Big data, blind spots, bias, brands and more

Compiled by Barry List

INFORMS member Scott Nestler explains how the INFORMS Certified Analytics Professional (CAP®) ethics guidelines would have helped prevent a sports analytics scandal in the world of Major League Baseball and INFORMS Secretary Brian Denton, along with longtime volunteer John Milne, explain the finer points of patenting analytics in the most recent news stories about operations research and the allied field of business analytics.

Visit the INFORMS Newsroom at for news about analytics and INFORMS press releases. Remember to share your news-making research with INFORMS Communications. Contact Barry List at or 1-800-4INFORMs.
Meanwhile, here’s excerpts from INFORMS in the news:

Cardinals vs. Astros: An Analytics Morality Tale

Were Cardinals hacking off the field as well as on?

Were Cardinals hacking off the field as well as on?

As Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold aptly reported in coverage of FBI allegations about the St. Louis Cardinals hacking scouting reports of the Houston Astros, this baseball drama contains a story about the increasingly competitive world of sports analytics. It is also a wake-up call for analytics professionals and other business leaders, not just in professional sports but across numerous industries, who have a vested interest in ensuring that this growing technical field adheres to stringent ethical guidelines and professional standards.

– Scott Nestler in the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, June 30

How Much is Your Olympic Reputation Worth?

The ancient Roman philosopher Publius once opined, “A good reputation is more valuable than money.”

Well, new research appearing in this month’s issue of Management Science suggests these words may be as true today as they were two thousand years ago.

Researchers David Waguespack and Robert Salomon examined whether “reputationally privileged” athletes (that is, athletes who had been successful in previous competitions, or those from countries with a track record of athletic excellence) were more likely to succeed at the Olympic Games than lesser-known athletes.

– Psychology Today, July 9

It’s OK for Male Execs to Ask Directions and Business Advice

[University of Pittsburgh Professor Dave] Lebel says research has found that it can be easier to ask for help when you turn it into advice seeking. In a study published in the June 2015 issue of Management Science, researchers from Harvard Business School and Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that advice-seeking differs from other help-seeking behaviors because you’re eliciting information for a course of action, retaining the decision-making process, and implying that the values of the advice seeker is similar to the adviser.

“Asking for a recommendation can feel flattering to the other person,” says Lebel.

– Fast Company, June 26

Your Guide to Analytics Patents

Analytics may be a young profession, but it is taking off, and its growth is evident in the rapid increase in analytics patents that have been granted by the U.S. Patent Office. As an analytics professional, you may find that patents play an important part in your life – the 40-plus patents that we co-invented at IBM were front and center for us.

Knowing the patenting process can be important for you and your company’s success, protecting your most valuable work. And if you want to learn about advanced analytics, the patent literature is an important source of information.

In a study we wrote with Troy White of Clarkson University that has just been published in the INFORMS journal Interfaces, we examined keywords relevant to descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics found in U.S. patents that were issued between 2002 and 2013.

– John Milne and Brian Denton in, June 24

Harnessing Big Data in Montreal

Andrea Lodi is holder of the new Canada Excellence Research Chair.

Imagine harnessing all the digital data out there – the zillions of Google searches and smart phone interactions – and then using the real-time information that has become so readily available to optimize services, solve problems and benefit society.

It wouldn’t just be cool – it would be revolutionary.

Well, it’s starting to happen, and a renowned data scientist who is coming to École Polytechnique de Montréal this fall is one of those spearheading the revolution.

[INFORMS member] Andrea Lodi, holder of the new Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in data science for real-time decision-making, hopes to use the $22 million he has been given to set up shop at Polytechnique to help make sense of the explosion of online data and convert it into knowledge that will help organizations and governments make opportune decisions.

– Montreal Gazette, July 7

Brands, Patents Protect Companies from Bankruptcy

If a firm faces troubled times during a stable market, strong advertising can carry it through. But when the market is turbulent, a firm’s research and development is more likely to help save it from bankruptcy. A new study published in the Articles in Advance section of Marketing Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), shows that “intangible assets” built with advertising (such as brands) and R&D (such as patents) can help protect firms from bankruptcy, but the effectiveness of each depends on the market climate.

The study, “The Impacts of Advertising Assets and R&D Assets on Reducing Bankruptcy Risk” by Niket Jindal of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Leigh McAlister of the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, is based on data from more than 1,000 firms covering three decades.

– Product Design & Development, June 19

How Job Stress Might be Killing You – and What You can do About It

Job stress is also tied to hypertension, obesity and even depression. Any one of these factors makes life more difficult and can even increase your risk of death. A study published in March in the journal Management Science looked at the effect of 10 sources of stress in the workplace and found that all of them contribute to increased healthcare spending among workers, and many to an increased risk of death. These workplace stressors, which have been linked to cardiovascular disease and poor mental health, are responsible for more deaths annually than diabetes, Alzheimer’s or the flu, according to the researchers.

– US News, June 15

His Legacy: The Nash Equilibrium

In 2009, a global pandemic of H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, broke out. Vaccines were in short supply, raising concerns that governments of wealthier countries would buy up so much of the supply that poorer countries would be left without enough. Using the Nash equilibrium and related concepts in game theory, researchers determined that under some conditions it would actually be in the wealthier countries’ best interest to give their vaccine supplies to countries that do not have enough. This can help prevent the spread of the epidemic, according to the paper published in Operations Research in 2009.

– Tech Times, May 27

The Bias Blind Spot

It has been well established that people have a “bias blind spot,” meaning that they are less likely to detect bias in themselves than others. However, how blind we are to our own actual degree of bias, and how many of us think we are less biased than others have been less clear.

Published in Management Science, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, the City University London, Boston University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, have developed a tool to measure the bias blind spot, and revealed that believing you are less biased than your peers has detrimental consequences on judgments and behaviors, such as accurately judging whether advice is useful.

– Carnegie Mellon University, June 8

Barry List ( is the associate director of communications for INFORMS.