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The “invisibility cloak” of science fiction is now fact, albeit with limitations. O.R. could claim to have had the power of invisibility for years, though not by desire; what we want is the opposite - a high-visibility jacket! Indeed, part of the mission of the OR Society is to help make our presence more visible. But perception involves both the observed and the observer. And all of us have open and hidden parts.

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Posted on 10 October 2011

The OR Society

Cross-Domain Heuristic Search Challenge

The results of the Cross-Domain Heuristic Search Challenge (CHeSC) were revealed at the OR53 conference in Nottingham on 8th September 2011.

The competition succeeded in bringing together practitioners from operational research, computer science and artificial intelligence, who are interested in developing more generally applicable methodologies for computational search, and a £3000 prize fund was offered to the designers of the most successful algorithms. Competitors were tasked with designing a hyper-heuristic algorithm that operates well over six problem domains, including vehicle routing and personnel scheduling. A hyper-heuristic algorithm searches a space of heuristics rather than directly searching the solution space.

To realise the goals of the competition, the ASAP research group has developed the HyFlex software toolkit. Researchers wishing to develop cross-domain search methodologies are often limited to one or two problem domains on which to test their algorithms. The HyFlex toolkit features a common software interface between any cross-domain methodology component and any problem domain component, making it trivial to test one algorithm over many problem domains. HyFlex provides all of the problem domain components, so the designer of the cross-domain methodology is fully liberated to concentrate their research efforts on the design of the search methodology, and not on the implementation of the problem domain.

The competition was organised at the ASAP research group, at the University of Nottingham School of Computer Science, by a team led by Professor Edmund Burke, Dr Gabriela Ochoa and Dr Matthew Hyde. It attracted 20 active registered participants, from 14 countries around the world.

Matthew Hyde’s full article with illustrations featuring key CHeSC personnel and award winners will be published in a forthcoming issue of OR Inside