Listen and learn

While recently rummaging around for an ancient print copy of OR/MS Today that predates the online e-archives, I came across the February 1991 issue. The cover featured a dramatic image of the “Chunnel” – then under construction – that would soon connect London and Paris via a tunnel under the English Channel. The story concerned a forward-looking O.R. approach to traffic and toll management for the engineering marvel. My first OR/MS Today cover headline read: “Tunnel Vision.”

Had it really been 20 years since I became editor of OR/MS Today? I happened to mention this little personal milestone to John Llewellyn over lunch a few days later. John is the owner-publisher of Lionheart Publishing (which produces OR/MS Today on behalf of INFORMS) and the man who hired me. John was as amazed as I was. Twenty years? Really? You know what they say: Time flies when you’re having a good time.

I’m a journalist by education and training, not a scientist. When I first landed this gig, I knew next to nothing about “operations research” (except for a vague reference in a statistics class I took as part of my graduation requirements at U.C. Berkeley). I did, however, know how to get information out of people who knew stuff that I didn’t know, so the first order of business was finding “reliable sources.” (J-School 101: Without reliable sources, journalists are writing science fiction.)

Then as now, ORSA and TIMS (they merged in 1995 to create INFORMS) were full of incredibly smart people, and many of them graciously shared their wisdom regarding the profession and the publication with me and gently guided me in an “optimal” direction.

Despite the help, I still made my share of mistakes. In one of the first issues under my editorship, I labeled a meeting the “ORSA/TIMS” conference when it was, in fact, the “TIMS/ORSA” conference. Turns out the two organizations had agreed to alternate taking the presentation lead at their “joint” annual meetings, but I never got the memo … until the conference story appeared in print and I got it from both sides.

Looking back, I have many people to thank: The chairs of the OR/MS Today Committee, such as Dick Larson, Art Geoffrion, Arnie Barnett, Ed Kaplan and now Andy Boyd, who provided not just contacts, but content, context and, on a few occasions, political cover. Long-time columnists such as Doug Samuelson, Vijay Mehrotra and Mohan Sodhi, who contributed their time and writing talent, issue after issue. INFORMS staffers such as Director of Communications Barry List, who shared countless story ideas and one memorable trip to the Pentagon. Saul Gass, a walking encyclopedia of O.R. and a treasured “reliable source” since Day One. The late Bob Machol, who used to brutally critique each issue in his gravelly voice over the phone, and in so doing made me and the magazine better.

Given enough space, the list could go on and on. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t acknowledge Andres Weintraub of Chile, a former president of the International Federation of Operational Research, who brought many of the stories in this 14th annual Special International Issue of OR/MS Today to my attention, just as he’s done for 14 years.

To everyone who has contributed to OR/MS Today over the last 20 years (and will in the future), thank you. We literally could not have done it without you.

— Peter Horner, editor