Friday, January 29, 2021

Optimism and Operations Research

Today I received info on a very interesting article sent via The Harvard Gazette e-list that spoke about optimism. I was a 2005-2006 Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, so I receive such mailings and enjoy such articles very much.

But, of course, you may be wondering how relevant is optimism in the pandemic? I suggest that you read the above article and I will share some highlights from my great professional discipline of Operations Research (OR) that makes me quite optimistic!

First, I must say that Operations Research, with its scientific, very powerful methodologies, and wide range of applications, coupled with the expertise of those in our profession, has never been more relevant than in the COVID-19 pandemic. The positive impact has been global, with many of our academic researchers and practitioners speaking to the media, writing OpEds, and, of course, journal articles, and also fostering education about numerous relevant issues from healthcare to vaccine supply chains. INFORMS, a professional society of over 11,000 members, for example, has compiled a wealth of resources along these lines, very accessible to the public as well as to policy and decision-makers.

Others have been advising governments and I have a special shout out to my great Operations Research colleagues in the UK on this!

Of course, the pandemic has caused incredible pain and suffering throughout the globe, but support and advocacy by professional societies such as INFORMS is helping in getting important news out. My "last" face to face conference before the declaration by the WHO of the pandemic on March 11, 2020, was the inaugural INFORMS Security Conference in Monterey, California in mid February 2020. Often I return to the wonderful memories and many of those are because of the  pleasant exchanges of colleagues at that conference, which I had blogged about. And, speaking of conferences, I was very touched by the essay, "Thanks for the Memories," by Peter Horner, who has served for 30 years as the Editor of ORMS Today! There is a photo therein of Peter with Harrison Schramm, who, coincidentally, was an organizer of the conference in Monterey (and appears with me in a photo in my blogpost, along with Professor Stefan Pickl of Germany). Luckily, Peter will continue as Editor of the Analytics online magazine of INFORMS.

Now, more on optimism. I would like to single out and applaud the efforts of AIRO Young, which is  a group of young researchers, part of the Italian Operational Research Society. Their energy, enthusiasm, and initiatives are all cause for optimism!

For example, in the relatively new journal, SN Operations Research Forum, published by Springer, there is the article, Women Just Wanna Have OR: Young Researchers Interview Expert Researchers, co-authored by Amorosi, Cavagnini, Del Sasso, Fischetti, Morandi, and Raffaele (all members of AIRO Young),  which is quite inspiring. Although so much remains to be done, much has been accomplished and I was so honored to be interviewed for this article, along with amazing colleagues: Professors Carvalho, Romero Morales, Ljubic, Labbe, and Speranza, speaking from many different countries about their experiences and offering many pearls of wisdom.

Also, Alice Raffaele,  in her very eloquent, literary article: Becoming Visible: Why We Should be Better Communicators Now has excellent suggestions for our professional community, further generating optimism. 

Thanks to SN Operations Research Forum for making the above (and other) articles available for everyone to read online!

I would also like to thank the amazing students who are behind the publication ORMS Tomorrow, supported by INFORMS. Two of my former PhD students, now Professors, Dr. Pritha Duttaof Pace University in NYC and Dr. Shivani Shukla of the University of San Francisco, worked on this publication when they were students at the Isenberg School.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Beginning My 13th Year of Blogging

Hard to believe that not only is the horrific 2020 year behind us, but that this month marks the beginning of my 13th year of blogging! Interestingly, I went back to my very first blogpost, which was on the new US administration in 2009 and the election of President Barack Obama. In the post, I also noted a Letter to the Editor that I had had published in The New York Times, which spoke about how much I enjoyed teaching my Transportation and Logistics class. And I taught this class, albeit remotely, this past Fall because of the pandemic. Now, once again, we have a new incoming administration, to be led by President-elect Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, on the horizon!

2020 has been a remarkable year in human history and there is now hope because of the Covid-19 vaccines. It was a year in which so many in our profession pivoted to inform the public through their writings, virtual speaking engagements, and many interviews with the media. I learnt so much from speaking to many journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe, as well as numerous other publications, including industry-based ones. It was a pleasure to be on NBC News in Boston and in Dallas and to also be on many radio programs, including NPR and Marketplace (and, remarkably, quite a few of the holiday cards that we received noted that I had been heard by friends and relatives from near and far)! I so much enjoyed the intellectual exchanges with journalists that I wrote a tribute to them in a recent blogpost. One journalist thanked me for my blog and reached out to me because of my writings. In addition, during this pandemic I managed to write three articles in The Conversation on the impacts of the pandemic on blood supply chains; game theory and competition for medical supplies (and now relevant to vaccines), plus the vaccine cold chain. These articles generated a great deal of interest and I was honored to be written up by the Isenberg School of Management and the University of Massachusetts Amherst in its 2020 Report on Research with the photo below on the back cover of this report.

With all the disruptions and pain and suffering caused by the pandemic, I am thankful that we managed to continue our research at the Supernetwork Center, with several articles of relevance to supply chains in the pandemic written. Also, our newest Dynamics of Disasters volume, will be published soon by Springer.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank professional societies, including INFORMS, for the support during the pandemic and for nurturing professional exchanges and community. I look forward to the time; hopefully, before too long, when we can again meet face to face at conferences and other venues. In the meantime, best wishes for this New 2021 Year!