INFORMS News: Position statement - Brian Denton

“I have served as secretary of INFORMS for the past two terms, and I am optimistic about the future of INFORMS and the opportunity we have to increase its relevance to ourselves, as members, and to the public.”

Brain Denton

What would your life be like without INFORMS? Answers to this question will vary a lot, depending on your particular background. From my perspective, it would leave a void in my professional career. I have been a member since I was a graduate student in the 1990s. When I started my career as a practitioner at IBM, INFORMS became my professional home, providing important opportunities to develop professional contacts and stay on top of cutting-edge research and practice.

During my career as a practitioner and a professor, the INFORMS Annual Meeting has been a regular event that I attend every fall, and I would certainly miss the opportunity to participate in this event and to catch up with my friends and collaborators. I would also miss our smaller and more intimate meetings such as MSOM, the Optimization and Computing Society meetings, the Healthcare meeting and others I have participated in over the years, often receiving valuable feedback on my research. I would miss our publications as a reader and as an author. Finally, I would not have had as many opportunities to develop my leadership skills through conference organizing, committee service, serving as a subdivision officer and most recently serving as a board member and executive officer of INFORMS.

The above question encourages reflection on what INFORMS does for you as a member. Another, perhaps equally important question, is what does INFORMS do for the public? The recent analytics movement has created many new opportunities to define, and in some cases expand, our role in society as management scientists, operations researchers, decision scientists and the many other names we call ourselves. We may lack the perfect definition of what analytics is, but there are many benefits that come with the increased exposure we are getting. At universities, this means new opportunities to increase student enrollment and hire new colleagues. In industry, this means a heightened awareness of the critical role we can play in organizations. For consultants, this can mean more business opportunities and greater success at customer engagement.

Fortunately, INFORMS is in an excellent position to focus on the future. We set a new record for membership last year, and our funding reserve is at an all-time high. We have incredible staff members led by our Executive Director Melissa Moore. Many new endeavors are already underway including plans for new journals, new educational offerings, special topics conferences, analytics certification and others. If elected president, my first priority will be to focus on future strategic initiatives including the following:

  1. To enhance the process by which members can propose new initiatives. Priority would go to proposals that cross disciplines and/or are likely to provide value to multiple subdivisions. This recognizes that sometimes a committed team of members and a small amount of funding is all that is needed to bring new ideas to light.
  2. To create new member benefits that provide value through improvements to member services including online learning resources, a repository of teaching materials and an online platform for enabling sharing of datasets between practitioners and academics for research purposes.
  3. To implement new processes for increasing the diversity of member engagement in volunteer activities with the goal of having INFORMS leaders, past and present, mentor junior members to build their leadership skills for the future.

I have served as secretary of INFORMS for two terms, and I am optimistic about the future of INFORMS and the opportunity we have to increase its relevance to ourselves, as members, and to the public. I am familiar with the INFORMS strategic planning process, staff functions, operations and all of the major Board activities. The core values I would bring to this position are: 1) the support of subdivisions as a foundation of INFORMS and the home for many of our members; 2) the importance of fostering an environment where academics and practitioners can learn from each other; 3) strengthening support and bringing new ideas to our core functions, including our publications and meetings; and 4) building our reputation and our engagement with the public.

I am honored to be nominated for president of INFORMS. If elected I look forward to serving.

Brian Denton is an associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. Previously he has been an associate professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University, a senior associate consultant at the Mayo Clinic and a senior engineer at IBM.

He has served INFORMS in many roles, including as past chair of the INFORMS Health Applications Section, program chair for the INFORMS Annual Meeting and chair of the Franz Edelman Award Committee. Since 2012 he has served as secretary on the INFORMS Board of Directors.

His research interests are in optimization under uncertainty with applications to healthcare delivery and medical decision-making.

He completed his Ph.D. in management science at McMaster University, his M.Sc. in physics at York University and his B.Sc. in chemistry and physics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.