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OR56 - Debate Session

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Thursday 11 September 2014

Is good enough good enough?

We are very pleased to announce the inclusion of our first debate session held at an OR Society annual conference.  The debate has been organised and will be chaired by Sanja Petrovic, Vice President of the OR Society and Professor of Operational Research at Nottingham University.

Motivated by the long history of debating at the Cambridge Union Society, and especially by the recent one entitled ‘Religion Has no Place in the 21st Century’ in which debating teams were led by Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams, the OR Society are considering a series of debates to examine opposing ideas and policies within Operational Research teaching, research and applications.

The aim of debates is not to confront different and opposing ideas and concepts, but to open new perspectives on a wide variety of O.R. ideas and concepts, and to advance the discipline as a whole.

What is precisely the meaning of debate and debating? Debate is defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote’. The Cambridge Union Society defines debating as ‘a fun activity akin to a game in which we examine ideas and policies with the aim of persuading people within an organised structure. It allows us to consider the world around us by thinking about different arguments, engaging with opposing views and speaking strategically.

The first debate is entitled Is good enough good enough? The aim of this debate is to discuss Optimising versus Satisfying approaches to optimisation problems that are at the core of O.R. The idea of optimisation is in foundations of O.R. and prevails in a variety of O.R. teaching topics and applications. This has lasted for several decades up to the recent days. However, an impression has emerged that in many applications good enough solutions are closer to the reality than ‘pure’ optimal solutions. It seems that an acute and

comprehensive debate would contribute considerably to enlighten optimising and satisfying.

We will have two speakers:
Jacek Gondzio is Professor  in the School of Mathematics, Edinburgh University. His research interests include the theory and implementation of algorithms for very large-scale optimisation. He is best known for his contributions in the area of interior point methods. His joint work with Andreas Grothey led to a development of the Object Oriented Parallel Solver (OOPS) which was applied in 2005 to solve a financial planning problem with more than a billion decision variables.

Prof Gondzio is an Editor of three leading optimization journals: Computational Optimization and Applications, Mathematical Programming Computation and Optimization Methods and Software.

Konstantinos Katsikopoulos is a senior researcher and associate professor at the Centre for Adaptive Behaviour and Cognition of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. He holds a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has been a visiting assistant professor of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He works on understanding how people reason and make judgments and decisions, and on applying this understanding in order to improve human performance.
‘Taking uncertainty seriously: Simplicity versus complexity in financial regulation’, and ‘The robust beauty of ordinary information’ are some of the titles of his publications.

For more details please contact hilary.wilkes@theorsociety.com in the first instance.