Member involvement – INFORMS’ key resource

INFORMS President

Terry Harrison

President Terry Harrison

Over the past year, I have written on the strategic direction of INFORMS and the structure of our publications, meetings and communities. Collectively, these describe the workings of our society. This message has a more personal focus.

INFORMS has a staff of full-time employees who do a superb job of managing and executing the activities across all of these areas. However, by far the work of INFORMS is performed by volunteers. Without our volunteer workforce, INFORMS simply would not exist.

The focus of my message is this: invest some time with INFORMS and you will not regret it.

INFORMS is roughly divided into two kinds of members, academic and practitioner, and the needs and interests of these groups are clearly quite different. Academics primarily look to INFORMS to provide high-quality outlets for research, for a forum to present and discuss research and teaching, and an opportunity to affiliate with others of similar interests. Practitioners have the same needs for affiliation with others of like kind, for access to research that has an impact on practice, for a means to keep up with developments in the profession, and in the near future, for a certification process for professional skills. Both groups benefit from recognition and awards.

All of these activities need INFORMS members at all stages of their careers. The journals require an enormous amount of volunteer effort for high-quality reviews and for submissions. INFORMS provides an organizational structure for this process, but it is volunteer effort that leads to the value and impact of our journals. If you are not engaged with our publications, consider volunteering to serve as a referee and send your best work to our journals. As a former editor-in-chief, I never had difficulty finding an opportunity for a referee who provided timely, thoughtful, thorough and competent reviews.

Meetings are another large part of what INFORMS offers. It takes a huge collective effort to organize and execute a meeting. Our recent 2012 annual meeting is a great example. The planning process started years before the meeting, and the content and execution of the conference required hundreds of individuals. Feedback from attendees provides an important way to improve. Serving on the committee of local, chapter, community-based or annual meetings is a service that is invaluable – to both INFORMS and the individual.

INFORMS communities are another excellent way to connect professionally. Local chapters are geographically based. Some communities are organized along professional interests; others are INFORMS-wide and engage in a variety of activities. All of these provide an opportunity to connect with other professionals, to learn something new, to contribute to our common welfare and to be recognized for your efforts.

What is the personal value of involvement with INFORMS? First, it widens your network of professional connections. This has value to every member. It also exposes you to new ideas and, often, an opportunity to collaborate with others. It also provides a sense of community and satisfaction to contribute to our common interests and good. On a personal note, my INFORMS connections are among my most valued professional experiences. I have never regretted helping out with a need and almost without exception, I measure the payback well in excess of my effort.

I hope I have convinced you to think seriously about how you might further connect with INFORMS activities. So how does one go about this? For those of you who have a local chapter (either at a university or otherwise), that is a great place to start. The INFORMS Web site has contact information. If you don’t have a local chapter, consider helping to organize one.
For our journals, contact an editor with an offer to referee. Make clear your interests and background and follow through with timely, high-quality work.

For meetings, contact individuals on existing meetings committees and make known your availability. If you are willing to serve where needed, opportunities are plentiful.

Lastly, if none of these options are a good match, please contact me at Ultimately, we would like to find a place for everyone who wishes to be more involved. The value to you and to INFORMS is high. Make the investment – the return is high.