O.R. mindset magi

Peter Horner, editor

I first met Ed Kaplan nearly 25 years ago, at an INFORMS Conference when he was part of a team representing the New Haven (Conn.) Health Department that had just won the 1992 Franz Edelman Award for outstanding achievement in applied operations research and management science. As the fairly new editor of OR/MS Today, I wanted to congratulate Ed as the lead “O.R. guy” on the prize-winning team and perhaps get a few quotes for an article in the magazine.

I liked him immediately for his obvious passion for his work, for his interest in making the world a better place through operations research, for his ability to explain complex mathematical modeling so even a non-O.R. guy such as myself could understand and appreciate it, and for his sense of humor.

Several INFORMS’ “elders” (technically, it was ORSA and TIMS back then; the two organizations merged to create INFORMS in 1995) advised me that Ed was a young O.R. star on the rise, someone I should keep an eye on. So I did.

Of course, you couldn’t help but keep an eye on Ed. Every time I turned around, he seemed to be turning up in the mainstream media for his data-based research on vital public policy issues that covered everything from HIV and AIDS prevention to homeland security to anti-terrorism. Along the way, he received practically every award INFORMS had to offer, as well as other honors and accolades from numerous organizations, universities and governments around the world.

Over the years, Ed and I have exchanged countless emails and phone calls on various topics, and he’s contributed many, many news items, articles and story ideas to OR/MS Today, for which I can’t thank him enough. Of course, it’s always a pleasure to see Ed at INFORMS conferences, and he always seems to have some interesting project he’s working on. What I admire most about Ed is his uncanny ability to see the chaotic world we all live in from his self-described “O.R. mindset” and to somehow not just make sense of it, but to recognize, structure and solve O.R. problems amongst the madness to make the world a little more safe, more efficient, more livable and more enjoyable, one project at a time.

At the most recent INFORMS Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Ed and I sat down again to chat, only this time I recorded the conversation for a Q&A in this issue of OR/MS Today (see page 36). Ed, the president-elect of INFORMS, will become president of INFORMS on Jan. 1, 2016, and I wanted to get his take on a wide range of topics, including the state of the Institute from his viewpoint. We were supposed to talk for 45 minutes, but we went twice that long. Engaging, entertaining and enthusiastic, once Ed starts talking about operations research and INFORMS, there’s no stopping him (at least until the next appointment he had on his incredibly busy conference schedule).

I couldn’t include in the published Q&A half of the ground we traversed in Philadelphia, but I think you, the INFORMS membership, will get a good glimpse into the “Member in Chief” (long story) who will lead the Institute for the next year.