INFORMS in the News

Predicting NCAA Football Standings

[Incoming INFORMS Vice President Laura] Albert McLay, a professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, has been using her knowledge of math models and sports analytics to predict which teams are most likely to make the four-team tournament crowning college football’s national champion. She posts the weekly rankings on her blog, Badger Bracketology.

Now in her second year projecting the playoff, McLay says the statistical concepts she uses are some of the same ones she teaches her students in the classroom. She plans to start modeling the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this season.

Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 23, 2015

New light on top sports accomplishments: Liberatore et al:

Peyton Manning (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Peyton Manning could break Brett Favre’s NFL record for most career passing yards if he throws for at least 284 yards against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

But in the universe of sports’ greatest feats, is this record really that impressive?

A study published in October in the “Journal of Sports Analytics” suggests otherwise. The study, by Villanova professors Matthew Liberatore, Bret Myers and Robert Nydick and Temple professor Howard Weiss, attempts to quantify and rank the best MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL records of all time. It includes single-game, season, career and consecutive-streak records.

The best record of all belongs to Barry Bonds—but it’s not for hitting home runs.

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 6, 2015

Why a college football win is worth millions

In a forthcoming paper in the journal Management Science, Harvard professor Doug Chung puts a dollar figure on the value of each additional win for big-time college football programs. He finds that each additional win creates a bump of about $3 million, through increases in revenue streams like ticket and merchandise sales, television contracts, and booster donations.

Boston Globe, Nov. 5, 2015

What's the greatest record in sports history?

In 1987, Bruce Golden and Edward Wasil attempted to find the greatest record in sports by applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process to 22 records. At the time, AHP was emerging as a leading formula in addressing complex, multi-criteria problems. Through AHP, bias could be reduced, if not eliminated, and equations solved with elements of both mathematics and psychology. When Golden and Wasil’s calculations were complete, at the top of the legendary list sat Chamberlain’s 100-point game.

Since then, AHP has evolved and become more refined, while new sports records have been set.

Pacific Standard Magazine, Oct. 29, 2015

What's the value of a win in college sports?

As the debate continues over whether college student-athletes should be paid for their on-field performances, a new study from Harvard Business School reveals just how much intercollegiate football and basketball programs contribute to a school’s bottom line.

The quantitative link between game day and payday is courtesy of Assistant Professor Doug J. Chung, who reviewed 117 schools with Division I football and basketball teams, matching athletic performance with revenue flow covering an 11-year period. The findings were jaw-dropping—winning just one more football game in a season, for example, could bump revenues by as much as $3 million for a high-powered program like Alabama or Michigan.

Chung details the correlation between wins on the field and wins for a school’s piggy bank in his paper, How Much Is a Win Worth? An Application to Intercollegiate Athletics, forthcoming in Management Science.

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Oct. 26, 2015

Operations Researcher’s Farewell to US Airways

In mid-October, US Airways ceased to exist as an independent entity. Many passengers will doubtless say “good riddance,” for they voted the carrier a two-star rating from J. D. Power and ranked it below average on almost every dimension. But US Airways deserves a much fonder farewell than that.

I study aviation safety, and paid particular attention to the airline in the early 1990s, when it experienced a series of accidents culminating in a 1994 Boeing 737 crash near Pittsburgh that killed 132 people. Had US Airways suffered a temporary spasm of bad luck, or was the problem more systematic? We now know that bad luck was the main culprit. The 737 crash (which killed more passengers than the others in the series combined) was caused by a subtle defect in the rudder controls, which could have struck any airline that operated the plane. Moreover, US Airways experts were instrumental in uncovering the defect before it could cause further tragedies.

Since 1994, US Airways has achieved a safety record that was not only flawless but magnificent.

Arnold Barnett, Charlotte Observer, Oct. 31, 2015

OR Analysis on Reducing Prison Population

Our analysis of data from the Los Angeles County jail system, which is the world’s largest, suggests that split sentencing is much more effective than pretrial release at making the best of the trade-off between the size of the jail population and public safety.

Lawrence Wein, fmr EIC, Operations Reseach, in New York Times, Oct. 23, 2015

Tweeting and Customer Service: No Good Deed...

While responding to complaints on social media can help develop a rapport with customers, it can also trigger new complaints, according to a study from professors at the University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon University and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, in China.

