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New President Ruth Kaufman to receive OBE for services to O.R.

Monday, 4 Jan 2016 (revised date: Monday, 4 Jan 2016)
Rob Chidley

2016 could not have got off to a better start for The OR Society as we learned that our incoming president Ruth Kaufman will be awarded an OBE for services to Operational Research.

Ruth Kaufman OBE
When did you find out you were in line for this award?
Just a few weeks ago, a letter arrived out of the blue saying, in rather more flowery language, words to the effect of: ‘The Prime Minister proposes to recommend that The Queen approves your appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.’

How did you react? Given that I am a republican opposed to most of what this Prime Minister is doing, my first reaction was probably unprintable. My second reaction was ‘why me?’ Other people have done a lot more than I have. It took a while for me to realise that it is, literally, an honour that somebody out there thought it worth the effort of nominating me and pulling together all the supporting evidence. Once the news had sunk in, I realised that it’s not just gratifying for me personally, but also it will be really helpful in my push, as the new President of The OR Society, to increase the visibility and profile of OR.

What does ‘services to Operational Research’ mean? Good question! I don’t know exactly what they had in mind because, as the recipient, I don’t get to see the 10-page form that the nominator had to submit. But as head of an OR group in a government department, one-time chair of the Government OR Service, member of The OR Society Board for 7 years, and now OR Society President, I have persistently tried to do two things: to look internally, to improve the quality and effectiveness of OR practice and governance; and to look outwardly, to extend OR influence across professions or disciplines, across application areas, between OR commissioners and OR providers.

I’ve been involved with setting up Pro Bono OR, with building the ‘Making an Impact’ practitioner sessions at conferences, with raising the profile of OR in government, with representing OR at Executive Board level in a government department – every one of these has been a result of teamwork, but I’m very proud of my role within the team.

How did you get into OR? And what has kept you engaged with it as a discipline? I fell into OR accidentally, but it has kept me hooked. I studied maths at the University of Sussex’s cross-disciplinary school of social sciences and, not knowing what OR was, I looked for a job that would make use of both aspects of the degree. I found one that ticked all the boxes – as an OR analyst with London Transport. My work in OR has developed from doing the analysis to facilitating the analysis, to integrating it into strategy and change management. What keeps me in OR is the kick I get out of using analytical rigour and insight to make improvements happen.

"What keeps me in OR is the kick I get out of using analytical rigour and insight to make improvements happen."

This honour comes at the beginning of your time as President of The OR Society – what are your aims for the Society over the next two years? The OR Society is aiming to grow its reach, so that more and more people take an interest in its activities; to grow the visibility of OR and The OR Society; to promote the engagement of its members with each other and with the Society itself; to grow the “people pipeline”; and to nurture OR research. I want to focus on making this all happen: building on our recent successes – the growing analytics network, the launch of Impact magazine, the influx of student members, the Pro Bono initiative – in the context of the boom in demand for OR skills. There are a whole lot of opportunities out there, and I want to seize them.


Ruth tweets at @ruth_kaufman



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