INFORMS awards & prizes

Institute recognizes professional excellence and societal impact of operations research, management science and analytics.

By Susan Martonosi and Nicholas G. Hall

The Edelman Award for achievement in advanced analytics and OR/MS is one of many awards INFORMS presents each year. Source: INFORMS

The Edelman Award for achievement in advanced analytics and OR/MS is one of many awards INFORMS presents each year. Source: INFORMS

What is great operations research, management science and analytics (OR/MS/A)? Is it resolution of a longstanding mathematical question? Is it a MOOC (massive open online course) that attracts thousands of students? Is it an algorithm that saves a company millions of dollars? Is it a series of practical contributions that address important social problems?

Great OR/MS/A can be any of these … and many other things besides. In order to recognize achievements like these, INFORMS has created 20 professional awards. The activities recognized by these awards range from deep mathematical advances to voluntary public service, thereby representing the wide diversity of contributions that INFORMS members make. The 20 INFORMS awards are described below. Additional information can be found at https://www.informs.org/Recognizing-Excellence/INFORMS-Prizes/.

The awards support INFORMS’ four strategic goals that focus on its members, decision-makers, organizations and society. First, they promote very positive public awareness of the achievements of members. Second, they identify outstanding role models among the members and highlight their more significant accomplishments. Third, they encourage outstanding future activities and engagement by members. Fourth, they enable INFORMS to maintain a tradition of pride in the accomplishments of its members since the founding of its predecessor societies, ORSA and TIMS, about 65 years ago.

Nominations for most of our awards are due in spring and summer, so we would like to take this opportunity to describe how INFORMS-level awards are administered, summarize the 20 awards we offer, and outline how INFORMS members can get involved!

Administration

Announcements soliciting entries and nominations for the awards appear in various INFORMS publications, including OR/MS Today and INFORMS Connect. For all of the awards, eligibility requirements and evaluation criteria are set by the award committee, with guidance from established Policies and Procedures (P&P, available in Section 6 at https://www.informs.org/About-INFORMS/Governance/Policies-and-Procedures-Manual-PDFs), and when necessary also from INFORMS’ Professional Recognition Committee. Even within the constraints of a prize P&P, a prize committee often has substantial latitude to establish review criteria and develop committee processes for reviewing nominations.

Three principles underlie these policies and procedures, which continue to be revisited and revised in a spirit of continuous improvement. The first is consistency, by which we mean that whenever possible, different awards should adhere to the same general timeline and set of procedures. The second is sustainability, which refers to the ability to maintain consistent standards year over year without staff or volunteer burnout. The last is inclusivity, which refers both to broad representation of INFORMS members on the award selection committees, and to the development of fair processes that ensure our awards truly represent the excellence present in our membership. To this end, we are frequently in need of committee members to serve on our prize committees. Reach out to Tracy Cahall at INFORMS (tracy.cahall@informs.org) if you would like to volunteer yourself or recommend somebody else!

Three awards (Edelman Award, Wagner Prize and UPS George D. Smith Prize) are administered by the Practice Section of INFORMS, with oversight from the Professional Recognition Committee and the VP for Membership and Professional Recognition. All three, and the INFORMS Prize, are presented at the Edelman Gala held at the INFORMS Conference on Analytics & Operations Research in the spring.

The remaining awards are administered by the INFORMS Board through the INFORMS Professional Recognition Committee, and most of them are presented at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in the fall. The Professional Recognition Committee consists of between three and nine members, including a chair, who are approved by the INFORMS Board, following guidelines in the Policies and Procedures.

To facilitate consistency, prizes tend to operate under similar timelines. Prize committees for awards presented at the Annual Meeting are typically formed in January of the award year. These prize committees generally have nomination deadlines in spring and early summer. In some cases, subsequent supporting materials are due later in the summer. Award committees are busy evaluating nominations over the summer. In competitions with large numbers of entries, several rounds of judging may be required. Winners are usually notified several weeks before the Annual Meeting at which the award will be presented.

Prizes awarded at the Analytics Meeting generally follow a similar schedule, shifted relative to the Analytics Meeting. The prize committees tend to be formed in April, and nominations tend to be due in fall or winter so that a winner can be announced at the Analytics Meeting.

The awards ceremony at the Annual Meeting and the Edelman Gala at the Analytics Meeting showcase the finest OR/MS/A contributions that INFORMS members make.

The awards can be roughly categorized as research, practice, writing, education, service and student awards. Each category is described below.

