INFORMS in the News

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

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

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

Outing people who order pizza online

What happens when you order a pizza without having to deal with a real live human being? Well, apparently, you order all the toppings.

People consume more calories and spend more money when they order food online and don't have to face the embarrassment of revealing their true pizza desires to a sentient being, according to a forthcoming paper in the journal Management Science.

The study -- from researchers at the business schools of the University of Toronto, Duke University and the National University of Singapore -- confirms something we all kind of knew: We let our guard down online, uninhibited by the social constraints of in-person interaction.

Huffington Post, Aug. 4, 2015

Ordering Pizza Online...

If you’re face-to-face with a waitress at your local corner bistro, you might be a little hesitant to order two loaves of garlic bread, fettuccine Alfredo, and a chocolate lava cake just for your own fattening gratification. But just as how in space no one can hear you scream, on the internet, no one can see your true gluttony. And even better, typing in your credit card number just doesn’t create the same pangs of guilty frivolity than forking over wads of cash at a counter.

A study published in Management Science affirms this phenomenon—and reveals that when we order online, we take in more calories and throw around more cash when it comes to pizza, specifically.

Munchies, Aug. 6, 2015

Harnessing Big Data in Montreal

Harnessing Big Data in Montreal

Imagine harnessing all the digital data out there — the zillions of Google searches and smart phone interactions — and then using the real-time information that has become so readily available to optimize services, solve problems and benefit society.

It wouldn’t just be cool — it would be revolutionary.

Well, it’s starting to happen, and a renowned data scientist who is coming to École Polytechnique de Montréal this fall is one of those spearheading the revolution.

[INFORMS member] Andrea Lodi, holder of the new Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in data science for real-time decision-making, hopes to use the $22 million he has been given to set up shop at Polytechnique to help make sense of the explosion of online data and convert it into knowledge that will help organizations and governments make opportune decisions.

Montreal Gazette, July 7, 2015

81% of Enterprises Rely on Analytics for Insights

According to a recent KPMG survey of C-level executives,  92% are using data and analytics to gain greater insights into marketing.72% report their enterprises are regular to heavy users of social media data to improve customer relationships. 81% of enterprises are relying analytics to improve their understanding of customers.

Forbes, July 26, 2015

Is paying for extended warrantees worth it?

Extended warranties, which can also go by the label of “service contracts,” are designed to provide maintenance or repair of products beyond what’s addressed with warranties that are part of the purchase price. Merchants of all sorts have been dangling extended warranties for years, covering everything from a $100 cell phone to a $100,000 automobile.

While the length of extended warranties will differ significantly — Marks said the average term is between three and four years — one thing that’s consistent across the board is their profitability. A recent report by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences found some extended warranties have profit margins in excess of 200 percent.

Deseret News, July 30, 2015

ManSci study: It's OK for male execs to ask directions and business advice

[University of Pittsburgh Prof. Dave] Lebel says research has found that it can be easier to ask for help when you turn it into advice seeking. In a study published in the June 2015 issue of Management Science, researchers from Harvard Business School and Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that advice-seeking differs from other help-seeking behaviors because you’re eliciting information for a course of action, retaining the decision-making process, and implying that the values of the advice seeker is similar to the adviser.

"Asking for a recommendation can feel flattering to the other person," says Lebel.

Fast Company, June 26, 2015

Cardinals vs. Astros: An Analytics Morality Tale

Cardinals vs. Astros: An Analytics Morality Tale

As Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold aptly reported in coverage of FBI allegations about the St. Louis Cardinals hacking scouting reports of the Houston Astros, this baseball drama contains a story about the increasingly competitive world of sports analytics. It is also a wake-up call for analytics professionals and other business leaders, not just in professional sports but across numerous industries, who have a vested interest in ensuring that this growing technical field adheres to stringent ethical guidelines and professional standards.

Scott Nestler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 30, 2015

How Much is Your Olympic Reputation Worth?

The ancient Roman philosopher Publius once opined, “A good reputation is more valuable than money.”

Well, new research appearing in this month’s issue of Management Science suggests these words may be as true today as they were two thousand years ago.

Researchers David Waguespack and Robert Salomon examined whether “reputationally-privileged” athletes (that is, athletes who had been successful in previous competitions, or those from countries with a track record of athletic excellence) were more likely to succeed at the Olympic Games than lesser-known athletes.

Psychology Today, July 9, 2015

Your Guide to Analytics Patents

Analytics may be a young profession but it is taking off, and its growth is evident in the rapid increase in analytics patents that have been granted by the U.S. Patent Office. As an analytics professional, you may find that patents play an important part in your life -- the 40-plus patents that we co-invented at IBM were front and center for us.

Knowing the patenting process can be important for you and your company’s success, protecting your most valuable work. And if you want to learn about advanced analytics, the patent literature is an important source of information.

In a study we wrote with Troy White of Clarkson University that has just been published in the INFORMS journal Interfaces, we examined keywords relevant to descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics found in U.S. patents that were issued between 2002 and 2013.

John Milne and Brian Denton,, June 24, 2015

Brands, Patents Protect Companies from Bankruptcy

If a firm faces troubled times during a stable market, strong advertising can carry it through. But when the market is turbulent, a firm's Research and Development is more likely to help save it from bankruptcy. A new study published in the Articles in Advance section of Marketing Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), shows that "intangible assets" built with advertising (such as brands) and R&D (such as patents) can help protect firms from bankruptcy, but the effectiveness of each depends on the market climate.

The study, The Impacts of Advertising Assets and R&D Assets on Reducing Bankruptcy Risk by Niket Jindal of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and Leigh McAlister of the University of Texas's McCombs School of Business, is based on data from more than 1,000 firms covering three decades.

Product Design & Development, June 19, 2015

Nobel Winner Roth on Kidney Exchanges and His OR Background

Practically, I was trained as an engineer. My degrees are all in operations research, not in economics. I gravitated to economics because I'm interested in how people coordinate and collaborate with each other. Economics studies all the ways people get along with each other.

NPR, June 12, 2015

How job stress might be killing you - and what you can do about it

Job stress is also tied to hypertension, obesity and even depression. Any one of these factors makes life more difficult and can even increase your risk of death. A study published in March in the journal Management Science looked at the effect of 10 sources of stress in the workplace and found that all of them contribute to increased health care spending among workers, and many to an increased risk of death. These workplace stressors, which have been linked to cardiovascular disease and poor mental health, are responsible for more deaths annually than diabetes, Alzheimer’s or the flu, according to the researchers.

US News, June 15, 2015

Best and Worst Paying Cities in US for Operations Researchers

Operations Research Analyst

National median wage: $72,596

Best Cities

5. Baltimore, MD ($97,750)

4. Washington, DC ($106,960)

3. Virginia Beach, VA ($93,620)

2. San Diego, CA ($104,880)

1. San Jose, CA ($117,530)

Worst Cities

5. Tampa, FL ($52,830)

4. Jacksonville, FL ($53,210)

3. Miami, FL ($52,870)

2. Tallahassee, FL ($43,440)

1. Baton Rouge, LA ($40,800)

Review Journal, May 4, 2015


Barry List
Director of Communications
443-757-3560 office
443-794-5182 cell
Twitter: @BarryList

Ford Wins INFORMS Prize


INFORMS Today Podcast button