The study, which was published in Marketing Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), explains the side effect of customers coming to expect help and giving them more of a reason to speak up in the future.

“People complain on Twitter not just to vent their frustration,” said one researcher, Liye Ma. “They do that also in the hope of getting the company’s attention. Once they know the company is paying attention, they are more ready to complain the next time around.”

Public Relations Strategist, Oct. 15, 2015

Possible cause of Russian jet crash

What does preliminary information say about the crash of the passenger jet flying over the Sinai Peninsula? Was there an explosive device? INFORMS Treasurer Sheldon Jacobson, an aviation security expert, discusses the possibilities in this streaming video interview.

Huffington Post, Nov. 2, 2015

Trust the Process

During the recent INFORMS Healthcare conference in Nashville (see sidebar), Mike Fabel, a senior health systems engineer with the Mayo Clinic, and Victoria Jordan, PhD, executive director of Strategic Management and Systems Engineering with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, sat down to discuss their role in the healthcare delivery system.

“I have a manufacturing background,” said Fabel. “We just have a different way of viewing things as far as looking for waste in the process. I think we bring a simplified, team-based effort to looking for waste.”

Fabel added that in his experience, physicians, nurses and other team members have the necessary skills to rethink the status quo but need the guidance, facilitation and tools the engineering department brings to the table to help them map out new solutions.

Nashville Medical News, Sept. 3, 2015

Best definition of analytics

has a definition that is commonly used and I think does a great job of answering the question: What is analytics? INFORMS defines analytics as the scientific process of transforming data into insights for the purpose of making better decisions. Analytics is always an action-driven approach. There is always a decision to be made when we look at doing analytics. Coming from a data science background and working with a lot of statisticians, data scientists love to analyze data just for the sake of analyzing it. However, it is important to ensure our analysis is driving business action. Ultimately, we want analytics to empower an organization's vision.

Great Places to Work, April 15, 2015

Good Habits Can Instill 'Habits of Virtue'

Rules that encourage cooperative behavior lead people to develop altruistic responses even in new contexts, a new Yale-led research found.

This spillover effect suggests it is possible for organizations or even entire cultures to foster “habits of virtue,” said David Rand, assistant professor of psychology and economics at Yale and senior author of the paper appearing in the journal Management Science.

Health Canal, Sept. 17, 2015

Spaghetti Western and Multichannel Marketing?

In the space of a few short years, eCommerce has ushered in a Wild West-like atmosphere when it comes to attracting new customers. Online retailers have employed everything from rewards programs to dynamic pricing to siphon consumers away from their digital competitors, but is this kind of blanket approach to customer retention really the best strategy?

A group of professors from Dartmouth College and Italy’s University of Bologna think otherwise, and their most recent study published in the Marketing Science journal underscores why: In an examination into triggers for customer action via multichannel marketing pipelines, the tried-and-true incentive method of offering endless discounts and other incentives might not be as effective as previously thought., Sept. 29, 2015

Incentives are not the way to drive multichannel shopping

A university study found that financial incentives, such as coupons, are not always required to drive customers to try something new, including multichannel shopping. In fact, they can be counterproductive.

The study explored how stores can drive sales through more than one channel, for example, driving online shoppers to brick & mortar and vice versa.

Retailwire, Sept. 28, 2015

OR Career Stressful? Nah....

Think there’s no such thing as a high-paying, low-stress job?

Think again.

Career information expert Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., compared average salaries and stress levels of the 767 occupations identified by the U.S. Department of Labor to identify jobs with that perfect combination of high pay and low stress, and it turns out there are plenty.

The “stress tolerance” for each job is a rating on a scale from zero to 100, where a lower rating signals less stress. It measures how frequently workers must accept criticism and deal effectively with high stress on the job. The data was gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Occupational Information Network.

Here are 24 jobs that pay more than $70,000 a year, on average, and earned a stress tolerance rating of 70 or lower, in order from lowest to highest stress score...

Operations Research Analysts

Stress tolerance: 63.0

Average annual salary (2014): $82,940

What they do: Use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions.

Education requirements: Many entry-level positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree, but some employers prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Stress tolerance is measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Occupational Information Network, with lower scores indicating less stress on the job.

