The state of INFORMS
The start of a new year is often a time of assessment and review as accomplishments of the prior year are noted and plans for the upcoming year are put into place. With this first column as president of INFORMS, I present an overview of the current state of INFORMS. This snapshot provides a broad view of the recent past and is strong input for the initiatives of 2012.
INFORMS exists “to lead in the development, dissemination and implementation of knowledge, basic and applied research and technologies in operations research, the management sciences, and related methods of improving operational processes, decision-making, and management.” This leads naturally into the three large areas of activities within INFORMS, which are: 1) membership and communities, 2) meetings and 3) publications. Here is a quick look at each of these.
Membership and Communities
INFORMS membership had been in a slight decline for more than 10 years. However, in 2011, coincident with the rebranding of the spring meeting around the topic of “analytics” and the establishment of an analytics section, membership has rebounded with a 7 percent increase. Also important: the renewal of memberships is up.
Communities (sections, societies, chapters and fora) provide a critical point of connection to INFORMS. Members who are engaged through these groups tend to be more likely to renew membership and are generally more satisfied with their membership. Community involvement has held steady over the recent past. It is a core strength of INFORMS to bring individuals together in these various groups. Our goal is to see even more individuals become involved in some part of the INFORMS community.
INFORMS holds a variety of meetings beyond the annual meeting in the fall and the spring, practice-focused, meeting. These include meetings held by societies, meetings focused on topical areas, regional meetings, international meetings and others.
Attendance at INFORMS meetings is trending up. This is especially true of the fall meeting, where we have seen attendance records in recent years. The health of INFORMS meetings is good, and there are additional opportunities for smaller, topical/regional meetings to further serve members and our mission to disseminate knowledge, research and technologies.
INFORMS publications remain very strong, with many of our journals being the top outlets in their areas. We currently publish 13 journals (Decision Analysis, Information Systems Research, INFORMS Journal on Computing, Interfaces, Management Science, Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, Marketing Science, Mathematics of Operations Research, Operations Research, Organization Science, Service Science, Transportation Science and INFORMS Transactions on Education (an online-only journal). Service Science is INFORMS newest journal as it recently transitioned to an INFORMS publication in January 2012.
Additionally, we have a number of other publications, such as OR/MS Today, Analytics magazine and TutORials in Operations Research, as well as Edelman and Wagner Prize videos and others.
Publications provide a large portion of INFORMS net revenue and also serve a critical role in disseminating new ideas and supporting the research efforts of our academic members. Institutional subscriptions (as opposed to individual subscriptions) form the bulk of “pubs” revenue. While we currently enjoy a position of strength in pubs, we face two long-term challenges. Due to financial pressures, university libraries are tending to reduce subscriptions. Second, while not currently a significant impact, growth of the “open access” movement could affect our subscription revenue in 5-10 years.
Opportunities and Challenges
For the upcoming year, the INFORMS Board will continue its focus on strategic planning. We will be investing time and money in furthering our efforts in analytics, especially in certification and continuing education. We will be considering the long-term implications of different revenue models and delivery mechanisms for publications. We will also be focused on the use of social media to enhance member services in a variety of ways.
INFORMS is fortunate to have a staff with deep experience and skills. They have contributed greatly to our past and recent success. The membership of INFORMS provides the matching, necessary, critical element. I have asked the INFORMS staff to think entrepreneurially for improvements, small and large, in all areas. I am asking the same of you. Please consider how we can improve INFORMS – our communities, our meetings, our publications. If you have something to share, please forward it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.