Online Encyclopedia of OR/MS

By Moshe Sniedovich

The Internet in general, and the World Wide Web in particular, provide extremely powerful tools for sharing, distributing and searching for information worldwide. It is therefore somewhat surprising that the international OR/MS community does not have yet an online encyclopedia for operations research and management science.

There are of course many good reasons, and some not so good reasons, for this state of affairs. However, this is neither the place nor the time to dwell on this and other related issues. The good news is that such an encyclopedia is now being developed by the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS). The Encyclopedia will be launched officially at the next IFORS Triennial Conference (IFORS 2002, July 8-12, 2002, Edinburgh, UK) and it is now open for public preview at www.ifors.org.

In this article I'll briefly discuss the basic structure of this encyclopedia and the vision underlying its development.

The Encyclopedia — or IOE as it is called endearingly — is designed with a view to provide a comprehensive picture of OR/MS not only as an academic discipline but also as a career path and a profession. And since it is Web-based, it is capable of providing not only static text-based articles on standard OR/MS topics but also links to OR/MS resources on the Web and interactive online modules to supplement static text-based material. Such modules are extremely useful in the creation of live illustrations of OR/MS methods, technique, algorithms and models in action.

In short, IOE's scope is very wide and its Web-based features are not used merely to surf the Web but also to make its content educationally rich. Thus, for example, the discussion of the dynamic programming algorithm for the unbounded knapsack problem is accompanied by an online interactive computational module that illustrates how the algorithm works.

The best way to figure out how all of this works is to visit the IOE site (www.ifors.org). Although the project has just begun, what you'll find there should give you a clear picture of both the scope of the project and the intended content.

The IOE Editorial Board consists of an editor and an Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consists of: members of the IFORS Administrative Committee, chairpersons of the IFORS Educational Resources, Developing Countries and Publications committees; the head of the IFORS tutORial project, and representative of OR/MS publishers and software developers (by invitation).

The editor, in consultation with the Advisory Board, appoints a (relatively small) number of theme editors. Each theme editor, in consultation with the editor, appoints area editors for areas falling under his/her theme. The current list of themes and their respective editors is as follows: Applications — Andres Weintraub (Chile); Archive — Graham Rand (UK); Education and Training — Vicki Sauter (USA); Methods and Techniques — Paolo Toth (Italy); Practice — to be determined; Professional Infrastructure — Ben Lev (USA).

The technical discussions on OR/MS topics are in the first instance introductory in nature. Whenever appropriate, these introductory expositions will be supplemented by expositions of a more advanced nature.

IOE is more than just a compilation of topics and their associated references and links. Its content is used to generate other collections such as:


- Ph.D. Dissertation Directory — A database of extended abstracts of Ph.D. dissertations in OR/MS and related areas.
- TutORial — A collection of Web-based online tutorial modules on standard OR/MS topics.
- Abbreviations — Standard (and not so standard) abbreviations used in OR/MS.
- Keywords — A number of lists of OR/MS keywords used by journals, OR/MS societies and so on.
- Glossary — A collection of short not-so-technical descriptions of OR/MS terms and topics.
- Bibliography — A bibliographic database of material referenced in the Encyclopedia.
- Dictionaries — A number of dictionaries of OR/MS terms.
- Who is who in OR/MS? — A database of OR/MS people and organizations worldwide. Work on this project has just begun so there is a long way to go. Hopefully this will be a never-ending project; as OR/MS continues to evolve so will the Encyclopedia.

To promote and advertise this project IFORS established the IOE Best Entry Prize. There are three prizes: Platinum entry ($1,500), Gold Entry ($500) and Titanium Entry ($250). The submission deadline is March 1, 2002. The announcement of the winners will be made at the IFORS 2002 Conference. Instructions for the preparation of contributions are available at www.ifors.org.

Last but not least, when you visit the IOE Web site (www.ifors.org), please send us your comments and suggestions. We are particularly interested in constructive criticism.

Communications concerning IOE should be sent to: Moshe Sniedovich, editor, IOE, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne, Parkville VIC 3052, Australia; e-mail: m.sniedovich@ms.unimelb.edu.au; URL: www.ms.unimelb.edu.au/~moshe/