Time Magazine, Oct. 21, 2015

Benefits of Counterfeit Competition

Even pirates have their redeeming qualities.

The counterfeiter might be a profit-sapping scourge to many designers, but recently published research from a trio of academics shows that fakes can also push brands to up their game — particularly in terms of aesthetics.

A study published in Market[ing] Science academic journal looked at 31 brands that sold fashion leather and sport shoes in China from 1993 to 2004. The Chinese market proved to be something of a petri dish to the researchers, since it saw a major influx of counterfeits after 1995, when the government pivoted away from the enforcement of footwear trademarks to respond to problems in other sectors, including gas explosions and food poisonings.

“Established companies don’t sit idly by while they are copied shamelessly,” said Yi Qian, a professor at University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, who cowrote the study. “They react by improving their products to set themselves apart from their illegal competitors.”

Women's Wear Daily, Aug. 20, 2015

How Statistics (and O.R) Guided One INFORMS Member Through Cancer - and The Price is Right

How Statistics (and O.R) Guided One INFORMS Member Through Cancer - and The Price is Right Drew Carey announced the Kia’s actual price: $16,232. Amid audience cheers, he turned to me and smiled. “Congratulations, Elisa! You just won a new car! You are so lucky!”

Indeed, as I had learned two months earlier, I am exceptionally talented at hitting low probabilities. This episode of “The Price Is Right” was a special aimed at raising breast cancer awareness, and I had just been diagnosed, at 33, with a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer known as triple-negative. Would I survive, and how? Numbers, as usual, contained the answer. While they governed countless choices surrounding surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, they had also just won me a new car.

Elisa Long, Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2015

Why Companies Should Respond When Twitter Rage Spikes

A new study finds that once a business responds to a specific grievance on Twitter, it could also open the floodgates to more criticism. But that doesn't mean brands should clam up when an issue arises. Twitter can be a helpful tool for companies hoping to regain the trust of unhappy patrons, and responding to customers on public forums is better than not responding at all. In fact, reaching out can greatly improve the way people think about a company.

"It’s still worthwhile to respond to complaints, because the net effect is still effective. [People] are more likely to complain because they expect the company will help [them] more,” study co-author Liye Ma, a professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, told The Huffington Post. 

The study, published in the journal Marketing Science, a branch of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, focused on customers’ perceptions of companies and how the relationship changes over time.

Huffington Post, Aug. 12, 2015

Belgian Train Attack Part of New Terrorist Trend

In an analysis of terror attacks from 1982 to 2011, Arnold Barnett, an [operations] researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found “strong and statistically significant evidence that successful acts of terror have ‘gone to ground’ in recent years: attacks against aviation were concentrated early in the three decades studied whereas those against rail were concentrated later.”

One reason is that terrorists may consider railways more effective targets. The brave actions of the three Americans who thwarted Friday’s attempted assault notwithstanding, “attacks on rail are far less likely to be stopped once in progress,” Dr. Barnett wrote.

Indeed, two weeks after the 2005 suicide bombings on the London underground, a very similar attack also involving three trains was attempted there. Although the plot failed because the explosives were faulty, no precautions after the earlier event succeeded in averting a near-recurrence.

Still, Barnett – as other experts have before him – also emphasized that the actual risk of being on either a plane or a train during a terrorist attack is minuscule.

Yahoo News, Aug. 23, 2015

The fierce debate about healthcare analytics and privacy

The fierce debate about healthcare analytics and privacy

Last week, I was a speaker at the Healthcare2015 INFORMS conference in Nashville. I happened to sit in on an interesting panel discussion where there was a lively debate about the use of psychographic data for healthcare analysis.

What took me by surprise was the sharp polarization in the panel around the issue of “creepiness.” One of the panelists, a senior analytics executive from a large hospital system, was vehement in his view that the use of information other than that explicitly covered by data privacy agreements with the patient, amounts to a breach of trust in the hospital-patient relationship, and hence “creepy.” On the other end of the spectrum, a former hospital executive, now an analytics entrepreneur, was of the view that any and all information available, should go into the analysis purely from the point of view of improving the quality of the analysis.

CIO, August 4, 2015


Barry List
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Twitter: @BarryList

Ford Wins INFORMS Prize


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