a different question: “how can I best predict what happens”. For a long time, these two communities existed separately but they are increasingly overlapping and both approaches are needed for real-work decision making. If you are not familiar with Susan’s work, I highly recommend this source where you will find her teaching materials, videos of her tutorials and all relevant papers with code. This is really the future of data analysis.
Posts by Serguei Netessine:
After introducing Linda Green for her keynote speech today “The New Age of Healthcare Delivery”, I couldn’t help but reflect on a long way that healthcare research has come since 20 years ago. We now have Health Applications Society within INFORMS. We have Healthcare Department in Management Science. We have numerous Healthcare tracks at INFORMS and even more numerous talks. This is a vibrant community which uses a variety of tools and methodologies and addresses all parts of healthcare.
This is a fantastic and fast transformation, which is clearly justified. 18% of US GDP is in Healthcare, quality of care is inadequate, and there are huge gaps in access to services. As Linda noted, Healthcare is changing now: we are moving from fee for service to fee for value, which leads to major changes in how Healthcare is delivered and measured. Enabling this transformation is increasing use of IT and data in healthcare, which opens unique opportunities for applications of operations research and management science. If you are a junior researcher, thinking about your next topic, Healthcare seems like a no-brainer to me.
I started working on the topic of blockchain technology a couple of years ago. At that time there were hardly any talks on blockchain, maybe 2-3 at the entire conference and even these were mostly informational. The tide is finally rising. A quick search yields 51 presentations with the word “blockchain” in it. A session on Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies looks interesting (disclosure: my paper on Initial Coin Offerings is there) and so does a session on FinTech & Blockchain. One particular blockchain-related topic particularly flourished: achieving tracebility and combating counterfeits through blockchain. There is a number of presentations in this stream, some listed below (disclosure: first one on the list is my paper). My prediction is that we are nowhere near saturation on this topic and the number of presentations will keep growing for a few years still…
There are whopping 86 tracks at INFORMS this year which can easily disorient an attendee. As I decide which talks to attend at INFORMS, I increasingly gravitate to talks which fit into the framework of “responsible” research. This all started for me a few years back when 28 academics from across the fields and schools (myself included) started something called Responsible Research in Business and Management. If you have a chance, please take a look at the position paper and consider supporting it through web site. In brief, responsible research should score highly on the 7 principles below. If you buy into this notion, please consider attending a session that I chair on Responsible Research in Operations Management as well as a keynote by Kamalini Ramdas. Also think about submitting a paper to the Special Issue of M&SOM on Responsible Research. There are many sessions at INFORMS that address important issues fitting Responsible Research framework: food waste, poverty, inequality etc., looking forward to learning from other researchers.
Principle 1—Service to Society: Development of knowledge that benefits business and the broader society, locally and globally, for the ultimate purpose of creating a better world.
Principle 2—Stakeholder Involvement: Research that engages different stakeholders in the research process, without compromising the independence of inquiry.
Principle 3—Impact on Stakeholders: Research that has an impact on diverse stakeholders, especially research that contributes to better business and a better world.
Principle 4—Valuing Both Basic and Applied Contributions: Contributions in both the theoretical domain to create fundamental knowledge and in applied domains to address pressing and current issues.
Principle 5—Valuing Plurality and Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Diversity in research themes, methods, forms of scholarship, types of inquiry, and interdisciplinary collaboration to reflect the plurality and complexity of business and societal problems.
Principle 6—Sound Methodology: Research that implements sound scientific methods and processes in both quantitative and qualitative or both theoretical and empirical domains.
Principle 7—Broad Dissemination: Diverse forms of knowledge dissemination that collectively advance basic knowledge and practice.
Our academic job market is terrible: it always surprises me how operations people can be so inefficient when it comes to looking for academic jobs. Some schools interview at INFORMS conference, others don’t. Some schools decide to fly out candidates in October, other in March. Some schools use Interfolio, other ask for recommendation letters using pigeon couriers. The end result – some candidates are left without jobs (or with jobs they don’t want) and some schools are left with no hires (or with some last-minute hires they are not happy about). This cannot be efficient. Add on top of that very limited transparency with respect to compensation packages, tenure requirements and research support, and the picture is complete.
A little while back Konstantinos Stouras and I made a modest attempt at bringing transparency into academic job market. To help us paint a fuller picture, please visit Operations Academia and post a job (or find a job!) or post your profile, and certainly please fill out job market survey!
INFORMS conference is huge, and lots of sessions are competing for your time. However, if you are a doctoral student or a junior faculty member (or even a senior faculty member looking to upgrade tool set) I highly recommend attending one or more of the TutORials sessions, the schedule can be found here. TutORials are delivered by true experts on the topic and they allow you to digest an important new development in our field relatively quickly. TutORials are also published as book chapters, and they are already available online here. If you are teaching a PhD class, these chapters are a gold mine! The theme of TutORials this year is “Operations Research and Management Science in the Age of Analytics”. Don’t miss exciting sessions on deep learning, machine learning, structural econometrics and more… (full disclosure – I am TutORials chair this year).