Leader: view from the bridge

Edmund Burke, OR Society President

In other leader articles, that I have written as President, I have focussed on COVID-19 and its impact both on the Society’s activities and the wider OR community. In this article, I will avoid focussing upon COVID-19 as the main topic of discussion. However, it will be difficult to avoid as it is still so prevalent in our lives, both at work and at home.

The Society’s Board has recently focussed significant attention upon our publishing contract with Taylor & Francis. Our current contract expires at the end of 2022. This contract enables the Society to disseminate OR knowledge effectively and comprehensively, with an ever-developing delivery platform (Taylor & Francis online) and an extensive reach to all parts of the globe. The contract also represents a significant proportion of the Society’s income which we invest in the OR community to support so many of our activities.

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The negotiations are detailed and complex because the whole publishing model and market has changed dramatically over the last few years with the move to open access. Moreover, the publishing environment will continue to shift and change for the foreseeable future. We are working hard to achieve the best possible terms for the Society and I will inform you of the outcome in a future article.

As you will no doubt read elsewhere in this issue (or possibly the next), OR63 Online has been and gone, and it seems to have been very well received. Except that it hasn’t really gone – it’s still there! Nearly all sessions were recorded and can be accessed via the platform. If you missed something in a parallel session you can simply catch up now. For the moment, this is only available to conference delegates, but the presentations will be made available to members in the New Year.

The sessions represented an excellent view of the interdisciplinary nature of OR and its reach across academia and practice. I would like to offer my thanks to all those who worked so hard to make this event so successful. The challenge for our events team is to deliver the same excellent quality and value for an in-person OR64 at the University of Warwick next September – one that I am sure they will achieve.

A major strategic challenge for the Society, as we emerge into the post-pandemic world, is to consider what virtual elements can be combined with the traditional face-to-face delivery across our broad portfolio of events.

One of my key roles as President of the Society is to lead the Board in setting our course and determining our strategy. COVID-19 has certainly made this challenging. The environment for our Society and our community is volatile and uncertain. With this context in mind, we are engaging more closely with a range of organisations to make sure that we are at the heart of discussions and decisions on a wide variety of issues that have an impact upon operational research.

Given the difficulties posed for the operation of our Society during the pandemic and the uncertain situation that we continue to face, I think the outlook is a very positive one. I have been proud of the way that the Society has adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and the manner in which we have continued to provide an outstanding service to our membership.

Our staff moved all of our events and operations online in such a smooth, seamless and professional way. I would like to extend my thanks, on behalf of the entire community, to our staff. We are all extremely grateful for their hard work, commitment and dedication. They all know that I have thanked them before but it is well worth repeating the expression of our gratitude.