President's message : Let’s leave a legacy!

As we commence the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of our society, it is only fitting that we reflect on our remarkable journey so far and prepare ourselves to embrace the promising opportunities that lie ahead. The Operational Research Society (ORS) has a rich history that dates to the early 20th century and the British Army. The primarily objective then was to apply scientific and analytical methods to military operations and decision-making during the second world war. After the war, the OR Club was formed in 1948 to provide a platform for knowledge exchange amongst OR professionals. Subsequently, in 1953, the ORS was established, recognizing the importance of operational research and its broader applications beyond the military domain.

The enduring influence and impact of operational research on decision-making are evident in every aspect of our lives. Throughout our history, the UK has witnessed the incredible impact of OR in decision making across government, industry, the third sector and in academia. In government policy-making, OR techniques has consistently influenced critical decisions — from models that that revolutionized warfare strategy in the second world war to challenges related infrastructure build, economics and sustainability. More recently, OR techniques were instrumental in shaping responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, encompassing crucial aspects such modelling the spread of the virus, supply chain optimization, and vaccination scheduling.

Our legacy embraces an interdisciplinary approach, acknowledging the necessity of combining “soft” and “hard” models supported by rigorous research for effective decision-making. We are home to both academics and practitioners, encouraging fruitful collaboration between domain experts and industry professionals. Industries and the non-profit sector have experienced the advantages of employing OR techniques in their daily operations and strategic planning. My personal involvement with OR began during my undergraduate studies, where I was introduced to Soft Systems Methodology in my second year. Later, during my postgraduate studies, I delved into other OR methods such as optimization and simulation. OR continues to be an integral part of my current role, playing a pivotal role in my day-to-day work.

Not so long ago, we had OR departments in most big organisations. However, the landscape has changed. These departments have been rebranded as Analytics and have further evolved into what is now commonly known as Data Science or AI. Despite the name changes, the techniques and tools employed remain strikingly similar at their core. OR, it seems is a well-kept secret. At the start of the year, I introduced my thoughts for my presidential term in a leader article for “Inside OR”. It was entitled ‘Powered by OR’. Part of it dealt with our developing relationship with AI. I would like us to use the 75th anniversary celebration as the springboard to underline the crucial role of Operational Research (OR) in facilitating effective decision-making. A fitting legacy of our 75th anniversary would be that at some point ‘operational research’ must inevitably transition from a term in constant danger of being considered obsolete into a term that is timeless. We should all champion this and help cement OR into the lexicon of every business and institution.

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Gilbert Owusu,

The OR Society President 2023 - 2024

I would finish by paying tribute to all those who have contributed to our journey. We wouldn’t have come this far without the unwavering passion, selfless dedication, and professionalism of our volunteers. To every committee member, mentor, and advocate of OR across the country, thank you for your invaluable contributions. We are well positioned to exploit the opportunities ahead — from exploring new revenue streams, enhancing our membership offering, providing the modelling rigour for assuring AI models, to playing a pivotal role in the formation of the Academy of Mathematical Sciences. As we venture into the next chapter of our journey, I am confident that our combined endeavours will continue to shape the future of OR research and practice. Thank you all for being an integral part of our remarkable journey and may the OR Society continue to amplify its relevance for many more decades to come!