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North Eastern OR Group/ANNE- Join in!

Welcome to the North Eastern OR Society pages on which we’ll be posting comments, information, news of our events and activities, reports of meetings and other interesting features.

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Recent Blog Posts

Tuesday, 19 Jun 2018
Hope Meadows

Following a successful jaunt down to Darlington in February, Analyst Network North East (ANNE) made a storming return back to Newcastle for its June event.  The bright and modern Urban Sciences Building of Newcastle University provided the setting, with more than 70 delegates in attendance representing over 20 different organisations. The event certainly proved to be an ANNE Summer Spectacular!

After a few minutes to admire the stunning atrium and peruse stands from our sponsor, the OR Society, as well as from our friends at LARIA NE (thanks for the cookies!) and the RSS, Aleks Bobrowska kicked off the event with a quick update on ANNE’s growing network.  Membership is now up above 200. There are links to over 30 organisations spread across the public, private and academic sectors and our social media presence continues to expand.  It seems safe to say that ANNE is in fine fettle as it continues to grow and provide networking opportunities for analysts across the region.

 The first talk was given jointly by Newcastle University academics Jennine Jonczyk and Luke Smith, who introduced us to the Urban Observatory.  We learnt that Newcastle is now bristling with over 600 sensors, measuring 58 variables to allow researchers to understand better how the city ticks.  This allows the Urban Observatory to monitor a wide range of environmental indicators from air quality, to water quality, biodiversity and traffic. All of the data is freely available - so there are plenty of opportunities there to get involved! (Oh, and just in case you’re worried about Big Brother, we were assured that humans are reduced to nothing more than anonymous faceless rectangles.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure that is less worrying…)

 Next up, Nadine Morrisroe from the NHS Business Services Authority spoke about an award winning data lab tasked with saving the NHS over one billion pounds.  The lab tackles some hugely impactful issues - such as ensuring that antibiotics are prescribed sensibly to avoid contributing unnecessarily to the emergence of “super-bugs” and how to identify fraud.  We also heard about the NHS’s quest to minimise waste by switching to mostly e-prescriptions.  Nadine showed us how analysis can identify which business areas need targeting to achieve this aim and how text analytics are being used to measure people’s satisfaction with prepaid prescription services.

 Following the first session’s talks, we split into small groups for a networking session.   Within each group, attendees were encouraged to have a five-minute chat with someone they hadn’t met before and then rotate around at the sound of a bell.  Many interesting discussions ensued, many of which spilled over into the coffee break – surely a good sign of connections being forged!

 After refreshments, Colin Gillespie from Jumping Rivers, gave a discussion on the benefits of open source software (OSS).  He addressed commonly held fears that OSS is less secure than its paid-for competitors, whilst extolling its virtues - not least the huge benefit of economy of scale in terms of users and contributors.  Focusing on “R”, examples were given of how OSS can be hugely beneficial to statisticians and we heard that the CRAN repository of R modules continues to grow at pace to provide an ever-expanding toolbox for the savvy analyst to exploit.

 The final talk was given by Sarah Sharp from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), who told the engaging tale of her career in analysis (so far!).  Having performed a wide variety of roles spread across the public, private and academic sectors, Sarah has a wealth of experience from which to draw valuable advice.  At the end of her talk, Sarah imparted some of her learned wisdom.  There were too many tips to fully do justice in this short review, but one stood out as particularly pertinent – “It’s all about relationships”.  Bringing together analysts to build relationships and add to the vibrancy, creativity and general success of the analytic professions in the North East is what ANNE is all about, so this provided a very fitting end to another successful ANNE event!

 Next up for ANNE is our Autumn Event, which will be hosted by Durham University Business School on Wednesday 3 October.  Keep an eye on your inboxes for further details, or if you would like to connect with us you can find us on Twitter @AnalystNetNE or join the group on LinkedIn ‘Analyst Network North East’.  We hope to see you in Durham!

 Michael Hogan

Operation Research Analyst, Valuation Office Agency

Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018
Hope Meadows

For the first time, Analyst Network North East (ANNE) hosted an event outside of Newcastle. This was a bit of an experiment to see whether the progress we had made building the OR community in the North East, over three events in 2016 and 2017, could be replicated in Darlington. For those of you who know your railways, just three stops down the East Coast Mainline (no prizes available for correctly guessing which three stops they are). I’m delighted to say it went really well.

 To get us started, we had the pleasure of Ruth Kaufman, Immediate Past President of the OR Society, opening the event. Ruth told us about the strengths and opportunities in operational research today: how the profession is flourishing and taking advantage of the soft boundaries between techniques, enabling people to work in multi-disciplinary teams and have a real-world impact. Speaking of impact, Ruth also shared examples of how OR is contributing, from managing beds and waiting times in our hospitals to counting presidential inauguration crowds and even using optimization to mix animal feed.

