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President's Message from Russell Wooten

Hello WINFORMS and welcome to our 2011-2012 program year:

Steven Wilcox said it admirably in his closing observations as our outgoing President and I would like to reiterate his remarks – “Without your efforts, WINFORMS would not be the great organization that it is.” Many thanks to the following:

  • Doug Samuelson for his excellent efforts as our Program Chair over the last decade.
  • Nick Nahas for enthusiastically arranging room reservations at Booz-Allen Hamilton.
  • Russ Vane III and Zack Waltz for bringing sandwiches and water.
  • Mike Cohen for chairing the track we shared with IIE at CapSci 2010 in Arlington as well as serving as Feedback editor.
  • Steve Wilcox for serving as the previous President and attending to all those details that bind us into one organization.
  • Chuck Burdick for attending to the tedious tasks of being the Treasurer (7/2008 – 6/2010).
  • David Kretch for his miraculous transformation of our website and Mikhail Chrestkha for serving as Webmaster after him.
  • Nastaran Coleman for her dedication over the last eight years as our Secretary.
  • Russ Vane as an outgoing Trustee.
  • Gary Smith as an outgoing Trustee.

Even though I have been quiet, your board has been busy working on your behalf. We held our third board meeting on September 13th.

Our activities to date include:

  • reviewing and acknowledging our WINFORMS By-Laws
  • updating and coordinating our membership roster with INFORMS
  • establishing our strategic goals for this program year
  • establishing a WINFORMS LinkedIn community
  • communicating with Baltimore area INFORMS members to revitalize the Baltimore Chapter
  • planning to revitalize our Institutional Membership Program
  • planning to revitalize Feedback
  • planning our WINFORMS Board of Director’s meeting for the 2nd Tuesday of each month
  • planning WINFORMS Evening Programs for the 3nd Tuesday of each month

The goals of WINFORMS for this program year include:

  • working more closely with individual members to keep our membership levels steady and to facilitate a more seamless process to renew membership at the beginning the calendar year.
  • increasing our institutional membership to 35 for the calendar year of 2012
  • three Feedback publications before June of 2012
  • establishing a LinkedIn social network for WINFORMS
  • ten WINFORMS Evening Programs
  • Recording (video or audio) at least three programs for posting on our website or LinkedIn site.
  • Having at least one joint Evening Program with another INFORMS Chapter.
  • Having at least 50% of our Evening Programs jointly sponsored by another professional organization.
  • Having one WINFORMS conference during the 2012-2013 program year.

Vice President/President Elect Nick Nahas has established a WINFORMS LinkedIn site. Please sign up as a member. We intend to use the new LinkedIn site and our revised website to communicate to our members and potential members. We will continue to distribute program announcements through our WINFORMS listserv

Help us accomplish all of our 2011-2012 program year goals. Help us by volunteering. Help us by participating. Encourage your work organization to become a WINFORMS Institutional Member. Encourage like-minded associates to attend our WINFORMS Evening Programs with you and to become a member of WINFORMS. If you know of a program, conference, presentation, or paper that is consistent with our WINFORMS character, let us know about it so that we can provide this valuable information to our members.

With your help, we can make this WINFORMS best year ever.

Russell Wooten
 IIE Fellow and Edelman Laureate
 IIE/SEMS Management Award, '11
 INFORMS Moving Spirit Award, '09
 DC Council of Engineers and Architects Engineer of the Year, '07
 Franz Edelman Academy Member, '06

President's Closing Message from Dr. Steven P. Wilcox (2011)

I would like to thank all the volunteers that brought us to the point we are now, including our officers. In particular, I would like to thank Doug Samuelson for his contributions in finding excellent speakers for the lion’s share of our evening meetings. Being the ORacle, he just looked into his crystal ball and saw great meetings in our future. In a logistical vein I also owe thanks to the following (in no particular order):

  • Nick Nahas for enthusiastically arranging room reservations at Booz-Allen Hamilton.
  • Russ Vane III and Zack Waltz for bringing the sandwiches.
  • Mike Cohen for chairing the track we shared with IIE at CapSci 2010 in Arlington as well as serving as Feedback editor.
  • Dhaivat Parikh for serving as the previous President and attending to all those details that bind us into one organization.
  • Chuck Burdick for attending to the tedious tasks of being the Treasurer (7/2008 – 6/2010) and Zack Waltz for keeping the books as the current Treasurer.
  • David Kretch for his miraculous transformation of our website and Mikhail Chrestkha for serving as Webmaster after him.

I would also like to thank the exiting officers, Nastaran Coleman (Secretary), Russ Vane III (Trustee), and Gary Smith (Trustee) as well as the new volunteers who agreed to serve.

The question that always crosses my mind in working with an organization like WINFORMS is how we can bring the greatest value to our membership and the OR community at large. This involves a little thought about where OR is going or needs to be going. A comparison with the state of OR 20 years ago helps clarify the issues.

Around 1990, WINFORMS had annual multi-track conferences. In 1990, the theme was ‘Whither OR?’, and, since OR had suffered a downdraft in the job market, I was wondering whether ‘Wither OR?’ might be more apropos. As it happens, OR has not withered, but the terrain has shifted.

1980’s OR curricula and practice focused on optimization and stochastic modeling, with simulation and applied statistics as part of the mix. Now, however, we have additional voices in the fray in the form of constraint programming from AI to compete with combinatorial optimization, data mining and data visualization to complement or replace statistical analysis, and neural networks and other machine learning techniques for pattern recognition and use as heuristic techniques. Overall, the tool set has become richer and disciplinarily multi-centric, evolving towards the paradigm of ‘computational science’.

In simulation, a similar pattern has emerged, with new simulation modeling techniques coming to the fore. Agent-based modeling has emerged as a new flavor of simulation modeling that emphasizes the phenomena arising out of many interdependent, cognitively active actors. System dynamics addresses systems whose complexity resides in a complex network of dynamic relationships. On the computer science side, we now have a richer tool set for diagramming simulations and performing object-oriented analysis of domains to be simulated. While one can see the same basic principles at work, the agent- based and system dynamics paradigms highlight issues that might be reasons to say one simulation is better than another for modeling a given phenomenon. The phenomenon of system complexity, for example, has emerged as an important feature of our ultra-modern world and a factor in our simulation modeling efforts.

In the military world, information is becoming more interesting due to UAVs and other sensors, but decision makers need answers about how to deal with societies that our troops come into contact with, such as how to counter insurgencies. It is not enough to say one just needs to employ simulation. We also need to think somewhat like social scientists to address social domains–or perhaps reinvent social science in a computational mode.

In other areas, we have seen what happens to the system when individual actors employ OR. In the airlines, we see optimization at work in schedules that are just so, but which have no recovery when the system has a problem until the evening, when the travelling warriors stagger out through a mostly- closed gate area. Recently the stock market experienced a ‘flash crash’, which led to a massive effort to find ‘the trade’ that triggered the event as if finding the triggering event would lead to a solution to the problem. Obviously decision makers cannot safely rely on intuition for guidance us in the area of complex system dynamics, but they seem to persist in trying.

In terms of the place of OR in the world, it is accepted that analytics is here to stay, due to the importance of small competitive advantages in the 21st Century marketplace, the reduced cost of computing, and the data available from existing IT infrastructure. Google, for example, is based on algorithms as its main production technology, while our colleagues in finance are doing the same.

OR has not withered, but it isn’t your 70’s operations research any more, either.

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