Saturday, October 19, 2013

Walter Isard Memorial Volume, Disaster Relief, and Humanitarian Logistics

Who has influenced you in your research and has had an impact on your academic and professional success?

Through membership in professional societies we get to meet luminaries in our fields and, have you noticed that, many of the "giants" are actually also super nice people. In order to build a field or discipline you need followers and charisma and kindness as well as vision are just some of the attributes that make great leaders.

And two scholarly giants that I had the privilege of meeting and interacting with who, sadly, are now deceased, but lived to over the age of ninety, are Professor George Dantzig, the operations research megastar, and Professor Walter Isard, the founder of regional science.  Coincidentally, they were both, more or less, physically, my height. Of course, my doctoral dissertation advisor, Professor Stella Dafermos, the second female PhD in operations research in the world, who also introduced me to regional science through the literature and conferences, was the third immense influence on me. She passed away at age 49.

And, speaking of operations research and regional science, my most recent conference was the INFORMS Conference in Minneapolis (I posted many photos here) and my next one will be the 60th Annual North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International conference in Atlanta next month.  For the latter, I have organized a special session in honor of Professor David E. Boyce, another amazing scholar and gentleman,  to mark his 50th consecutive such conference -- incredible  and the conference program with my session can be viewed here.

I will also be presenting a paper in one of the special memorial sessions in honor of Professor Walter Isard. The paper is entitled, "An Integrated Disaster Relief Supply Chain Network Model with Time Targets and Demand Uncertainty,"  Anna Nagurney, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts; Amir H. Masoumi, Manhattan College; Min Yu, University of Portland, and it is also an invited paper for a special memorial volume in honor of Walter Isard.   Our motivation for this research stems from the fact that the number of natural disasters and their impacts are increasing across the globe, so there is a great  need for effective preparedness against such events. Also, we all remember Superstorm Sandy whose first anniversary we will sadly be marking later this month.

Manhattan without electric power October 30, 2012 as a result of the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy.

In our paper, we construct a supply chain network optimization model for a disaster relief organization in charge of obtaining, storing, transporting, and distributing relief goods to certain disaster-prone regions. The system-optimization approach minimizes the total operational costs on the links of the supply chain network subject to the uncertain demand for aid at the demand points being satisfied as closely as possible. A goal programming approach is utilized to enforce the timely delivery of relief items with respect to the pre-specified time targets at the demand points. Aspectrum  of numerical examples illustrates the modeling and computational framework, which integrates the two policies of pre-positioning relief supplies as well as their procurement once the disaster has occurred.

And, would you believe, the Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences and proponent of economic geography and renowned scholar and OpEd writer, Paul Krugman, wrote a piece in The New York Times, while many of us were at the INFORMS conference, that  I just had a chance to catch up with. The OpEd is entitled: Trends in Interregional and International Trade. Krugman  begins it with: Well, I’ve just paid my first personal price for the shutdown; I’m trying to finish a paper for the Walter Isard memorial volume, and discovered that the International Trade Commission’s invaluable Dataweb is shut down. I know, people are missing essential medical care and more, and I’m complaining about a slight academic inconvenience. But it’s a symptom. 

What a small world and how cool is this?! I assume that Krugman is contibuting to the same Isard memorial volume as I am.

Also, speaking of disaster relief and humanitarian logistics, my former doctoral student, Tina Wakolbinger, who is now a Full Professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria, and who took part with me in the AAAS Symposium on Dynamics of Disasters, along with Professors Panos M. Pardalos, Laura McLay, Jose Holguin-Veras, and David McLaughlin last February in Boston shared with me her recent great news: She is the recipient of a 180,000 euro grant from the Austrian Fund for the project: "Optimal Pricing Policies and Contracts of Outsourcing Humanitarian Logistics Activities."

I last saw Tina this past March when I taught a course at her university in Vienna on Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare.  I think that I made an impact since one of the students in my course is now interested in applying for a PhD in this area and I will be writing him a letter of recommendation.