INFORMS IN THE NEWS

Funding Ebola fight, delivering the goods

Compiled by Barry List Barry.List@informs.org

INFORMS podcasts continue to offer provocative conversation with leading analytics/O.R. practitioners and thinkers. The latest podcasts include journalist Adam Tanner on consumer concerns about privacy in the new information age, SAS’s Jared Dean on Big Data and value creation, Jay Ulfelder on new capabilities to forecast acts of genocide, and a look at why analytics projects fail with Haluk Demirkan of the University of Washington Tacoma and Bulent Dal. Visit INFORMS Today at www.informs.org to download the latest selections.

Visit the INFORMS Newsroom at https://www.informs.org/About-INFORMS/News-Room for news about analytics and INFORMS press releases. Remember to share your news-making research with the INFORMS Communications Department. Contact INFORMS Communications Director Barry List at barry.list@informs.org or 1-800-4INFORMs.
And now, excerpts from INFORMS (and O.R. and analytics) in the news:

Needed: Funding for O.R. to Fight Ebola

“Operations research to improve public health and medical responses in the humanitarian sector is a much needed field that needs to be expanded and better funded. The R2HC grant mechanism is one of the few that exist that enables such research that could have direct effects upon millions,” says [Carrie Teicher, a surgical epidemiologist working for medical charity Doctors without Borders].

It is unclear how much of the $10.5 million R2HC will be made available for the emergency Ebola research.

- SciDevNet, Aug. 9

UPS Big Data System That Boggles the Mind

A UPS driver typically makes between 120 and 175 “drops” per day.

A UPS driver typically makes between 120 and 175 “drops” per day.

The number of possible routes that a UPS driver could take on any given day is enormous.

Strike that – the number of possible routes that a UPS driver could take on any given day defies comprehension. That’s not an exaggeration.

A driver for the delivery company typically makes between 120 and 175 “drops” per day. Between any two of those, there are a number of available paths to take. It is, of course, in the best interest of the driver and UPS to find the most efficient route. And that is where things get complicated.

According to UPS, the number to describe the complete set of possibilities in the scenario outlined above, as calculated using combinatorial mathematics, would have 199 digits. The number of possible options would exceed the number of nanoseconds that the Earth has existed.

“It’s huge – unimaginably large,” said Jack Levis, the company’s senior director of process management. “This is as high as you can get in analytics.”

Fortune, July 25

How Narrow Defeats Mess with our Heads

What should you do when you narrowly fail to achieve an important goal? Humans have a tendency to want to do something to attempt to fix what went wrong, but the harsh fact of the matter is that sometimes you simply get unlucky. In cases like these, it might be better not to radically adjust your strategy, because good strategy and good outcomes aren’t always as tightly connected as we might like them to be.

Mind games: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich reacts to a call.

Mind games: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich reacts to a call.

A new paper in Management Science highlights our tendency to overreact to narrow losses that may be beyond our control by examining a very specialized profession: NBA coaching.

The paper focuses on a phenomenon called outcome bias – the tendency to pay too much attention to whether or not a given action worked, even when the outcome may not have gone our way for reasons beyond our control. “One can easily misinterpret a favorable outcome as justification for a given strategy, overriding more subtle evidence to the contrary,” the researchers write.

New York Magazine, July 23

Barry List (barry.list@informs.org) is the INFORMS communications director.