President’s Desk

Global engagement by INFORMS and its members

Brian Denton
INFORMS President
president@informs.org

INFORMS President Brain Denton

Since this is the international issue of OR/MS Today, I’m taking the opportunity to point out some of the things INFORMS does to foster global engagement among our members. INFORMS currently has members from 89 countries – with significantly reduced rates for members from developing countries – which creates opportunities for our members to meet O.R. professionals from around the world to learn about the many different cultures and perspectives represented in our diverse membership and our field. I will share some specific opportunities that you can take advantage of to expand your horizons.

First, INFORMS is a proud member of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS). IFORS has been in existence since 1959 and has grown from three founding member nations –the United States (ORSA, a predecessor society of INFORMS), the United Kingdom (ORS), and France (SOFRO) – to include 52 O.R. societies from around the world. The most recent society to join was the Institute for Operations Research of Nigeria. This year the Colombian and Russian O.R. societies are petitioning to join.

The IFORS Statute states the objective of the Federation is to “develop operational research as a unified science and to advance it in all the nations of the world.” To achieve this goal IFORS engages in many activities including sponsoring an international meeting every three years; this year’s meeting is in beautiful Quebec, July 17-21. IFORS also encourages nations, including developing countries, to establish O.R. societies, promote education and engage in activities intended to promote growth in our field. As a member society, INFORMS and its members are important contributors to the IFORS mission. In fact, longtime member and former INFORMS President Mike Trick is currently serving as the president of IFORS. (For more on IFORS, its history and meetings, see Graham Rand’s article on page 24.)

In addition to IFORs meetings, INFORMS partners with O.R. societies from other nations to hold an international conference two out of every three years (with the third year being the IFORS conference). Recent destinations have included Montreal (in collaboration with the Canadian Operational Research Society), Rome (in collaboration with the Association of European Operational Research Societies and the Italian OR Society) and Beijing (in collaboration with the Operations Research Society of China). These conferences provide valuable opportunities to exchange ideas with people from a diverse range of cultures and perspectives. Our next international conference, in July of 2018, will be held in Taipei, Taiwan.

One conference on the agenda for this year that I am personally excited about is the upcoming INFORMS Healthcare Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on July 26-28. As someone who works in healthcare O.R., I find great value in learning about the different ways countries organize their health systems. I expect the Rotterdam conference will be an excellent opportunity for anyone to learn about the state-of-the-art O.R. methods used worldwide to improve healthcare delivery.

There are many other shining examples of INFORMS’ global engagement. For example, our journals have a broad international readership, and in 2016 alone we published articles by authors from more than 40 countries. Each year, our extensive awards program attracts many international submissions and prize-winning entries. Past winners of the prestigious Franz Edelman Award for achievement in O.R. include the Dutch Delta Program (Netherlands), Indeval (Mexico), Canadian Pacific Railway (Canada), Bosques Arauco (Chili) and Tata Iron and Steel (India), to name a few.

Many international activities stem from individual member contributions. Last year, Past President Ed Kaplan traveled to El Salvador, Mongolia, Poland, Israel and the Netherlands. The Mongolia trip, organized by Jim Cochran, featured a workshop on teaching O.R at the National University of Mongolia. More than 80 participants, including instructors from Mongolian universities and managers from Mongolian businesses, attended the workshop. Jim has a long history of creating exciting opportunities to spread knowledge in our field. The Republic of Moldova is next on his agenda, and Jim is working on future opportunities for workshops in Nepal, Madagascar, Myanmar and Ghana.

INFORMS Vice President of International Activities Grace Lin is a driving force behind several new initiatives such as an international reception hosted by the INFORMS International Activities Committee (IAC) at the INFORMS Annual Meeting. The IAC will host its third annual reception at the 2017 INFORMS Annual Meeting this fall in Houston. The reception is open to all members and provides a great opportunity to network. Please see the conference program book if you wish to attend this year’s reception.

I have given you some examples of the ways that INFORMS and its members create opportunities for global engagement with operations researchers from around the world. Without opportunities like these, we would not have the chance to benefit from discoveries by researchers in other countries and to gain new perspectives from the diverse members of our field. I hope many of you will take advantage of the opportunities that exist, at home or abroad, to develop professional relationships that extend across borders.