Research Awards

Motivated by its strong academic tradition and intellectual foundations, INFORMS provides three awards for research.

John von Neumann Theory Prize
(first awarded in 1975, the 2018 chair is Sunil Kumar).
The prize is named in honor of John von Neumann, considered by many to be the most outstanding mathematician of the 20th century. The von Neumann Prize is awarded to a leading scholar who has made fundamental, sustained contributions to theory. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Donald Goldfarb (Columbia University) and Jorge Nocedal (Northwestern University) for their contributions to the theory and application of nonlinear optimization.

Philip M. Morse Lectureship
(first awarded in 1987, the 2017-18 chair is Margaret Brandeau).
The lectureship is named in honor of Philip M. Morse, who was director of the civilian organization engaged in military operations research in the United States (1942). Awarded in odd years, the lectureship is awarded for a period of two years, for the purpose of encouraging public lectures that benefit the OR/MS/A profession and INFORMS. The award committee seeks to identify a winner who exemplifies the spirit of Morse and is an outstanding spokesperson for the OR/MS/A profession. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Éva Tardos (Cornell University).

Impact Prize
(first awarded in 2004, the 2018 chair is Susan Sanchez).
The Impact Prize was established to honor contributions in research or practice that have had broad impact on the profession, either through widespread adoption of original research or widespread dissemination in practice through methods such as consulting or software development. The prize was most recently awarded in 2016 to Peter P. Belobaba (MIT), Thomas M. Cook (retired), Guillermo Gallego (Columbia University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), Robert L. Phillips (Nomis Solutions, Inc.), Barry Smith (Sabre Holdings), Kalyan T. Talluri (Imperial College Business School), Garret J. van Ryzin (Cornell Tech) and E. Andrew Boyd (University of Houston and Houston Public Media) for their contributions to the field of revenue management.

Practice Awards

Recognizing the strong link between theory and practice that is central to successful OR/MS/A, INFORMS provides three awards for practice.

Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Advanced Analytics, Operations Research and Management Science
(first awarded in 1972, the 2018 chair is Anne Robinson).
The award is named in honor of Franz Edelman, vice president for Business Systems and Analysis at RCA, who established the Operations Research Group there as one of the earliest industrial OR/MS/A groups in North America. The award recognizes outstanding implementations of OR/MS/A, and it is widely viewed as the premiere award for the practice of OR/MS/A. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Holiday Retirement for its use of revenue management techniques to develop its Senior Living Rent Optimizer tool, the first of its kind in the senior living community industry.

INFORMS Prize
(first awarded in 1991, the 2018 chair is Tarun Mohan Lal).
The prize recognizes effective integration of OR/MS/A into organizational decision-making. The principles of OR/MS/A should be applied in novel, varied and lasting ways that makes a significant contribution to the success of an organization. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to both the U.S. Air Force and to the Walt Disney Company.

Daniel H. Wagner Prize
(first awarded in 1998, the 2018 chair is Patricia Neri).
Daniel H. Wagner established himself as a leading consultant in mathematical approaches to naval tactics. The Wagner Prize recognizes the author or authors of a paper that exemplifies successful, real-world application of innovative OR/MS/A methodology and clarity in exposition. The finalist papers of the competition are published in an annual special issue of Interfaces. The 2017 prize was awarded to Mohammad Shahabsafa, Tamás Terlaky, Chaitanya Gudapati, Anshul Sharma, George R. Wilson and Louis J. Plebani of Lehigh University, and Kristofer B. Bucklen of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for their paper titled, “The Inmate Assignment and Scheduling Problem and its Application in the PA Department of Corrections.”

Writing Awards

Central to the role of any operations researcher in industry or academia is effective communication, without which our innovations would go unimplemented. INFORMS has two awards focused on recognizing influence and high-quality exposition in written work.

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize
(first awarded in 1954, the 2018 chair is Assaf Zeevi).
The prize is named in honor of Frederick W. Lanchester, a British aeronautical engineer who was a pioneer of military operations research. The prize recognizes the best contribution to the OR/MS/A field published in English over the previous five years. The prize was most recently awarded in 2015 to Michele Conforti (Università degli Studi di Padova), Gérard Cornuéjols (Carnegie Mellon University) and Giacomo Zambelli (Carnegie Mellon University) for their book “Integer Programming,” Springer, Switzerland, 2014.

