20th International Symposium on Military Operational Research (ISMOR)
20th International Symposium on Military Operational Research (ISMOR)
James Moffat, Dstl, Chair of the OR Society Defence Study Group and Jeremy Smith, Cranfield University
Copyright statement: This paper contains Crown copyright material.
ISMOR – the International Symposium on Military Operational Research, celebrated a significant milestone by hosting its twentieth annual meeting in 2003. ISMOR is sponsored by the UK Ministry of Defence and jointly supported by the Defence Study Group of the OR Society. It is recognised as the premier international conference on the application of O.R. to military and defence affairs.
ISMOR has been held each year in the UK since its inception. Strong international support and representation over the years has been received from continental Europe and the United States – in particular, in recent years, from the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) of the USA.
To help us celebrate this anniversary, Mr Walter Hollis, Deputy Under Secretary of the Army (Operations Research) – a very senior figure in the US Department of Defense, gave the Ronnie Shephard Memorial Address at the conference. In addition, the US Military Operations Research Society reprinted (with the permission of the Ministry of Defence) the book Operational Research in the RAF. This book documents the origins of Operational Research in the 1930s, and its contribution to RAF operations during World War II. This includes, of course, the system of filter rooms developed to exploit the emerging technology of radar, leaving us with enduring images of blocks being pushed across map boards, and young men scrambling for Spitfires. In a foreword to the book, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence (Sir Keith O’Nions) points out the enduring messages of the book for today’s O.R., and the close links between US and UK defence operational research. The President of MORS also writes that ‘…On behalf of MORS it is my privilege to extend best wishes to our UK colleagues on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of ISMOR, and to offer this reprint. It is our hope that the close relationships between US and UK analysts that ISMOR has fostered will long continue and that the critical contributions of British analysts several generations ago will be long remembered’.
At ISMOR, all papers are taken in plenary, and as much time as possible is left for questioning and discussion. We have found that this format, within a relaxed setting, adds much to the value of the conference, and sets it apart from other events. This year’s conference had two key themes which organised the papers presented. These were Data Management, and Measures of Effectiveness for New and Emerging Areas of Operations.
A number of papers from the US and UK were taken on the theme of Data Management on day one (Tuesday). This was then followed by a syndicate session in which small groups explored in discussion the implications of these papers. The general themes emerging were then noted and pulled together. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, general papers were presented by authors from Europe, Canada and USA. Papers were then presented on the second theme of Measures of Effectiveness for New and Emerging Areas of Operation.. These were directed at areas of analysis such as peace support operations and quantifying the benefit of information and ‘situational awareness’ to the battlespace commander. On Friday morning , three UK papers considered the contribution of O.R. to front line operations. The final paper of the conference was an invited paper giving a retrospective of 20 years of ISMOR. This was introduced by Gene Visco, an eminent member of MORS and the US focal point for ISMOR in the USA. Further details of the papers presented are on the webpages of the Defence Study Group within the OR Society website. There is also access there to the archive of previous ISMOR papers.
This invited special paper was given as a survey and analysis of the previous 19 conferences. The paper was given by Jeremy Smith and Mike Bathe of Cranfield University at the UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham. It was based on a survey of the papers, themes and attendees at the previous ISMORs. The survey included some statistical analysis and factual summaries but it also contained some more subjective observations and impressions based on reading and evaluating the wealth of material covered.
The sources used for the survey included archives of the ISMOR papers held by Dr David Faddy, additional archives at Shrivenham, some personal collections of papers, delegate lists (obtained from these previous sources) and the conference programmes. A comprehensive picture was built up of the conferences but there are discrepancies and it was recognised that some papers may not have been covered.
ISMOR conferences have always had themes associated with each year (sometimes several themes) as a means of stimulating and categorizing papers. These themes were reviewed against world events to try and identify the connections between political and military developments with the conference themes. When the conference started the Cold War was in deep freeze and the first years were themed accordingly. As the thaw began the themes followed, for example, ‘The New Look for Defence in the Nineties’ for ISMOR9 and included more general international security issues such as Operations Other than War (OOTW).
Over the conferences there have been of the order of 600 papers with more than 1800 attendees. Some 20 nations have been represented by delegates.
The review examined the categories of topics for the ISMOR papers. These were categorised into Model Design, Hard OA, Soft OA, Study Descriptions, Verification &Validation (V&V), Human Factors, Mathematical Approaches, Command & Control (C2). This analysis was subjective and as such should be regarded as a general indication but the results provided some interesting observations.
Papers categorised as Study descriptions/reports have been in the majority overall (this includes activity descriptions). Papers on Hard OA predominate but there have usually been a small number of papers on soft techniques or analyses. Human Factors papers have appeared consistently through the years, but again at a low level. Papers on Mathematical Methods appeared in early years, but this topic seems to have disappeared until a resurgence of a small number of papers on this topic more recently. Papers on V&V have been rare. Papers on topics related to C2 have been a continuing strand and appear consistently in the conference (there have been themed conferences on this topic as well of course).
The other observations related to the apparent currency of the topics. There are some papers which were clearly contextual such as those related to the Gulf War in 1991. However there are many papers on topics which would be just as relevant today as when they were presented.
The Defence Study Group of the OR Society and Cranfield University are working together to ensure availability of the archives via the World Wide Web and thus ensure this valuable source of information is widely available. As noted above, access to this growing archive (located at Cranfield University Library) is through the webpages of the Defence Study Group on the OR Society website.
This article appeared in the Febraury 2004 newsletter (now Inside O.R.)