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OR58 - Second UK OR Society Debate on Operational Research

This information below is also available to download as a PDF or a Word Document.

Instigator of this exciting debate session is Sanja Petrovic, Professor of Operational Research at Nottingham University Business School and Vice President of the UK OR Society. 

Sanja is also a Co-ordinator of the EURO, (European Association of Operational Research Societies) Working Group on Automated Timetabling (WATT) and has been a member of the EPSRC Peer Review College since 2003. She was also a guest co-editor for special issues of the European Journal of Operational Research (EJOR), Journal of Scheduling and Annals of Operations Research, is an Associate Editor of the IMA Journal of Management Mathematics and a member of the Editorial Board of the Yugoslav Journal of Operations Research - YUJOR.


Chairing the Debate this year will be Tony O’Connor CBE, Chair of Government OR Service (GORS)

Tony has 30 years’ experience of operational research in Government across Education, the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and since 2009, within the Department of Health’s Strategy Group working on various cross-cutting and longer-term challenges for the health and care sector.  Tony played a key central Government role as the Chief Analyst of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit between 2001 and 2008, where he improved the use of evidence at the heart of Government, working in particular on performance measurement across key public services and reporting to the then Prime Minister. More recently he is leading a project on the potential of big data and data analytics for the Department of Health and across Government.     
In addition, since April 2004 Tony has been the Head of the Government Operational Research Service (GORS), representing the interests of over 600 government operational research analysts across 20+ departments.   In 2007 he was awarded the CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his work promoting operational research across Government and his analytical contribution to the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit. In 2010 he was made an Operational Research Companion of Honour by the Operational Research Society.

The Future of OR is Analytics ?

Motivated by the 200 year long history of debating at the Cambridge Union Society and especially by the recent debate entitled ‘Religion Has No Place in the 21st Century’, in which debating teams were led by Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams, the Operational Research Society  is organising a series of debates to examine opposing ideas and policies within Operational Research teaching, research and applications. The aim of the debates is to open new perspectives on a wide variety of Operational Research ideas and concepts and to advance the Operational Research discipline as a whole. Depending on the topic of the debate, different and opposing ideas and concepts can be confronted.

What is the precise 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.

This year’s debate is provocatively entitled 'The future of OR is analytics’. Leading the debate are two people who, as Presidents of their respective societies, have taken diametrically-opposed positions on this topic. What are the differences between these two areas? Do we need both disciplines to address business requirements in the best possible way or could they be merged? Is there a need for Operational Research if Business Analytics is a rising star? Would it be detrimental to the Operational Research community to give up its name? Is the job market for these two disciplines different and does an Operational Researcher have different knowledge/skills from a Business Analyst?

This comprehensive debate will provoke thought and build understanding, not just of the relationship between Operational Research and Business Analytics, but also of strategies and tactics for the survival and spread of rational decision-making.

We will have two distinguished speakers.

Cathal Brugha is Emeritus Professor of Decision Analytics and Adjunct Professor at the  School of Business, University College Dublin (UCD). He is also President of the Analytics Society of Ireland since 1992. He has a BSc and MSc in Mathematical Science from UCD, an MBA from Trinity College Dublin, and a PhD in Combinatorial Optimisation from UCD.He was Director of the Centre for Business Analytics at UCD, and of the MSc in Business Analytics, which includes an applied component with companies in Ireland.Dr Brugha's main theoretical research is in Nomology, the “science of the laws of the mind”. The methods he has developed for solving decision problems in management are now being made available outside of the academic world for the first time through Brugha Consulting.


Stewart Robinson is Professor of Management Science at Loughborough University, where he is Dean of the School of Business and Economics. He is Immediate Past President of the O.R. Society. He holds an honours degree and also PhD in Management Science (Operational Research) both from Lancaster University. Stewart started his career as a business analyst for a shoe retailing company and then as a consultant with ISTEL (now Lanner Group). Then he moved to academia and worked with Aston Business School and Warwick Business School before joining Loughborough University. Stewart’s research focuses on simulation methods, mostly on discrete-event simulation, system dynamics and agent-based simulation.