Saul Gass Expository Writing Award
(first awarded in 1996, the 2018 chair is Kevin McCardle).
The award honors a member of the OR/MS profession whose publications demonstrate a consistently high standard of expository writing. The nominee’s written work, published over a period of at least 10 years, should be broadly accessible and characterized by expository excellence. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to John N. Tsitsiklis (MIT) for his influential papers and textbooks that elucidate complex ideas through clear writing.

Education Awards

To recognize the value of effective teaching in preparing the next generation of operations researchers, INFORMS offers three prizes related to education.

Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice
(first awarded in 1998, the 2018 chair is Andrew Manikas).
The prize is given to a university or college teacher who has succeeded in helping his or her students to acquire the skills necessary to become effective practitioners of OR/MS/A. These skills include problem comprehension, modeling, mastery of theory, balanced judgment and ability for implementation. The prize was most recently awarded in 2016 to S. Raghu Raghavan (University of Maryland) for “his professionalism and contributions to the teaching of practice in operations research and the management sciences.”

Case and Teaching Materials Competition
(first awarded in 2000, the 2018 chair is Palaniappa Krishnan).
This prize was established to recognize the authors of innovative and effective teaching cases that have not yet been published. Authors submit the case and accompanying materials such as data files and a teaching note, and finalists present the case and description of classroom use at the Annual Meeting. The first prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Shelly Bajaj, Sean Bandyopadyay and Srini Krishnamoorthy (Simon Fraser University) for their case titled, “Glitz Investments.”

George D. Smith UPS Prize
(first awarded in 2012, the 2018 chair is Rina Schneur).
This prize is in honor of George D. Smith, late chief executive officer of UPS, who was instrumental in integrating operations research methods into the Fortune 500 company. UPS has generously underwritten this prize in his memory. The intent of the prize, given to an academic program or department that is effective in preparing its students to be excellent practitioners of OR/MS/A, is to strengthen collaborations between academia and industry. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to the U.S. Air Force Academy Operations Research Program for its unique curriculum that prepares Air Force officers to work effectively in teams, solve ill-posed complex problems and communicate their results.

Service Awards

Among the most visible activities undertaken by INFORMS are those directed toward service. INFORMS offers three awards to recognize service to the profession and to the Institute.

George E. Kimball Medal
(first awarded in 1974, the 2018 chair is Terry Harrison).
The medal is named in honor of George E. Kimball, who was a member of the U.S. Navy Antisubmarine Warfare Operations Research Group (ASWORG). The medal recognizes distinguished service to INFORMS and to the OR/MS/A profession, typically over many years. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Frederick S. Hillier (Stanford University) and Russell Labe, CAP, (RPL Analytics Consulting) for their numerous contributions to the profession and to INFORMS.

President’s Award
(first awarded in 1993, the 2018 chair is Nicholas G. Hall).
This award recognizes important contributions to the welfare of society at the global, national or local level by members of the OR/MS/A profession. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to David Hunt (Oliver Wyman) for his influential work implementing operations research solutions in the transportation industry and for his work to create the new Pro Bono Analytics service in INFORMS.

Volunteer Service Award
(first awarded in 2016, the 2018 chair is Rubén Proaño).
Because INFORMS could not thrive without the active engagement of its members, this recently developed award recognizes exceptional volunteer service within INFORMS. Up to 20 individuals are honored each year in bronze, silver and gold categories of service. The 2017 awardees were Guzin Bayraksan (The Ohio State University), Saif Benjaafar (University of Minnesota), Pooja Dewan (BNSF Railway), Chanaka Edirisinghe (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Murat Kurt (Merck & Co., Inc.), Irvin Lustig (Princeton University), Suvrajeet Sen (University of Southern California), Michael Gorman (University of Dayton), Allen Holder (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Dorothee Honhon (University of Texas at Dallas), David Hunt (Oliver Wyman), Erick Moreno-Centeno (Texas A&M University), Robin Qiu (Penn State), Christopher Tang (University of California, Los Angeles), Bjorn Berg (University of Minnesota), Shreya Gupta (The University of Texas at Austin), Sadan Kulturel-Konak (Penn State), Paul Messinger (University of Alberta), Sarah Nurre (University of Arkansas) and Shengfan Zhang (University of Arkansas).

Student Awards

The future of INFORMS is being built on the energy and talent of its student members. To recognize their early accomplishments and future potential, INFORMS provides five student awards.

