President’s Desk: New year brings new opportunities

Brian Denton
INFORMS President

Greetings from your 2017 INFORMS president. This is shaping up to be an exciting year for our organization and our profession. But before looking forward, let’s take a moment to look back at some accomplishments from 2016. We finished last year very strong under Ed Kaplan’s leadership as the 2016 president of INFORMS – better known by some as our “Member-in-Chief.” The fall Board meeting in Nashville saw the Board approve several new initiatives and the celebration of some noteworthy accomplishments:

  • a new INFORMS Journal on Optimization;
  • ethical guidelines developed by a committee chaired by David Hunt that lay out, for the first time ever, “aspirational” guidelines for our members;
  • a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative lead by VP Subdivisions Michael Johnson;
  • our membership increased beyond 12,000 members;
  • our journal full text downloads reached almost 2 million, an increase of 15 percent over 2015; and
  • welcoming new staff members that build on an extraordinary team led by INFORMS Executive Director Melissa Moore.

As we enter 2017, we have a lot on the horizon. Our meetings this year include the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & O.R. in Las Vegas; the INFORMS Healthcare Meeting in Rotterdam, Netherlands; and the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Houston. All of this is in addition to a long list of excellent subdivision meetings (as I write this I look forward to the INFORMS Computing Society meeting in Austin).

Plans for a new INFORMS website are well under way, and we will be rolling out the new INFORMS logo selected by our members via last year’s member survey. I am also happy to report that the financial state of INFORMS is very strong. Financially we have a healthy reserve fund that can fund long-term, new strategic initiatives. The opportunity to start new initiatives is open to all members via a new strategic initiative proposal process designed to help members propose and implement their great ideas. The following goals were established in 2016 by the INFORMS Board to as part of a strategic planning effort to guide our new initiatives:

  • INFORMS will identify, recognize and promote the work of our members to show the value their science and practice brings to society;
  • decision-makers will have access to, and use, innovative technologies and methodologies to transform visions, tasks or responsibilities into better choices, services and products to achieve better outcomes;
  • organizations will identify operations research and analytics as core components of success and institutionalize operations research and analytics input as part of their decision-making processes;
  • operations research and analytics will advance society and make the world a better place.

In short, we aim to disseminate the innovative ideas of our members to decision-makers and organizations with the lofty end goal of improving society. As part of our new proposal process, proposals are submitted for review to the INFORMS Strategic Planning Committee, and recommended proposals are reviewed by the INFORMS Board (watch for the 2017 announcement on INFORMS Connect for your opportunity to submit a proposal). Read on to learn about some great examples of recent initiatives.

Pro Bono Analytics is a new INFORMS program that connects our members with nonprofit organizations in need of help. Project examples include:

  • Work with a homeless shelter for women and children to provide data analysis expertise;
  • support of a seniors’ community center to implement a new “wellness center” program of activities; and
  • assistance with a family services organization that aids at-risk urban children.

If you are interested in helping, visit and sign up as a volunteer.

A new student leadership conference will be held in Baltimore this spring. The conference represents an investment in one of our field’s most valuable resources – graduate students. The conference will bring together student members from our INFORMS chapters across the nation to learn the fundamentals of leadership, network and take best practices back to their home institutions.

In 2017 INFORMS will start down a new path that explores student scholarships. Some of our subdivisions already provide endowed scholarship opportunities made possible by the generosity of our members’ donations. We will expand on these existing opportunities by providing funding for undergraduate students to attend our annual meeting to present their research, learn about our field, and meet with prospective employers and/or graduate student advisors.

Our new DEI initiative that started in early 2016 is aimed at creating resources to help us understand the current demographic makeup of our membership, the potential sources of unconscious bias that can affect our decisions, and barriers to involvement that our members sometimes face. The activity was started by an ad hoc committee I appointed in early 2016, and this year will mark its transition to a sustainable long-term effort.

All of these activities are made possible by INFORMS’ most important resources – members like you. I invite you to consider how you can contribute your expertise to help advance our field to make the world a better place in 2017!