Previous Beale Lectures - Beale Lecture 2016
This open event took place on Thursday 25th February 2016 and began with a short talk from our 2013 PhD winner, Tom Lidbetter, followed by a talk from our main speaker and 2014 Beale Medal Award winner, Robert Fildes.
Title: Research in practice.
Beale Medal Winner 2014 - Prof. Robert Fildes
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”. Multiple attributions including Einstein and Yogi Berra.
My early academic life was rooted in mathematics. But by a series of chances I found that practice whether it is in a field or an organisation differs substantially from what modellers typically study. This presentation will briefly examine the roots of OR and how it has developed with an increasing gap between theory and practice. But why is such a gap important for the profession? Working with John Ranyard and sponsored by the OR society in the 1990s and IFORS ten years later, we have investigated the state of OR in practice. The primary techniques and application areas of OR practitioners have changed little. However, OR and its boundaries are increasingly disputed and OR is yet again at risk of being side-lined in practice. The talk ends with a discussion of the role and responsibilities of the academy with particular reference to my specialist research area of business forecasting. Despite being a key applications area with its origins in operations organisations continue to use methods that have long been shown to be inefficient. The key is through improved ‘knowledge exchange’. Taking an optimistic view, research focused on understanding the real problems organisations face coupled with a training and development programme can help overcome the gap between theory and practice.
Robert Fildes is Distinguished Professor of Management Science in the School of Management, Lancaster University and Director of the Lancaster Centre for Forecasting. He was co-founder in 1981 of the International Institute of Forecasters and in l985 of the International Journal of Forecasting. He has also recently published on the validation of climate models. His current research interests are concerned with the comparative evaluation of different forecasting methods and the implementation of improved forecasting procedures and systems. His major concern is that despite all the research organisations still stay with old-fashioned systems and methods and do not validate their forecasts. The solution, he thinks, is better designed forecasting systems, better trained forecasters and even more optimistically, more discriminating consumers.
Title: Mining coal or finding terrorists: the expanding search paradigm.
PhD Winner 2013 – Mr Tom Lidbetter
For ‘The Most Distinguished Body of Research leading to the Award of a Doctorate in the field of O.R.’
We show how to optimise the search for a hidden object, terrorist, or simply Hider, located on a rooted network according to a known or unknown probability distribution. We modify the traditional model of searching using a path on the network to a new notion of “expanding search”, where arcs are chosen in a contiguous manner so that the area that has been searched is an expanding subset of the network. This has a natural interpretation in terms of mining along coal seams, where the area that has been mined expands over time. It also has in interpretation relating to multiple agent search. In the case of a known hiding distribution, we solve the problem of finding the search of least expected time on tree networks. In the case of an unknown hiding distribution, we model the problem as a zero-sum game between a time minimising Searcher and a malicious Hider. We solve the game, finding optimal strategies on various classes of networks and give an approximate solution for general networks. We also consider a variation of the game in which several hidden objects must all be found. For star networks, this game can be considered as the search for k balls hidden in m boxes, and we give a neat and rather surprising solution to the game.
Thomas Lidbetter was born in London but grew up in the south-west of England. He studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate, staying on to take the Master’s degree known as “Part III Mathematics”. He then went to the London School of Economics (LSE) to study for a masters in operational research before spending two years working as an operational research analyst for the Home Office. Finally he settled on an academic career, completing a PhD in the Department of Mathematics at the LSE, supervised by Prof Steve Alpern. Thomas’s main area of research lies in the theory of search games: the application of game theory to searching and hiding problems. He now works as an LSE Fellow in the Department of Mathematics at the LSE, currently teaching game theory, search games and graph theory.