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.