Air crash risk, medical, outsourcing

The INFORMS archive of podcasts continues to offer provocative conversation with leading O.R. practitioners and thinkers. It includes recent interviews about Wall Street financial engineers with Scott Patterson, author of “The Quants,” and Maurice Levi, whose joint research on physiology and business pointed to the negative ways that high testosterone executives influence mergers and acquisitions. Visit www.scienceofbetter.org and www.informs.org to download the latest selections.

Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science (DBIS), the joint program developed with funding from the National Science Foundation, continues to offer INFORMS members the chance to bring their research to the television and computer screen. The newest INFORMS contribution was a Yale Management School project that made physicians’ offices more efficient. Visit the INFORMS Newsroom at www.informs.org and follow the easy steps to explaining your work to DBIS editors.

Remember to share your news-making research with the INFORMS Communications Department.

And now the news:

Air crash risk 13 times as high in Third World

“Travelers are often reminded that planes are safer than cars and bathtubs. The risk of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 3 million worldwide, compared with an automobile accident (1 in 6,700) and a tub drowning (1 in 840,000). Feel better? Well, you should – but you also shouldn’t.
“According to a new study by Arnold Barnett, a professor of operations research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the risk of air travel is greater in developing countries than in fully developed ones.”

Washington Post, Sept. 3

Electronic medical record adoption is contagious

“Persuading influential medical centers to adopt EMRs helps speed adoption by their neighboring hospitals, according to the August issue of Management Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

“Corey M. Angst, Ph.D., of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and colleagues, sought to understand what mechanisms influence the swift and successful diffusion of technological innovations at hospitals.

“The researchers used a social contagion model, which acknowledges the mutual influence among organizations within an institutional field and implicates information transmission through direct contact and observation as the mechanisms that underlie the transfer of influence.”

CMIO, Aug. 17

Analytics replaces intuition

“To quote Steve LaValle from an IBM Global Business Services Executive Report, ‘in top-performing organizations, analytics have replaced intuition as the best way to answer questions about what markets to pursue, how to configure and price offerings, and how to identify where operations can be made more efficient in response to cost and environmental constraints ...’

“One highlight of the day for me was [former INFORMS president] Brenda Dietrich (IBM Fellow and VP, Business Analytics and Mathematical Science, Research Scientist: Math Science). It is good to be reassured that there is genuine intellectual capital behind analytics and optimization, and Dietrich is a genuine Operations Research expert and rallied to any questions exceedingly well. She also highlighted the fact that if this stuff has areas still to address, they probably lie in the behavioral areas, around incentives and personality issues, where scenario visualizations have a big part to play. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of analytics research today is into the automation of the process of asking the right questions — which is the hard part of analytics in practice.”

– David Norfolk, IT Analysis, Aug. 16

Outsourcing may lead to failure in tough times ... and even in good

“In tough economic times, many companies slash staff and turn to outsourcing, yet that strategy may doom their products, And, in good times, as with Toyota, losing control over critical components can contribute to failure, according to a study led by Lyda Bigelow, business-strategy professor in the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.

“Her team found that companies were more likely to fail when they outsourced components critical to their competitive position...

“This study on the importance of vertical integration – or the in-house manufacture of products – appears in the August issue of the journal Organizational Science.”

Reliable Plant, Aug. 4

O.R. to improve food delivery on a hungry planet

“A main point of the book [‘A Plundered Planet’] is that global food production must increase more rapidly than in recent decades. This increase in production will keep prices down and affordable to the masses. The authors believe that this feat could be accomplished by changing regulations, organizational structures and technological innovation.

“Another possibility is by utilizing Operations Research techniques to maximize food distribution and minimize waste through linear programming algorithms and systems. In addition, we have artificial intelligence systems to aggregate the advice of food experts so that common knowledge can be catalogued on an expert system by the knowledge engineer.”

Basil and Spice, July 26