President’s Desk

INFORMS goes to Washington: Policy Days and advocacy

Nicholas G. Hall
INFORMS President

Nicholas G. Hall

Everything INFORMS does is motivated and advised by our four strategic goals:

  • INFORMS will identify, recognize and promote the work of our members to show the value their science and practice brings to society.
  • Decision-makers will have access to, and use, innovative technologies and methodologies to transform visions, tasks or responsibilities into better choices, services and products to achieve better outcomes.
  • Organizations will identify operations research and analytics as core components of success and institutionalize operations research and analytics input as part of their decision-making processes.
  • Operations research and analytics will advance society and make the world a better place.

Within the context provided by these goals, INFORMS now finds itself in a uniquely positive situation. Whether measured by our best-ever financial position, close to record membership numbers or remarkable research impact, INFORMS has never been stronger. This is due in large part to the outstanding leadership of my predecessors as president and as Board members, as well as our headquarters staff. As a result, INFORMS is now able to move beyond day-to-day constraints and issues, and focus on larger, more strategic initiatives. For 2018, these initiatives are visibility and awareness.


Visibility refers to a three-year (2018-2020) program of live “Policy Day” events to be held in Washington, D.C., for policymakers and senior administrative staffs. The 2018 Policy Day event is being managed by a committee chaired by Laura Albert, and includes Jeff Cohen, Brian Denton, Ramayya Krishnan, Melissa Moore and myself. In planning this event and identifying the right topics, speakers, audience and venue, we are fortunate to have the guidance of Signal Group, a leading consulting and lobbying firm in Washington. The objectives of the Policy Day event are as follows:

  • Increase awareness of how O.R. and analytics can be used in policy-making and solving major societal problems.
  • Increase awareness of how O.R. and analytics can be used within the federal government.
  • Attract well-positioned congressional and agency staff.
  • Attract domain-relevant directors and advisory board members from government agencies (e.g., NSF, NIH, DOE, DOE).
  • Increase requests for INFORMS experts to assist in problem-solving.
  • Involve INFORMS members, for example potentially live streaming the Policy Day, archiving presentations on YouTube, developing a website on INFORMS Connect and publishing an OR/MS Today article after the event.
  • Increase engagement with INFORMS members who are senior officials at government agencies.

We are identifying topics that are of greatest importance to policymakers and where O.R. and analytics can provide value in the form of improved solutions, as well as examining various possible formats for the Policy Day event. The overall message we will leave behind at the end of the Policy Day is: “Operations research and analytics have unique and effective impact and value in solving problems of national and international importance.” We are optimistic about the impact of this event, and we will also learn from it to improve those that will follow.


Awareness refers to an ongoing program of advocacy to policymakers about the relevance and expertise of O.R. and analytics, INFORMS and our members. Awareness is a multiple-year initiative with a strong, self-learning process, and again with the guidance of Signal Group. INFORMS’ strategic advocacy plan consists of three integrated elements:

Congressional advocacy: The purpose of congressional advocacy is to build awareness, interest, relationships and support for the value proposition of O.R. and analytics among policymakers. The advocacy plan will include meetings on Capitol Hill and with members outside of D.C., and with local press to promote O.R. and analytics work within specific congressional districts or states. We will initially focus on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which make authorizations to NSF. We also intend to utilize other congressional organizations that we believe will be interested in our message. For example, the “Problem Solvers’ Caucus” within the House of Representatives is a bipartisan group of 40 lawmakers, about equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, who are looking for pragmatic non-partisan ways to help Washington work better – a seemingly perfect place to talk about O.R. and analytics in public policy!

Administration advocacy: Beyond Capitol Hill, spreading the word to federal agencies about the impact of operations research and analytics is an important component of building allies and advocates for INFORMS. We will work with Signal Group to determine a path for engaging with senior career officials in targeted agencies. Also, we will leverage the combined expertise of our members who have direct experience with various agencies.

Indirect advocacy: We will develop an outreach strategy that focuses specifically on federal public policy media. This will include developing and placing story ideas and op-eds, and conducting in-person briefings with key editors. INFORMS will develop a high-level brochure that will have effective skim-and-pass-along value among policy peers, along with a white paper that offers more detailed but nontechnical information about the impact and value of O.R. and analytics.

We welcome the involvement and support of members in these ambitious initiatives. If you are interested in helping us with information, content development, introductions, comments or suggestions, please contact me at I look forward to hearing from you.