Leader: Almost Back in Kansas

Those of you who read my leader in last year’s Inside OR will remember that I said that the return to physical events had left us rather in the position of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, finding ourselves in a strange new world and heading down a yellow-brick road to who knows what.

I think that this year we may well have reached at least the outskirts of the Emerald City, since this seems to be the year that physical events have made a sustained comeback, as people finally put the disorientating and world-changing events of the past few years behind them and rediscovered the benefits of meeting in person rather than peering at little images of people on a screen.

Simulation Workshop 23 took place in March at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton and got the year’s physical events off to a strong start with the highest ever attendance for a SW, with 120 attending to hear about the latest developments in simulation and to submit peer reviewed papers at this unique conference. Thanks must go to the entire committee and to Sally Brailsford and Sion Cave as conference chairs for this record-breaking result.

The trend of in-person events continued with this year’s ISMOR 40 at Royal Holloway in July. This was another very well attended event with 105 registered delegates and included a special trip to the Imperial War Museum to recognise reaching the significant milestone of the 40th ISMOR. This year also saw international attendance at this conference start to recover after all the restrictions on overseas travel that have characterised the past few years.

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John Medhurst, Chair, The OR Society Event Committee

September saw the annual conference at Bath, which was another strongly attended event, with the added attraction of holding the conference in a World Heritage Site. The conference was our biggest since before the pandemic, with 350 registrations and the highest number of paid delegates on record. The conference was preceded by a day-long Early Career Researcher event which was very well received, and which included workshops on how best to write a proposal for funding and a series of networking events.

The social trips included a rather wet walking tour of the beautiful city of Bath on the Tuesday afternoon but probably the highlight of the conference for me was the conference dinner in the world-famous Pump Rooms, adding a touch of class to proceedings and providing a truly memorable evening.

OR65 also saw the launch of the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Society, or more precisely the 75th anniversary of the formation of the OR Club that was the predecessor of the Society and the start of OR as a profession in the UK. The theme for our year of celebrations is the Past, Present and Future of OR and since OR65 was the start of that year it seemed appropriate to start with a look at the History of OR over the past 75 years. A very well attended event on ’75 Years of OR Practice’ saw three eminent speakers reviewing the history of OR in Defence, of OR in the Coal Board and of the Heads of OR and Analytics Forum (HORAF).



This year has also seen the second of the WORAN Land Lectures, the first named lecture of the Society to celebrate a female pioneer of OR. The inaugural lecture last November was online and took the form of a ‘fireside chat’ between Professor Sally Brailsford of WORAN and Professor Carol Mundell, President of the Science Council. The online theme has continued this year and WORAN’s second Land Lecture took place on the 10th October with Theresa Chambers of WORAN in conversation with Sue Ferns, former President of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) about the issues currently confronting women in the scientific workplace.

The theme of the ‘Past, Present and Future of OR” will continue with this year’s Blackett Lecture on the 7th December which will again be a physical event at the Royal Society in London, with Dr Roger Forder, formerly of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and Paul Clarke, former Chief Technology Officer at Ocado, who will be giving their individual perspectives on where OR has come from and where it might be going to.


We are also starting to refine next year’s programme, with a highlight being the return of the New to OR conference, aimed at those with ten or fewer years of experience in OR. The last of these conferences was held in 2019, before the pandemic and our 75th anniversary seems an excellent opportunity to re-start these conferences, which are all about the Future of OR. This will be a great opportunity for those new to the profession to build their networks in a friendly and welcoming environment. The conference will be taking place towards the end of June next year and will be a one-day event in a convenient location in Central London.

As announced at OR65 our next annual conference will be at Bangor in North Wales and will take place from the 10th to the 12th of September. This will be yet another conference in a World Heritage Site – the Castles of North Wales and for those strange people not so interested in castles there will be an option to stay an extra day and tour the Snowdonia National Park.

We are also starting to think about the EURO conference in Leeds in 2025. As usual with these events, we will be consolidating the annual OR conference for 2025 into the EURO conference and taking the opportunity to contribute to something spectacular, with thousands of delegates coming from all over Europe.

It is important to recognise that the successful return to physical events would not have happened without the many volunteers and hard-working OR Society staff members who work on our events – this column gives me the opportunity to say a big thank you from me personally to all of them.