Building on INFORMS’ strength

By Barry List

With membership on the rise and the Institute in “excellent” financial health, president urges board to keep pushing analytics agenda and to identify trends and opportunities as it plans for the future.
Pointing to INFORMS’ growth in members and financial stability in the wake of analytics initiatives and the U.S. economic recovery, INFORMS President Stephen M. Robinson this January urged the INFORMS board to examine internal and worldwide trends as it plans for the future.

Writing in the written record that accompanied the Jan. 28-29 meeting of the board at INFORMS headquarters in Catonsville, Md., Robinson said, “INFORMS is doing very well overall… Publications continue to be well regarded and in demand, our meetings attract large numbers of attendees and provide a great variety of presentations, and our membership is at the highest level in several years. Our new offerings of certification and continuing education have started well and have good prospects for growth.

“Some of this success is certainly due to recovery from the financial crisis. However, it seems to me that a good part is probably a consequence of our concerted effort to broaden the appeal of INFORMS by increased attention to analytics… We need to continue to push in this direction.”

Robinson, together with Oliver Tessier, a consultant who advises nonprofit boards, pointed out the INFORMS board’s strategic charge and its role-setting policy.

Robinson’s encouragement to identify trends and plan new programming were the focus of a strategic planning presentation and exercise by INFORMS Past President Anne G. Robinson.

Anne Robinson examined an important new strategic goal for the INFORMS board: a focus both on delivering increased value to INFORMS’ academic members and also seeking to further unify INFORMS around the theme of analytics. To address both, she recommended that INFORMS develop analytics programs that address fundamental reasons – research, teaching, service and scholarship – that academics affiliate with INFORMS.

Among the proposed initiatives are:

  • Expanding the INFORMS publications “Focus On” series that examines special topic interests or researchers in a specific country.
  • Adding topic browsing to the INFORMS online publications pages.
  • Developing resources to help teach analytics, currently a focus of the university analytics program committee.
  • Developing workshops on teaching analytics.
  • Introducing DataConnect, a new feature that allows organizations to make public large data sets worthy of greater study and INFORMS members to use those sets for research, benefiting both donors and recipients.

“During a time when INFORMS is fortunate enough to have a healthy strategic reserve fund, it’s crucial that we invest in our society’s future so we continue to benefit our members as their needs change,” explained INFORMS Executive Director Melissa Moore.

The January board meeting was the first one attended by INFORMS’ new Meetings Director Laura Payne. Payne succeeds Terry Cryan, who retired at the end of 2013.

Among the topics examined by the board were:

  • Annual Report: Melissa Moore gave an annual report to the board about INFORMS’ rosy health (an annual report to members will appear in a subsequent issue of OR/MS Today).
  • Finance: INFORMS Treasurer Nick Hall declared that INFORMS’ financial health is excellent. He reported an unaudited 2013 operating surplus of $230,000, working capital of $6.7 million, and $3.7 million in the INFORMS checking account, including $3 million in short-term assets. He said that the INFORMS permanent reserve, at $8.36 million and managed by TIAA-CREF, is performing well. He noted that in January 2014, INFORMS transferred $3 million from working capital to the permanent reserve.
  • Ranking: Education Vice President Joel Sokol reported that INFORMS has contracted with social science research firm abt/SRBI to rank college O.R. and analytics programs in an effort to persuade US News & World Report to include the rankings in their annual Best Colleges issue.
  • CAP/Certification: The board heard a report that the INFORMS certification program continues to reach larger numbers of candidates. To date, 444 people have applied, 109 have taken the exam, 88 have reached CAP status, and 58 have met preliminary requirements and are approved to begin taking the exam.
  • Thanks: The board extended its gratitude to volunteers who served on the 2013 INFORMS Strategic Planning Committee (during a board dinner at the annual meeting, Anne Robinson led a tribute to outgoing officers Terry Harrison, Jack Levis, Judy Jin and Olga Raskina).

Barry List is the director of communications for INFORMS.