O.R. and Analytics in the News


Ashley Kilgore
PR Manager

O.R. moves up in 2016 U.S. News rankings

U.S. News, January 27, 2016

The operations research profession is now #2 in business jobs, up from #4 in 2015. O.R. has also risen to 18 from 20 in the list of 100 best jobs.

Imperative for ethical standards in Analytics: The CAP Model

Information Management, January 25, 2016

An established code of ethical behavior for analytics professionals already exists.

That code is part and parcel of the Certified Analytics Professional Program (CAP)a highly regarded professional certification for analytics practitioners managed by INFORMS – the largest international association of professionals in analytics and operations research.

Among other things, the code establishes certain standards for those who call themselves analytics professionals and guidelines for how they should behave and be judged by their peers and employers.

O.R. Makes List of Top 5 STEM Professions Employing Women

January 12, 2016

Have a look for yourself at the five jobs with the highest percentage of women working in the profession...

3. Operations Research Analysts


  • Percentage of women employed: 55.4%
  • Mean annual wage: $82,940

These analysts use mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations solve complex problems, from using statistics to help inform decisions to gathering input from employees. Most operations research analysts have master’s degrees in operations research, engineering, computer science, mathematics or physics. Some entry-level positions are open to those with bachelor’s degrees.

This field only has 55.4% female workers, but that is still a considerable amount when looking at women in STEM. The reason for this, says analyst Laurie M. Orlov in her article on cio.com, is that jobs in the business technology arena capitalize on women’s greatest strengths in the workplace: “communication, collaboration and problem solving.”

Detecting sick milk in China

UDaily, January 12, 2016

In 2008, thousands of children in China fell ill after drinking milk that had been adulterated with the chemical melamine. 

This scandal inspired Liying Mu, University of Delaware assistant professor of operations management, to study ways to eliminate this dangerous and common problem.

“Milk adulteration, such as by adding, water, detergent or starch to milk, has been widely reported in many developing countries,” Mu said. “What are the reasons for those adulterations? And how can we solve the problem?”

In two papers published in top journals Management Science and Production and Operations Management, Mu’s team found three key reasons behind the milk adulteration problem, as well as a number of creative solutions.

Bed Net Plan for Underfed Kids Curbs Malaria Deaths

January 6, 2016

Giving extra bed nets to children weakened by lack of food could significantly curb child deaths from malaria, according to a mathematical model revealed last month.
A study published in the Malaria Journal found that distributing insecticide-treated bed nets and supplementary food to undernourished children aged from six months to five years could help prevent their deaths from malaria. This is because children with malnutrition are much more likely than healthy children to succumb to the disease, the paper states.

The model proposed by Milinda Lakkam and [former Operations Research Editor-in-Chief and INFORMS Fellow] Lawrence Wein, two mathematicians at Stanford University in the United States, shows that such targeted distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets is better at reducing malaria deaths than random distribution. In one tested scenario, where malaria transmission was pegged as seasonal and intermittent, the distribution of bed nets specifically to undernourished children achieved a 69 per cent reduction in malaria mortality.

Temptation Bundling at the Gym

January 4, 2016

Lack of motivation may also play a large role in the reason why 68.8 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. 

So are we all screwed? Or is there a way to keep motivation consistently flowing?

The key may be a process called “temptation bundling,” according to a study in Management Science

The process pairs two activities—one you should do, but avoid; and one you enjoy, but isn’t necessarily productive, explains lead study author Katherine Milkman, associate professor of Operations, Information, and Decisions at The Wharton School.

High Debt Load Tough for Union Negotiators

January 4, 2016

Why are unions having a tough time in this country? One reason is that companies are getting leverage. A recent study found that companies with a higher debt load were less likely to experience a strike during contract negotiations, particularly at companies with large unions, worse financial prospects, or underfunded pension plans. Some companies seem to anticipate this and load up on debt before contract negotiations, whereas companies that didn’t do this and experienced a strike subsequently add a ton of debt, particularly if the union won the strike. The debt gives the company a bargaining advantage by limiting how much earnings can be shared with workers vis-à-vis lenders, and often takes the form of stock buybacks, to avoid bringing money into the company.

Myers, B. & Saretto, A., Does Capital Structure Affect the Behavior of Nonfinancial Stakeholders? An Empirical Investigation into Leverage and Union Strikes,” Management Science

2016 Analytics Trends to Watch For

December 28, 2015

My view of the world is shaped by where I stand, but from this spot the future of analytics for 2016 looks pretty exciting! Analytics has never been more needed or interesting.

