Leader: What does the OR Society mean to you?

As I write this, my first leader for Inside OR, I am four months and 21 days into my term as vice president. I was appointed to fill a gap, and the opportunity came up at a time when other professional responsibilities were ending. I took it in the hope of being helpful without thinking through quite what the job was!

I know many members already, either directly through my work with the Government Operational Research Service or the NHS, or through Society events and being part of General Council and the PMW committee. But for those who don’t know me, I’ve worked in OR since 1999, having previously worked at The Met Office, following degrees in physics. Most of that time was spent at the Department of Health and Social Care, but I now work at NHS England.

The PMW committee spends a lot of time thinking about the “member offer”. And becoming Vice President got me thinking more about what I like about being a member of the Society. I have been a member of a few societies through my career – Royal Astronomical Society, Institute of Physics, Royal Meteorological Society, whatever was relevant to my work at the time.

The main thing I have got from those societies, including ORS, is the sense of being part of something bigger than my own narrow area of work. Sometimes this led to new ideas or different techniques, but mainly it is about being part of a community, with shared values and a similar outlook.

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Stephen Lorrimer, Vice President of The OR Society

I also enjoy being part of a society with such a rich history. I find the origins of our discipline in military operations fascinating and an accessible way to introduce people to the philosophy of what we do. So, it is particularly pleasing to be a Vice President in our 75th anniversary year.

Of course, everybody will value different things. For some it will be our journals or the website, or conferences or local groups. I am pleased the Society is continuing to work to explore member benefits. You will have seen Rosemary Byrd’s discussion of some of the issues in the May Leader and Martin Parr is now applying OR methods to the Society itself, including the Viable System Model, to consider the strengths of and opportunities for the Society.

We have been delighted that over 200 members completed the survey on its first day. We particularly want  to understand how the Society adds value to you, and what changes would improve your experience of, and encourage your engagement with, the Society.

There may be some difficult decision to make, and some experimentation, but it is only by challenging ourselves and sticking to our principles of evidence-based decision making that we will continue to improve the Society.

The Society has two Vice Presidents. Traditionally one is from an academic background, and one is from a practitioner background. Christina Pagel is the former and I am the latter.

It is then part of my role, I believe an important part of my role, to bring a practitioner perspective to the Board’s decisions. But I am also conscious that “practitioners” are a heterogeneous group. I have always worked in large, mixed discipline, internal groups in the public sector. My experience will then be very different to those working in the private sector, in the consultancy sector or as single contractors. And retired practitioners will have different needs again.

To address this, I have started to join HORAF meetings, but this can only give me a partial picture. And HORAF has plenty to do other than answering my questions!

So, I can only fulfil my role with your help. Particularly if you are a practitioner, I would love to hear from you. About what you value most about the Society, how it could be better or just to chew the cud about the state of our profession. This might be a quick email, in the margins of a face-to-face meeting or over a virtual coffee. If you’re in Leeds it could even be over an actual coffee.

I look forward to hearing from you.