South Wales OR Discussion Society (SWORDS)

SWORDS is a supportive community for those interested in operational research in South Wales. We aim to facilitate discussions and exchange ideas, while also building strong connections for operational researchers.

We put on meetings, works visits and other events, which are generally free admission and open to all, giving members the freedom to invite clients and others outside OR who are interested in the subject.

Upcoming Events:

SWORDS Seminar: Tuesday 19th March 2024

The Path to Professionalisation of Data Science and the Road Ahead

Professor Rachel Hilliam, The Open University 

Location: Abacws, School of Mathematics, Senghennydd Road, Cardiff University 

Time: Refreshments served from 5:15pm (on level 3), with the seminar starting at 5:45pm in room 2.36 (on level 2)


In 2020 the Alliance of Data Science Professionals was created to shape professional standards within data science. It was argued that such standards were needed to ensure an ethical and well-governed approach within data science, so the public, organisations and governments can have confidence in how their data are used. The Alliance includes The British Computer Society (BCS), The Operational Research (OR) Society, Institute of Mathematics & its Applications (IMA), The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Royal Statistical Society (RSS) and The Alan Turing Institute (ATI). The work quickly gained support from Government, where it was referenced in the National Data Strategy and more recently in UK Parliament POST report, Data science skills in the UK workforce.

In this talk we will consider the rise of Data Science both as a profession and a degree qualification. The talk will discuss why the Alliance believes a common standard across the breadth of Data Science is necessary and how this differs from professional titles such as Chartered Mathematician, Chartered Statistician or Chartered IT Professional.  The standards address current issues, such as data breaches, data misuse in modelling and bias in artificial intelligence and therefore give people confidence that their data is being used ethically, stored safely, and analysed robustly.

Professor Rachel Hilliam:

Rachel is a Professor of Statistics at The Open University where she is currently Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, having previously held various leadership roles. In 2019 whilst Director of Teaching for Mathematics and Statistics, she introduced a new degree in Data Science which had over 400 students across the UK in its first year. She is an expert in teaching statistics at higher education level to adult students who do not necessarily have standard university entrance qualifications.

Her learning and teaching interests include supporting students who are studying statistics as part of a non-mathematical qualification and exploring the different types of statistical anxieties which such students can exhibit. She has a strong interest in supporting colleagues teaching activities and has been involved in the national induction course organised by the IMA and developing the teaching and learning mathematics online, TALMO initiative. Rachel is currently Vice-President of the RSS, leading on its Professional Affairs activities and has chaired the Alliance for Data Science Professional since its formal creation in 2020.



Committee details

Professor Paul Harper Chair
Dr Jonathan Thompson Secretary and Contact
Penny Holborn Treasurer and Regional Representative on General Council

Previous Events:

Joint SWORDS & WORDS Seminar - Operational Research and Artificial Intelligence: A Synergy for Success: Tuesday 6th February 

Gilbert Owusu, BT and President of the OR Society

AI is certainly responsible for quite a bit of societal change. However, AI models are not infallible and require careful design, evaluation, and optimization to ensure their effectiveness and reliability. Like the earlier ’waves’ of analytics and data science, the ORS has spent quite some time thinking through the overlap with AI.

Healthcare in OR event: 17th October

Prof. Brian Denton (University of Michigan) gave a fascinating talk on 'Operational Research in Healthcare: Leveraging Data-Driven Mathematical Models to Improve Public Health'. Examples included how integer programming can be used to optimise radiation treatment such that damage to healthy tissue is minimised; how a graph model can be used to create chains of kidney donors and recipients; and how OR can be used to ensure the optimal number of vaccines are purchased.

About 80 people attended including practitioners, academics and students and a healthy amount of pizza was consumed after the event. 

Future Events:


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