INSIDE STORY

And the survey says …

A few months ago, INFORMS conducted a member survey of OR/MS Today to gauge readership habits and how the membership views the magazine in terms of its value and content, topics the membership would like to see covered more often, a theoretical merger of OR/MS Today with INFORMS’ outreach magazine Analytics, along with other issues related to the respective publications. I want to personally thank the 641 INFORMS members who participated in the survey and provided feedback that will help guide our editorial direction as we move forward.

As the editor of OR/MS Today for more than two decades, and given the membership’s diverse and on occasion conflicting research and professional interests, it is a constant challenge to come up with editorial content that meets every reader’s demand for value and relevance. Knowing that, my approach has been to publish columns and features on a wide range of topics, so that every reader will find at least one article (and hopefully several) of interest in every issue … and then let the reader pick and choose what to read.

The strategy must be working because more than 75 percent of survey respondents rated OR/MS Today “Outstanding” or “above average,” and 97 percent rated their subscription to OR/MS Today as a benefit of INFORMS membership as “valuable” to one degree or another. Given the diversity, complexity and critical nature (from a scientific perspective) of the audience, we consider this high praise indeed.

When asked what general topics they would like to see covered more, readers answered “OK as is” by far the most often (23 percent), followed by “case studies/applications/implementation issues” (13 percent), “real-world/practice of O.R.” (8 percent), “big data” (6 percent) and “surveys/trends” (5 percent). At least 30 other topics were mentioned, but none of them received more than 10 votes, again pointing out the incredible diversity of interests among the INFORMS membership.

It was a similar story when readers were asked what industries or applications areas they would like to see covered more often in OR/MS Today. Again, “OK as is” led the pack (18 percent of respondents), followed by “energy/environment” (8 percent), “healthcare” (8 percent), “public policy” (7 percent), “transportation” (6 percent), “manufacturing” (5 percent) and “finance/banking” (5 percent). No other industry or area received more than 10 votes, although many industries and application areas were mentioned by a handful of members.

Analytics magazine (which I also edit on behalf of INFORMS) is an online, bimonthly publication similar to OR/MS Today but aimed at nonmembers of INFORMS as part of the Institute’s outreach efforts. Given their similarities, the survey asked INFORMS members if they would be in favor of a merged magazine that combines elements of OR/MS Today and Analytics into a single magazine delivered monthly instead of separate titles published bi-monthly. Nearly half (49.8 percent) of INFORMS member respondents replied “yes,” another 31.7 percent answered “maybe,” and 18.5 percent answered “no.” The question generated considerable comments, pro and con, and my guess is no merger will occur in the near future as INFORMS balances its position and goals in the analytics space with its historic constituency and roots in operations research and the management sciences.

In the meantime, enjoy the editorial diversity in this issue of OR/MS Today, ranging from lightening quick F1 pits stops (page 16), to political analytics (page 26) to a survey of decision analysis software (page 38).

— Peter Horner, editorpeter.horner@mail.informs.org