George E. Nicholson Jr. Prize
(first awarded in 1975, the 2018 co-chairs are John Hasenbein and Santanu Dey).
The prize is named in honor of George E. Nicholson Jr., who was an operations analyst with the XXI Bomber Command in the Pacific during World War II. The prize recognizes outstanding work in the OR/MS field written by a student. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Andrew Li (MIT) for his paper with Vivek Farias titled, “Learning Preferences with Side Information.”

George B. Dantzig Dissertation Prize
(first awarded in 1994, the 2018 chair is Mor Armony).
The prize is named in honor of George B. Dantzig, who, while working as a mathematician for the U.S. Air Force, stated the general form of the linear programming problem and invented the simplex method for solving it. The prize recognizes the best dissertation that is innovative and relevant to the practice of OR/MS. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Negin Golrezaei (University of Southern California) for her dissertation titled, “Efficient Policies and Mechanisms for Online Platforms.”

Undergraduate Operations Research Prize
(first awarded in 2010, the 2018 chair is Jennifer Pazour).
This prize was started to recognize outstanding undergraduate achievement in OR/MS/A research and to attract promising students to the profession. Undergraduates submit a research paper, and the prize is awarded at the Annual Meeting. Additionally, all entrants are invited to give an oral presentation of work at the Annual Meeting. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Agathe Soret (École Polytechnique) and Siddharth Reddy (Cornell University).

Doing Good with Good OR Student Paper Competition
(first awarded in 2009, the 2018 co-chairs are Gemma Berenguer and Mehmet Ayvaci).
This student award recognizes the application of OR/MS/A methodology to effect significant realized or potential societal impact. The prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Can Zhang (Georgia Institute of Technology) for his work titled, “Truthful Mechanisms for Medical Surplus Product Allocation.”

OR and Analytics Student Team Competition
(first awarded in 2017, the 2018 chair is Rina Schneur).
This most recent INFORMS-level award allows teams of undergraduate or master’s students to solve a real business problem for a sponsoring organization. Students are given access to the sponsor’s data during the fall, teams submit a written report in early spring, and finalists present their work before a judging committee at the spring Analytics Meeting. The first prize was most recently awarded in 2017 to Adam Green (Cardiff University), Peter Riley (University of Warwick) and Anna Scholes (University of Nottingham) for their proposed solution to the problem posed by sponsor Syngenta, “Better Decisions in Commercializing Seed Varieties.”

INFORMS Fellow

In a category of its own, the INFORMS Fellow designation is reserved for members who have demonstrated lifetime achievement in the areas of research, practice, management, education or service. The selection process for Fellows is governed by a subcommittee of existing Fellows, adhering to the INFORMS Policies and Procedures manual. In 2017, 13 new Fellows were named: Shabbir Ahmed (Georgia Institute of Technology), Jeffrey M. Alden (General Motors), Jeffrey D. Camm (Wake Forest University School of Business), James J. Cochran (The University of Alabama), Shane G. Henderson (Cornell University), David Morton (Northwestern University), Andy Philpott (University of Auckland), R. Ravi (Carnegie Mellon University), Edwin Romeijn (Georgia Institute of Technology), Andrzej Ruszczynski (Rutgers University), Susan M. Sanchez (Naval Postgraduate School), Jing-Sheng Jeannette Song (Duke University) and Mark S. Squillante (IBM Research).

Subdivision Awards

Besides the awards discussed above which are given by INFORMS, most subdivisions (i.e., societies, sections, chapters, student chapters and fora) within INFORMS also offer a variety of forms of professional recognition. More details can be found at https://www.informs.org/Recognizing-Excellence/Community-Prizes.

Getting Involved

INFORMS members can help to enhance the awards program, and at the same time enrich the OR/MS profession, in several ways: first, by submitting their best work for an award; second, by volunteering to serve on the various awards committees; third, by suggesting committee members; and finally, by letting the relevant award committee know about examples of great OR/MS/A through submission of a nomination!

Susan Martonosi is a professor of mathematics and holds the Joseph B. Platt Chair for effective teaching at Harvey Mudd College and is the vice president for Membership and Professional Recognition of INFORMS. Questions about the INFORMS awards may be sent to her at martonosi@g.hmc.edu.

Nicholas G. Hall is Fisher College of Business Distinguished Professor at The Ohio State University and the 2018 president of INFORMS.

Acknowledgments

Information for this article and helpful comments on earlier drafts were provided by Mary Magrogan, Tracy Cahall and Marisa Van der Eijk of INFORMS.