Friday, May 14, 2010

Impressions of Network Science at NetSci2010

The NetSci2010 conference, at the Media Lab at MIT, which took place May 12-14, 2010, was a very enjoyable experience for several reasons. I had the opportunity to take one of my doctoral students, Min Yu, to her first professional conference in the US. The paper that I presented, "Supply Chain Network Design for Critical Needs with Outsourcing," was based on our joint work with Dr. Patrick Qiang, and it had been, just this past week, accepted for publication in Papers in Regional Science. It was refreshing to see her excitement and enjoyment of the talks and her enjoyment in meeting various speakers. What really pleased me a lot was that we had, over the past several years, hosted several of the organizers and invited speakers in our Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Sciences at UMass Amherst. It was terrific to see, once again, Professor Barabasi, Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Professor Asu Ozdaglar, and, albeit, just briefly, Professor David Lazer.

The talks were wide-ranging (from mobile phones, to the diffusion of ideas via Facebook, to supply markets and financial markets and volatility, to honest signals, organizations, and productivity, among others) and there was an appreciation for discussions. Also, there were poster sessions. We even met a few members of the operations research community.

Quite a few of the talks were on data-driven topics, whereas our talk focused on optimization and network design, and redesign with an emphasis on critical needs products, such as vaccines, medicines, and food and water supplies for humanitarian operations in the case of disasters.

We were delighted to come across Professor Rae Zimmerman of NYU, who works on network vulnerability, climate science, and cybersecurity at the conference and got a chance to reflect with her even on regional science. We also spoke with Professor Satish Ukkusuri of Purdue University. Given the contributions to networks from the operations research community going back to the 1940s, it is important that that scientific literature, whose applications have impacted transportation, telecommunications, finance, and even supply chains, both in theory and practice, be represented, in the newer "network science" literature.