It’s an O.R. world after all

Peter Horner, editor

Excuse me if you’ve heard this before, but welcome to the annual special international issue of OR/MS Today, the 18th in the series. 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.

It’s hard to believe that 18 years have flown by since Andres Weintraub – a professor at the University of Chile, a former president of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) and a legendary figure in the international O.R. community – and I first sat down for breakfast at an INFORMS Annual Meeting and scribbled out on napkins some interesting international applications of O.R. and associated authors who might be coaxed into contributing to a special international issue.

As the years piled up, our annual breakfast planning meetings at the fall conference became a “tradition” right out of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which we always ordered the same thing (coffee, juice and muffin or bagel) and bounced various article and author ideas back and forth.

Alas, Andres was unable to attend last fall’s annual meeting, but the tradition continued via email, and along with suggestions from OR/MS Today Committee Chairperson Jim Cochran and committee member Karla Hoffman, we have put together what I believe is an exceptional special issue that more than measures up to its long line of predecessors.

The international O.R. applications in this year’s issue range from railway planning in Kazakhstan (click here) to soccer scheduling in Chile (click here) to French Army logistics across France and Africa (click here). The issue also includes an interview with Georgia Tech Professor Eva Lee, whose work on a wide range of globally important issues such as healthcare delivery, disaster relief and pandemic response makes her arguably “the most interesting person in the O.R. world”.

Committee Chair Cochran and INFORMS President Robin Keller recently traveled to Cuba to present talks at the 11th International Workshop on Operations Research in Havana. In her “President’s Desk” column, Keller recalls INFORMS’ strong and historic international roots and recounts her firsthand experience with her O.R. counterparts from Cuba in the wake of the recent restoration of relationships between the United States and Cuba. Cochran, meanwhile, gives his perspective on the restoration of U.S.-Cuba relations and what it might mean going forward for scientific O.R. collaboration in his op-ed “Viewpoint” column.

Cochran, a co-founder of Statistics Without Borders, played a pivotal role in arranging the “Operations research in Cuba” article (click here) that gives readers a rare look into the history and development of O.R. in the Caribbean nation. He also served as a co-author of yet another of our international feature articles, “Fighting flooding in Mozambique”, which details the efforts of a team of operations researchers trying to forecast extreme flooding of the Limpopo River, which, while vital to the region’s economy, is also a threat during the wet season.

We hope you enjoy this worldwide, whirlwind tour of operations research at work, and we look forward to hearing your comments.