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The Future Influence of O.R. On Public Policy



LSE’s Rosebery Hall Conference Centre,
90 Rosebery Avenue, LONDON EC1R 4TY

Thursday, 12 December 2013, 16.00 to 18.00

Brian W. Smith, OBE
John Friend
Rob Angell, RK Partnership
Chris Yewlett, University of Cardiff
Rob Solly, Dstl
Leroy White, University of Bristol

Chair: Frances Abraham, Tavistock Institute

Registration and refreshments from 15.30

16.00   Chair: Frances (Fiddy) Abraham, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

16.05. Brian W. Smith, OBE [formerly Institute for Operational Research].

16.10  John Friend [formerly Institute for Operational Research]  Themes from his  current OR Society charitable project on The Future Policy Influence of OR.

16.30  Chris Yewlett, University of Cardiff [formerly IOR]

16.40  Rob Angell, RK Partnership.

16.50  Rob Solly, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory   

All timings are approximate

17.00  Open discussion forum
facilitated by Professor Leroy White, University of Bristol

17.50  John Friend  Next steps in the current OR Society project and beyond

17.55  Fiddy Abraham. Closing the programme.


What can today’s and tomorrow’s OR practitioners contribute to the design of processes for developing public policies to address the complexities, uncertainties and political intricacies of our 21st century world? 

If you are attracted to this challenge, you are encouraged to apply for a place at this free event in London.  It is the first of two planned within the Operational Research Society’s new charitable project on the Future Policy Influence of OR, ledby John Friend, one of the pioneers of the Institute for Operational Research which was launched 50 years ago this year.  IOR was formed as a joint enterprise of the UK OR Society and London’s not-for-profit Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, with the aim of expanding the reach of OR in the broad sphere of public policy, in close association with social scientists. 

From this initiative came a range of insights into the challenges of policy in practice, not only from the perspectives of policy makers but also from those of the various recipients – who may often become subject to severe policy stress as they try to make decisions within policy guidelines from different sources and levels of accountability.  From such insights came innovations in practice that have gradually attracted a wide and diverse following among policy professionals, consultants and academics in the UK and overseas.  The question now arises of how this global momentum of innovation can be sustained and extended, with new generations of OR practitioners continuing to play pioneering roles alongside partners in other policy-relevant disciplines.   

John Friend will begin by outlining how three early IOR projects in realms of divided accountability – construction, hospital management and city government – were followed by more extensive programmes of investigation into policy processes for four different UK government departments.  In parallel, research council grants were awarded for a broader series of projects designed to explore the complex inter-organisational dynamics of policy change, ranging across fields of public policy and levels of accountability from the widest to the most local.  There followed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a gradual dispersal of IOR’s senior staff, followed by an increasing diffusion of their influence within Europe and beyond.  

As other speakers will indicate, there are now champions in several parts of the world who have continued to innovate in designing formats that bring parties together across boundaries to make sustained progress towards agreed policies and actions, with support from a flexible array of largely visual communication aids. The evidence already available in published books and journal articles has recently been complemented by a collection of unpublished working papers accessible through an IOR legacy section of the document repository on the OR Society’s website.  

It is planned at this event to launch an informal network to bring together concerned members of the OR Society with representatives of a range of public policy professions, drawing on the facilities of the Society’s website.  The intention is that this network can become a catalyst to continued progress in developing a national and global resource base for applied policy science both within the service of governmental agencies and beyond.  Important questions arise over how the development of such a resource base can be strengthened by investments in new forms of training course, research programme and decision support technology.  It is expected that this first event will act as a trigger to further mobilisation of resources, with further progress to be reported by the time of the second project event planned for the spring of 2014.       

Project Background Powerpoint Download