Next up, Mark Craigie from the Department for Education (DfE) shared a presentation on applying regression modelling within the Teacher Supply Model (TSM). The TSM, which is published online, is a stocks and flows model used by DfE to estimate the number of teachers it needs to recruit each year, to have enough teachers in total to teach our kids. Mark’s talk focused on developing an understanding of how a new qualification type, English Baccalaureate, affected the TSM. He discussed the problems of data availability, analytical options considered and rejected, ending with an example of applying LOESS regression (Locally weighted scatterplot smoothing). At the end of the presentation, Mark then shared the lessons he learnt from the analysis which he is aiming to apply in the future.

Following Mark’s talk, we tried out another experiment. Spread across two rooms, we organised the attendees into groups so they got a chance to talk to people they didn’t know. We then gave people five minutes to have a discussion, before they moved onto the next person in their group. We received really good feedback on this part of the event, as it gave people the opportunity to talk to peers, who they might not otherwise have spoken to. Well done to the organisers for pulling off some fairly complicated logistics!

After a spot of tea and coffee, we ended the event with two further presentations. Matt Linsley from the Industrial Statistical Research Unit (ISRU) at Newcastle University, shared ways in which frequentist and Bayesian approaches can be used to estimate and forecast a range of problems. For example, the quality of production of consumer products or daily gas demand forecasts in a geospatial basis. Did you know that gas travels at 20mph?

Matt Harte then finished off with a presentation about how Accenture is growing its business offer to clients across the region (and beyond), from its expanding office in North Tyneside. Through its application platforms, they are creating cloud-based solutions which enable companies to bring together different datasets and software packages into a single place. Matt shared some examples of this in practice and I think everyone (well, at least I) got very excited about how Accenture had been working with Ducati, to undertake real time optimisation of motorbike settings to improve performance.

Next up for us is a return to Newcastle for our event in the Summer, with another adventure to Durham in the Autumn. See you there!

If you would like to engage with us you can find us on twitter @AnalystNetNE or join the group on LinkedIn ‘Analyst Network North East’.  

Monday, 30 Oct 2017
Hope Meadows


The Core in Newcastle, part of Newcastle University, provided the setting for the autumn conference of the newly formed Analyst Network North East (ANNE). Open to all analysts in the North East region, the network aims to connect people and exchange ideas on analysis, reaching across the public, private and academic sectors. The event brought together over 60 analysts from across the North East and the four talks showcased the diversity of analysis happening in the region.

Steve Caughey from the Cloud Innovation Centre kicked off the conference with an overview of the newly-funded National Innovation Centre for Data. Whilst the building won’t be complete until 2020, Steve previewed what the final design will look like and how the centre is engaging with businesses to ascertain their needs, provide insight and run joint projects.

The first talk was by Andrew Jenkins from Kinewell Energy. Andrew discussed his work in the offshore wind energy sector where he has developed software that optimises the inter-array cable layouts. The pictures Andrew showed in the talk really brought to life the problem and he demonstrated the power of computer models to produce optimal solutions which are way more efficient than using pen and paper.

Next up, Phil Wherry from the National Audit office (NAO) presented on quality assuring models and the methods used to review government models. Phil received a lot of questions in the Q&A at the end of his talk such as ‘How are we going to account for the impact of Brexit?’, ‘Are there things which are too complex to model?’ and ‘What are the NAO’s expectation of clients?’

We then had a coffee break which was a great opportunity for networking. There were analysts from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Valuations Office Agency, NHS, Newcastle University, Department for Education and others.

The second half of presentations began with Neil Sorensen from DWP presenting analysis of Private Rented Sector (PRS) housing data and the affordability issues. We learned that Local Housing Authority (LHA) rates, which are used for Housing Benefit/Universal Credit, were pegged to the 30th percentile of rents in an area’s private sector. But as a result of a policy to freeze LHA rates, there has been a significant divergence with many rates now well below the 30th percentile.

The final talk was given by Victoria Sutherland from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who gave a really useful overview of the role of the LEP and the role economic analysis plays in the LEP. She also discussed the economic performance of the region including some of the challenges the region faces to growth and development. These included the relatively low employment density of 650 jobs per 1000 working age population (compared to 740 nationally), lower economic activity and employment rates and lower productivity. The North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) has sets six targets around improving the region’s performance on these issues.

The event was a success; we had an engaged audience and speakers who highlighted the wide range of analysis being conducted in the region. Our next event is in early 2018. We are hoping for the network to also provide opportunities in mentoring and outreach to local schools and universities. If you would like to engage with us you can find us on twitter @AnalystNetNE or join the group on LinkedIn ‘Analyst Network North East’.