Monday, October 31, 2005

Gary Lorden at INFORMS

Most of the time, I can recognize the plenary speakers at INFORMS conferences, at least by name. The INFORMS San Francisco (nee New Orleans) conference has a guy named Gary Lorden speaking. Gary Lorden? Who the heck is he?

It turns out Gary is the mathematical advisor for the TV show Numb3rs, a crime show whose solution is generally based on mathematics of some sort. I found a review of one of his previous lectures: it sounds like it will be a blast! All the more reason to stay through Wednesday in San Fran.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

OR in Africa

There have been a couple of things I have seen recently highlighting OR in Africa. The first was a presentation by Luk Van Wassenhove on humanitarian logistics (here is an article Luk, David Kaatrud and Ramina Samii wrote about the UN Logistics Centre). While not limited to Africa, that region is certainly a key area. Humanitarian logistics offers a tremendous mix of organizational and technical challenges, not the least of which is coping with the sheer number of governments, NGOs, and other organizations, all with different objectives and requirements.

An article in the October OR/MS Today by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Emily Eelman, Minoli Ratnatunga and David Schaarsmith talked about a conference in Africa, the Operations Research Practice in Africa conference. Held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, this conference looked at opportunities for real-world problem solving using OR to address Africa's issues. The summary brings up some interesting ethical issues (should OR be used to help repressive regimes?) and some area-specific OR issues (particularly the non-routine, non-replicable nature of crisis handling).

IFORS is holding its 2008 international conference in Africa: Sandton, South Africa to be specific. I'm traveling there in February to check out sites and speak with the local organizers. It turns out to be easier to get there than I thought, with direct (one stop for fueling) flights from JFK, Dulles, and Atlanta. I am also going to spend a few days in Capetown.

The issues brought up in these papers do make me wonder if working at scheduling professional sports leagues (my own current research) is the most valuable thing I can do with my life!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Robust Optimization

Dimitris Bertsimas gave a talk here today on robust optimization. One question he asked was (paraphrasing) "What do you do when reality refuses to match up to the model?", which I think is a great question. So much of what we do seems to be fragile (think cascading effects of a snowstorm in Chicago stranding travelers in Miami) when we know that are models are based on data that is only an approximation to reality. Robust optimization (roughly, optimizing with an assumption that no more than a certain number of data points are wrong, and each is wrong by no more than a fixed amount) is one way to attack this. Stochastic optimization is another. I am not sure we have found the right method yet (though Dmitris' work is extremely impressive!).

Applications of Operations Research

Roger Grinde of the University of New Hampshire put together an excellent blog on Applications of Operations Research. No updates since May. I hope it is a temporary haitus, since it is a great resource.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Silly Operations Researchers

There is a thread on alt.folklore.urban that begins with the classic OR story of looking for places to increase shielding on planes in WWII: analysis of where holes were on planes was somewhat skewed by being limited to those that returned. This then goes on to other analyses: first a researcher concludes, based on prison interviews, that people of low intelligence commit crimes. This is updated to conclude criminals of low intelligence go to prison. Further updates suggest people (not necessarily criminals) of low intelligence go to prison. Interesting thread!

Recognition for Constraint Programming

From the AAAS:

Professor Eugene C. Freuder, the Director of the Cork Constraint Computation Centre in the Computer Science Department of University College Cork has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is one of only 14 new Fellows elected this year in the Information, Computing, and Communication section of AAAS, out of a total of 376 new Fellows. AAAS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world. Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The 2005 AAAS Fellows were announced in the 28 October issue of the AAAS journal Science. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.

CORS/Optimization Days 2006

CORS 2006 in Montreal has a very impressive group of invited speakers:

- Teodor Gabriel Crainic, École des sciences de la gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal
Planning Models for Transportation in the Electronic Age
- Egon Balas, Carnegie Mellon (IFORS Distinguished Lecturer)

- Jack Edmonds (no web page, but here is a description of some of his work)
Existentially Polytime Theorems

- Ralph E. Gomory, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Thoughts about Integer Programming

- Adam N. Letchford, Lancaster University
Semidefinite Programming and Combinatorial Optimization

Definitely some impressive people there!

October Job Listings

OR/MS Today's October issue is one of the big ones for job postings, and it looks like the market is pretty good these days. Lots of jobs both in business schools and in IE Departments. Good schools too: Georgia Tech, Michigan, Duke, Texas A&M, Stanford, SMU, Washington University and the University of Washington (you would think they would be closer geographically), Cornell, UT Austin, MIT, Berkeley, Virginial Tech, and many, many more. It does look like the business schools want "operations management" rather than pure "operations research". Still, there are some "management science" jobs in business schools open. I'd be interested in hearing from those on the market how supply and demand seem to match up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

INFORMS San Francisco

Due to the hurricane, the INFORMS Meeting in November has been switched from New Orleans to San Francisco. It amazes me that a three thousand person meeting can be switched with such apparent ease. I am chairing the 2006 meeting in Pittsburgh: we have been working and planning on things for 2 years now. The thought of having to change everything three months before the conference is very scary. There is a great article in the October, 2005 issue of OR/MS Today on the planning for the switch (it wasn't as easy as it looks). We almost ended up in Kansas City (which would have been OK, but I prefer SF).

Welcome to the ORB

Welcome to Michael Tricks Operations Research Blog (ORB). At the moment, this is a non-advertised blog to see if this is something I want to continue with. With this blog, I plan to chat about happenings in the world of Operations Research.

A few words about me: I am a past President of INFORMS (The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) and am currently a Vice President of IFORS (the International Federation of Operational Research Societies). A long time ago, I created Michael Trick's Operations Research Page, which eventually became the INFORMS Resources Page. I was also the founding editor of INFORMS Online.

For the past eight years, I was President of the Carnegie Bosch Institute for Applied Studies in International Management, but my time is up, so I am looking for other things to do. Starting January, I will be an Area Editor for the journal Operations Research, responsible for the "OR Forum": articles on controversial and/or important issues in operations research. This blog is part of some thoughts I had for how to make that Area be relevant and interesting.

So, let's get this show on the road, and see what happens.