2018 October Inside OR

Welcome to the electronic edition of October's Inside OR

This month, Alan Robinson FORS updates us on some exciting developments regarding apprenticeships and analytics; Nigel Cummings shares news including OR's impact on the high street and Callum Staff AORS describes building a data science team from scratch.

Inside this issue


The Education and Research Committee (ERC) at OR60


It is an interesting and somewhat challenging time for me to write a leader article for Inside OR for a number of reasons!

First, I am writing this before OR60, but you are reading it afterwards. So, whilst I could talk about the sessions I’m particularly looking forward to attending from what looks a packed and stimulating line-up, it is probably not helpful for me to do so! That said, I'll nail my colours to the mast about a couple of specific sessions and admit that I am particularly looking forward to the President’s Medal session. My parent organisation, the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl), has had the privilege of winning this award on a couple of occasions and I believe this represents a pinnacle for practitioners to aspire to in terms of OR Society recognition for work of significant impact. Similarly, I'm also looking forward to the semi-plenary on the History of Government OR that Tony O’Connor is leading. This is both because I’m a government practitioner myself and, perhaps more importantly, because I’m a passionate believer in the importance of capturing and preserving our historical record and more generally of the need to maintain and share best practice and lessons learned so as to pass on hard-won knowledge whether it results from successes or failures. Beyond those two mentions, I’ll keep my predictions and observations about OR60 to myself other than to observe the importance of the networking and social opportunities as well as the operational research (OR) content! 

A second thing that I was hoping to be able to say something concrete about is the plan to launch a so-called trailblazer group for an apprenticeship in OR and analytics at masters level (level 7 in apprenticeship terms). As you may have seen from Alistair Clark’s leader in February as the Education and Research Committee (ERC) chair, this is something that we have been working on with a range of employers including via the Heads of OR and Analytics Forum (HORAF) that I co-chair. At this point, we have the necessary support from a range of employers; however, we’re still in negotiation with the Institute for Apprenticeships as to which of their 'streams' OR best fits into. So, watch out for further announcements and even once the trailblazer group is formally launched there will be space for more employers to engage, so if you or your organisation would like to know more or get involved, please let Alistair ([email protected]) or me know.

And, thirdly, related to HORAF anyone with an eagle eye will notice the addition of ‘analytics’ in our title – we used to be HORF! This is in recognition of the strong interaction and overlap between OR and analytics; and to the related areas of data science, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and so on. This leads me to my final main point, which is that the Analytics Development Group (ADG) that I chair is putting together a small task-and finish group to consider how The OR Society should best engage with AI and related emerging areas. Some will remember a similar initiative a few years ago when analytics first emerged to consider the equivalent issues for OR and for The OR Society at that point! Indeed, that work led to a number of analytics-related activities in the Society including: the formation of the ADG; the successful set up of an annual analytics summit (which ran for the 7th time in June); and the analytics network. Effectively, the group will be asked to consider two interlinked perspectives:

■ The ‘what’, namely what is the linkage/overlap/dependency between OR and AI/ML etc and how do we best describe and articulate this from an OR perspective?
■ The ‘how’, that is organisationally how should we best handle these topics, such as via an amended ADG, some other grouping or another solution?

The group is intended to have a relatively small core so that it can make rapid progress, hopefully producing a way ahead by early next calendar year. However, it will also need to reflect at least the following key inputs and viewpoints, so will need to consult widely:

■ Academic developments
■ Practitioner perspectives
■ Awareness of The OR Society structures, approaches and opportunities
■ An awareness of what other key bodies are doing in this area, such as RSS, IMA.

If anyone would be interested in joining such a group or would like to know more please get in touch. I hope you all enjoyed OR60 – I’m still looking forward to it!

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