Assessing threats and opportunities

By Barry List

To ensure that INFORMS is doing a good job foreseeing opportunities and identifying potential threats to the society long in advance, INFORMS President Stephen M. Robinson has asked the board of directors to begin examining five key strategic areas. He spoke, presented a report and led an accompanying planning session at the spring board meeting, which took place in Boston at the end of March during the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.

The areas that Robinson flagged as potential game changers were:

  1. A growing shift from American/European-centered to Asian-centered activities, the need for information exchange and networking that this shift creates and INFORMS’ potential role.
  2. Improving succession planning for key board posts.
  3. INFORMS’ staff pay structure and how it compares to other societies.
  4. Career paths for INFORMS volunteers and staff.
  5. Extremely low-cost communication devices and how the drop in the cost of communications can radically increase the use of O.R./analytics.

The INFORMS board began determining its response to these issues by considering major areas in which the board needs an organized process for looking forward; how INFORMS board, committees, volunteers and staff can cover these areas; how the board will obtain the information needed for this work; and how it will measure the effectiveness of new processes.

Impact of Open Access

Since public calls for open access (OA) to health-related research underwritten by government grants began affecting STEM publishers and associations, the INFORMS board and staff have been monitoring international developments and how mandates will affect INFORMS.

During the meeting INFORMS Publications Director Miranda Walker reviewed the changes that open access has brought to scholarly publishing and how INFORMS can set an OA policy that complies with governmental and university mandates and protects INFORMS’ major source of revenue.

OA, she said, comes in three basic options: green (immediate or delayed open access that is provided through self-archiving), gold (immediate open access that is provided by a publisher after a fee is paid by the author) and hybrid.

In February 2013, the INFORMS Board of Directors approved the creation of INFORMS Open Option (IOO), characterized as a hybrid gold model. Authors of an accepted manuscript who would like to take advantage of IOO are responsible for a one-time publication fee of $3,000. INFORMS also has a green option that allows authors to post papers on personal websites after publication and in most non-commercial repositories, with permission, 12 months after publication. INFORMS Transactions on Education is INFORMS’ only completely open-access journal.

INFORMS faces pressures shared by other STEM publishers. Mandates for making content freely available to the general public have been enacted by governments, large private funders and universities, with major funders carrying particular weight.

Association publishers like INFORMS, she said, are balancing the pressure to uphold the organizations’ missions while keeping their budgets in the black (revenue from INFORMS journals make up a sizable chunk of INFORMS’ annual income). The most popular new business model in scholarly publishing is the gold model because it helps scholarly publishers recoup the cost of publication while bringing in revenue to support other activities of the organization. The industry is still determining the model’s success.

An INFORMS board ad hoc committee, which may form to tackle the OA challenge, would need to consider the pros and cons of approaches to OA and present a policy that reflects the best interest of INFORMS members, authors and the future of its publications. It would determine whether to make all INFORMS papers open access and risk INFORMS’ key revenue source, make some papers open access or continue using INFORMS’ current model. Future board meetings will address these difficult problems.

Additional topics examined by the board were:

  • Publications: The board passed a motion naming Teck H. Ho of U.C. Berkeley as the new editor in chief of Management Science.
  • Membership: INFORMS membership reached a recent high of 11,000 in 2013. The administration set a challenge goal of raising membership to 12,000 in 2014.
  • Communities/Subdivisions: INFORMS subdivisions rolled out INFORMS’ equivalent of Doctors without Borders, named “INFORMS Cares.”

Barry List ( is the director of communications for INFORMS.