World Wide O.R.

Welcome to the 17th annual special international issue of OR/MS Today. As always, the goal of the special issue is to turn the spotlight on interesting applications of operations research beyond the U.S. borders, as well as to give readers a glimpse into how regional history, geography, natural resources and culture impact the way O.R. is taught, preached and practiced around the world.

The international O.R. applications in this year’s issue range from the forests of Argentina to the farmlands of Bavaria in Germany. The issue also provides an inside look at the history and activities of two O.R. organizations – the Croatian Operational Research Society (CRORS) and the Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO). This year’s worldwide tour of O.R., however, begins with a truly international and universal concern: public health, pandemics and associated response logistics.

In their article on “pandemic preparedness” (page 26), authors Mario Ventresca and Dionne Aleman note that “public health is poised to reap the benefits of data mining technologies.” Given that development coupled with the growing worldwide concern over influenza pandemics and emergent avian flu strains, the authors propose an innovative approach to the problem: “analyzing social networks with combinations of data mining, optimization and network science to uncover promising pandemic mitigation strategies.”

Ventresca, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Engineering at Purdue University, and Aleman, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto, take readers on a journey through a promising pandemic preparedness process with the goal of, in their words, devising “an effective and efficient portfolio of policies to limit disease spread.”

In Latin America countries such as Argentina, properly managing natural resources is critical, authors Gustavo Braier and Javier Marenco point out, because “an important slice of their gross domestic product comes from the exploitation of land and sea.” In their article on natural resources management (page 32), Argentina-based economist Braier and computer scientist Marenco describe applying forestry models aimed at planting and harvesting operations, including the key decisions of where and what species to plant and when and where to harvest in order to meet the expected demand. The authors note several other opportunities for O.R. in the management of crops such as sugar cane, tea, grapes and olives that are subject to renewal decisions.

Speaking of crops, in his article on “cluster optimization” (page 38), Oliver Bastert, director of product management for optimization at FICO, recounts how a team of researchers earned the Excellence in Practice Award from EURO for solving a farmland conundrum in Bavaria. The cluster optimization approach not only helped farmers more effectively manage land and allocate resources, the concept offers many other potential real-world applications, starting with the insurance industry.

While the special international issue’s topics and contributors change every year, Andres Weintraub remains a constant. Andres, a renowned professor at the University of Chile and a former president of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies, has helped plan all 17 international issues. If not for Andres’ early encouragement and longtime commitment, I doubt we would even have a special international issue. I would also like to thank Jim Cochran and Doug Samuelson, frequent contributors to OR/MS Today, for shepherding several authors and articles my way.

Peter Horner, editor