Sunday, February 19, 2006

Passing of Joan Wingo

The field of operations research is full of unsung heros: people who make the field better by doing their jobs with enthusiasm, creativity, and skill. If you have published in Operations Research over the last six years, or if you have read and admired papers in that journal, you will have seen the work of Joan Wingo, Managing Editor of Operations Research. Joan worked with Editor-in-Chief Larry Wein to make Operations Research run, and run well. I worked with Joan over the last few months on transition issues with the new editorial board.

Joan, sadly and untimely, passed away February 13. Her obituary notice contains some thoughts of her friends, coworkers and loved ones. We, as a field, owe her a great deal.

New Editors at Operations Research

The INFORMS journal Operations Research has a new editorial board, led by Editor-in-Chief David Simchi-Levi. David asked me to take on the area of OR Forum. I was hesitant to take on an editorial duty (handling papers has turned out to be an Achilles heel of mine), but the opportunity to handle papers that inspire discussion and controversy was too much to turn down. Here is the area statement:

The OR Forum area invites work that challenges the reader to consider and evaluate the status of past, present, or future prospects and challenges within the field of operations research. Possible submissions include critical reviews of research in a specialized field, closely reasoned commentary on the practice within an area, analysis of prospects for operations research broadly, or any other area where a substantive, significant work will clarify and illuminate research and practice. Published work will often be accompanied by supplemental pieces that enhance or dispute the theses developed.

An online forum will provide opportunity to continue the discussion after publication. Papers that address prospects in areas not traditionally covered by Operations Research are strongly encouraged, as are provocative papers that take a strong stand on policy and practice issues. The arguments made in the paper should not be casual or speculative, but should be based on a firm foundation consistent with publication in a professional journal. Survey papers are appropriate providing such papers go beyond a listing of who wrote what to include a critical appraisal of the research and the prospects for the future. The work should be accessible and of interest to a significant portion of the
readership of Operations Research. Authors are encouraged to contact he Area Editor early in the process of developing their work to determine suitability for consideration in this area.

Any thoughts for suitable articles?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

PhD salaries

Forbes magazine has an article about the lack of mathematically trained US workers. Most of the article is about outsourcing, but the issu of starting salaries came up:

A person fresh from graduate school with a Ph.D. in operations research can make $90,000 at SAS Institute--far less than the $150,000-plus salaries top MBAs can command. "Yes, fine, we need to pay more," Steve Odland, CEO of Office Depot admitted.

Well, kinda... First, a fresh MBA rarely makes $150,000: the average Tepper MBA graduate is closer to $90,000. Second, the lifestyle of those who make the high amounts in terms of stress, travel, and so on is pretty rotten, at least by my standards. Finally, there are lots of fresh Ph.D.s in OR making more than $90,000, often teaching those same MBAs!

Not to say that Ph.D.s should make lots of money (I am one of them myself!), but that doesn't seem the most dire aspect: it is really the lack of supply of interesting jobs that allow the true use of an OR Ph.D.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Doing research already done?

The New York Times has a nice article about how research is often rediscovered. The lead begins about operations research:

In 1996, Rakesh Vohra, a professor at Northwestern University, and his colleague Dean Foster published "A Randomized Rule for Selecting Forecasts," a paper in the journal Operations Research. It illustrated how a random investor could outperform a group of professional stock pickers simply by following a "buy and hold" investment strategy.
Skip to next paragraph
Alain Pilon

It was important research, the authors believed, until they learned that the same discovery had been made at least 16 times since the 1950's. And no one, Dr. Vohra said, ever realized they were not doing original work.

As a referee, there are certain things in sports scheduling that I get quite often (generally some variation of de Werra's work on minimum break scheduling) and I recently went a long way on a paper before de Werra pointed out to me that the results were included in a somewhat more obscure publication of his. I wonder if online search will make it easier to find these duplicate results before it makes the literature?