INFORMS News: Call for submissions: 2012 INFORMS Impact Prize

By Tim Huh and Geert-Jan van Houtum

The question of impact cannot escape the O.R. profession, since we bring to the forefront all different types of analytics for the purpose of enabling better designs and better decision-making. While we have been successful in the past, we continue to look forward to more opportunities for impact ranging from network design to smart urban logistics, from sustainable supply chains to secure operations, from efficient response to emergencies to good health care without excessive cost, and so on. We can address some of the problems in our society as operations research is in the business of doing more with the same, or even less, resources.

One of the ways INFORMS recognizes contributions having positive impact is through the eponymous INFORMS Impact Prize. The prize is intended to highlight a tool, methodology or concept that has had wide-ranging impact on practice and society, with a very broad scope. It could be a certain modeling framework or technique that can be used in an extensive range of applications. It could be a software tool that enables managers to access the benefits of operations research. Or it could be key concepts that have been effective in communicating and mobilizing changes in business operations. The prize is given to those who originate new ideas, those who play significant roles in bringing the ideas to application or a combination of both.

There are other similar INFORMS awards for contributions having positive practical effects. The Franz Edelman Award recognizes excellence in a single application of management science and operations research in practice, with verifiable and quantifiable impact. The INFORMS Prize (not to be confused with the Impact Prize) is geared toward industry champions ushering in effective implementation of operation research to a particular organization’s decision-making process. In contrast, the Impact Prize honors ideas or tools that are widely used and broadly applicable.

The Impact Prize has been awarded once every two years since 2004. In its initial year, it was given to Bob Bixby, Janet Lowe and Paul Green for the work that has led to CPLEX, and for the dissemination of this technique through papers, books and commercial software packages. In 2006, the prize was given to Abraham Charnes and William W. Cooper for their work on data envelopment analysis (DEA), which is widely used in practice by manufacturing firms, hospitals, schools and investment portfolio managers, among others. In 2008, Thomas L. Saaty was recognized for the analytic hierarchy process (AHP), a methodological paradigm for assisting managers to make multi-criteria decisions, which has thousands of applications in the public and private sectors.

In 2010, two prizes were awarded. One went to Fred Glover, a pioneer of the field of metaheuristics, who introduced scatter search (1977) and tabu search (1987). Many researchers have used these ideas, or elements of those techniques, to develop new heuristics, and all these metaheuristics work well for a wide variety of problems in network design, transportation management and computational biology. Glover also popularized metaheuristics by the writing of a textbook, the founding of the Journal of Heuristics and the development of the OptQuest software package.

The other Impact Prize in 2010 was awarded to Daniel Fylstra, Leon Lasdon, Edwin Straver, Allan Waren and John Watson for all their work that resulted in Solver. Solver is an optimization engine in which many different techniques have been combined to solve linear and nonlinear models. It is part of Microsoft Excel (since the 3.0 version from 1990!) and several other spreadsheet programs. As we know, many problems in the world are solved via spreadsheet programs, and thus many of them rely on the “Solver inside.”

Can you think of other examples of contributions that have made a broad impact on the O.R. field? The competition for the 2012 INFORMS Impact Prize is now open. The Impact Prize committee is accepting nominations in a two-phase submission process. For the first phase, applicants are asked to submit a brief (500-800 words) nomination identifying the potential recipient(s) along with a brief summary of their contribution and its impact. This is due on April 30. The nomination has to be submitted to Geert-Jan van Houtum ( Promising entries will then be invited to submit a complete nomination containing additional supporting information, with the second deadline of June 30. Nominees who do not receive the award this year will be retained for future consideration.

If you have any questions, contact any of the members of the Impact Prize committee: Geert-Jan van Houtum (chair), Srinivas Bollapragada, Michael Fry, Nagi Gabraeel and Tim Huh. The committee members look forward to your submission.