Saturday, February 16, 2013

Computational Social Science and Supply Chain Networks

I had a great time giving a seminar yesterday on Grand Challenges and Opportunities in Supply Chain Networks: From Analysis to Design in the Computational Social Science Initiative Seminar Series at UMass Amherst.  The presentation took place on the 9th floor of the Campus Center in the middle of the campus and the view was fabulous on a bright, sunny, and actually warm day in February.
Yahoo is giving financial support for the seminar series and it was nice that lunch was provided by UMass catering.

Several of my doctoral students from the Isenberg School of Management came and it was great to see sociologists, computer scientists, and engineers in the audience, as well.

I focused on the importance of capturing the behaviors of the decision-makers in the context of supply chains and also overviewed the Braess paradox (classic (1968) version) and showed photos of Professor Braess visiting the Isenberg School, after our translation of his paper from German to English, along with Tina Wakolbinger, appeared in Transportation Science.  I showed how we used evolutionary variational inequalities to demonstrate how the Braess paradox only occurred on the classic Braess network for a range of demands. This was work that I did while I was  a 2005-2006 Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. My co-authors on this paper were Professor David Parkes of Harvard and Professor Patrizia Daniele of the University of Catania. The paper appeared in Computational Management Science. 

In addition, I had to mention our work on the integration of social networks with supply chains and with financial networks, as well as the evolution of the product flows, relationship levels, and prices over time. This was also work done with Tina Wakolbinger.

Coincidentally, Tina Wakolbinger, who is now a Full Professor (I am so proud of my former students)  is flying into Boston today to take part in the Dynamics of Disasters symposium that I organized for the AAAS meeting that is taking place in Boston, February 14-18, 2013. Our symposium will be at the Hynes Center tomorrow afternoon and I can hardly wait -- the panelists and discussants are simply superb -- Professor David McLaughlin, Professor Laura McLay, and Professor Panos M. Pardalos, with Professors Tina Wakolbinger and Jose Holquin-Veras as discussants.

The questions from the audience at my seminar were really good (Thank you!) and ranged from questions on existence and uniqueness of solutions and multiple equilibria as well as stability analysis, ongoing and future research, as well as how the methodologies that we have been instrumental in co-developing (projected dynamical systems, for example) have migrated to different disciplines, including neuroscience. I had highlighted the wide range of supply chains that we had worked on from electric power ones with empirical results for New England to humanitarian and healthcare ones for critical needs products and pharmaceutical products, respectively, and blood supply chains.  I even spoke on network synergies and assessment in the context of mergers and acquisitions. M&As have been big news lately with the American Airlines and USAir merger (still needs approval by regulators), Berkshire Hathaway and Heinz -- breaking related news on this one, and others, including Dell.

I was also asked about our work on supply chains in nature, so I had the opportunity to speak on work that we have done with Professor Christian Mullon of France on the network economics of ecological systems with data from marine ecosystems. I mentioned his forthcoming book, which he graciously forwarded a recent draft of to me. The book, which should be available this July, is called Network Economics of Marine Ecosystems and their ExploitationHe acknowledges me in the book for "inspiration." To see network economics, variational inequalities, and projected dynamical systems being utilized in this novel application domain is simply thrilling.

I concluded my lecture by showing by latest book, Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Analytics for Perishable Products, hardcopies of which had arrived on Valentine's Day, to the audience.

Special thanks to Professors Ryan Acton and James Kitts for the great hosting!