How to Improve Decision Making in Supply Chains

December 23, 2015

David Simchi-Levi, MIT Professor, INFORMS Fellow and Former Editor-in-Chief of Operations Research (INFORMS Journal) 

The ability to understand a combination of historical behavior, market conditions and future needs drives decision making. New analytic capabilities that combine machine learning and optimization can take into account historical characteristics and competitor behavior to determine future demand that will allow optimization for the best results - such as profit, market share or revenue.

Examples of decisions where this approach can be used is assortment, pricing, sourcing strategies for new products, predictive maintenance using process sensors.

Portfolios and Their Debt to an O.R. Nobel Winner

December 18, 2015

During WWII, academics developed “Operations Research” techniques involving statistics and linear programming to hunt enemy submarines, supply troops on the ground and deliver ordnance to targets. Soon after the war ended, Operations Research academics began to apply their methodologies to investing. In 1952 Harry Markowitz, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, published a paper on portfolio selection in the Journal of Finance. Markowitz’s quantitative approach to investment theory was radically different from the conventional stock market wisdom at the time, which focused on picking winning stocks and concentrating stock holdings to maximize return. Investors knew that holding stocks meant taking risks, and they were led to believe that the only way to reduce risk was to become more competent at picking stocks. Some investors were following the advice of Gerald M. Loeb, the co-founder of brokerage firm E.F. Hutton, who wrote “once you obtain competency, diversification is undesirable.” Markowitz’s work along with others gave birth to what is now known as Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT). MPT provided investors quantitative ways to reduce risk and optimize their return.

INFORMS CAP Certification #1

December 17, 2015

While you’ll have to determine your own goals and certification needs, let’s look at a handful of important and valuable certifications all IT professionals should consider earning.

  1. Certified Analytics Professional

CAP certification enables you to understand the entire analytics process. From framing business and analytic problems to deployment and model lifecycle management, you’ll have full knowledge of everything that goes into general analytics by the time you finish this certification process.

Management Science Makes List of Top 25 STEM Majors

December 9, 2015

Finding the optimal way to use a workforce is not an art — it’s a science. In small groups a missing employee can cause sleepless nights when deadlines approach, while an extra employee can result in missed performance metrics. In large groups, such as Fortune 500 companies, these same problems can cost a company billions of dollars or result in thousands of lost jobs. Management science applies the principles of mathematics to the modern office to streamline processes, cut costs and grow revenue.

Social media as force multiplier

December 7, 2015

This notion of collaborative expertise makes me consider my own profession. I come from an Air Force community culturally dominated by Operations Research, a discipline “employing techniques from other mathematical sciences, such as mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, and mathematical optimization” to arrive “at optimal or near-optimal solutions to complex decision-making problems.” This is a relatively young and inherently cross disciplinary field, with all the depth-and-breadth-balance problems that entails, that grew out of efforts by scientists, mathematicians, computer scientists, etc., to solve operational problems in World War II. These were, however, experts (in some cases luminaries) in their respective fields, and together they were able to do incredible things that might have been impossible for any subset to accomplish on their own. Social networking is one way to access and connect that kind of expertise.

Edelman Award Presented to Syngenta by INFORMS Exec Dir Moore at Iowa Sate

November 30, 2015

Joe Byrum feels a little bit like Billy Beane in “Moneyball.”

Beane, for those who don’t follow baseball, was the general manager who put an emphasis on mathematics and advanced technology when putting together his team. He started looking at numbers and changing his approach to the game.

Byrum, head of seeds product development for soybeans at Syngenta, has helped his company to push advanced analytics in the soybean breeding process.

“It’s the ‘Moneyball’ approach,” he said, describing a data-driven analysis approach that helped the company win the 2015 Franz Edelman award presented by the Institute for Operation Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

Predicting NCAA Football Standings

November 25, 2015

[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.

Peyton Manning (Source: Wall Street Journal)

New light on top sports accomplishments: Liberatore et al:

November 12, 2015

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.

Best definition of analytics

November 12, 2015

INFORMS 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.

Tweeting and Customer Service: No Good Deed...

November 12, 2015

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.”

Why a college football win is worth millions

November 12, 2015

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.

Possible cause of Russian jet crash

November 12, 2015

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.