2019 September

This month, Malcolm Fenby completes part two of his exploration of applying OR methodology to a news item (the tragic blaze at Notre Dame de Paris); Professor David Lane FORS challenges the academic/practitioner divide in his Peoples Vote article, we meet Maria Skoularidou, an expert in the emerging field of probabilistic machine in Women in STEM, and Nigel Cummings looks into potholes – or at least the OR surrounding the management of roads infrastructure.



Leader: Growth in uncertainty – The OR Society in the time of Brexit

OR Society Treasurer Janet E Williams gives an overview of the financial health of the society in the turbulent times of Brexit. This year the statutory accounts for The OR Society were agreed at the AGM held in July at the University of Portsmouth and have been submitted to Companies House. I appreciate how busy some of our members are, and hence might not yet had the opportunity to read our full annual report and accounts, so this article provides me with the opportunity to highlight the finances and some achievements. The society’s income and expenditure account showed...

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Peoples Vote?

Professor David C Lane FORS discusses the so-called academic/practitioner divide within The OR Society's membership and argues for a more generous vision.

Has the dust settled enough on The OR Society presidential election for an article to be appropriate? I hope so. Because this certainly is one. Do not worry, I am not going to reveal who I voted for. Instead, I would like to reflect on a conversation that I had with an ORS member during the campaign...

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Letter to the Editor: Michael C Jackson OBE

David Cole’s article provides a useful account of how system dynamics (SD) can act as a complementary approach to traditional ‘top-down functional decomposition’ approaches in project management. However, it sells project managers short by failing to recognise that SD is just one type of systems thinking (ST) and that other strands are also essential in the successful management of complex projects. The conflation of SD and ST began with Senge’s popular book The Fifth Discipline. The error is compounded by Stroh and Goodman who, with Senge, are key sources...

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Women in STEM – Maria Skoularidou

Recently, as part of its initiative for highlighting women in STEM, the University of Cambridge published an article about Maria Skoularidou – a PhD candidate in the MRC Biostatistics Unit. Maria is an expert in the emerging field of probabilistic machine learning and a keen advocate for Women in STEM and supporter for people with disabilities working in AI. Maria’s research utilises elements from probabilistic modelling, a framework for representing...

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Applying OR Methodology to a News Item: The Search for a More Effective Approach to Fighting Fires in Cathedrals (Part Two)

In part one, last month, I posed the question whether it would be possible to apply OR-type methodology to consider whether there is a better approach to fighting fires in historic buildings – something that was prompted by the sight of the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris in April. Since the problem (at least at first sight) seems to be the use of water, the obvious alternative is to use something else to fight the fire. The idea investigated (in part one) was to pump nitrogen into the building – to remove the supply of oxygen (this is termed: hypoxic air fire prevention). This was investigated via a basic estimate of the feasibility of this approach – restricted by...

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Sponsored Students

For the academic year 2019/2020, we have two new masters students that are about to embark upon their studies, with the help of OR Society sponsorship. Meet our newest scholarship students:

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Potholes – councils are looking into them

Someone once said to me very recently they have a saying in an east European country: “In England they drive on the left of the road; in [this country] they drive on what is left of the road”. The way things are going they will soon no longer be able to make this distinction. Potholes continue to be a major problem on UK roads, causing damage to vehicles and presenting a safety risks for drivers and cyclists. But potholes are only one part of the BIG problem of pavement deterioration – an inexorable process by which distress (defects) develop in pavements under the combined effects of traffic loading and environmental conditions...

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