Leader: 2023 in review


As I pen this article to reflect on the past 12 months, it seems like only the other day that I was visiting our then President at Bangor University and writing my very first leader article for Inside OR as the new Executive Director. How quickly 2023 has seemed to pass by, but as the 13th century proverb reminds us – ‘time stands still for no one’. 2023 has been another busy year for the Society.

Professor Robert Dyson gave a most interesting Beale lecture in February, kindly standing in for Chris Potts, who will deliver his Beale lecture in the weeks following this January Inside OR edition reaching your physical or virtual door mats. Make sure you join this year’s Beale lecture if you can! Robert’s talk was soon followed by a thoroughly enjoyable Simulation Workshop (SW) at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton in March. This was our most well attended SW conference to date - a credit to the programme and organising committees.

Soon after, we were pleased to recognise Graham Rand’s significant contribution to the Society as the departing editor of Impact – a role he had fulfilled for some considerable time. We welcomed Maurizio Tomasella as Graham’s successor to help steer Impact towards an exciting future.

Seb Hargreaves.jpg

Seb Hargreaves

Following a short period of ill health, where my predecessor Gavin Blackett kindly stepped back in as ED, I was back at the helm representing our President at IFORS 2023 Conference in Santiago, Chile. This international meeting of Operational Research Societies was a fascinating insight into the breadth of OR globally and the scope of the discipline. My time in Chile prevented me from attending the 40th International Symposium on Military Operational Research (ISMOR40), held at the Royal Holloway University. However, the reports suggest this was a well-supported and excellent event which was hugely valued by those who attended.

Soon enough, all focus was turned to Bath for our OR65 annual conference, which would kick start our 75th anniversary celebrations. Another very well attended conference, hosted at the University of Bath, with a large number of conference streams and abstracts, excellent keynotes and plenary sessions. The feedback was universally positive with the highlight being the conference dinner within the wonderful surroundings of the Roman Pump rooms.

In addition to our calendar of events, we have continued with a programme of training and regular Wednesday webinars. Our focus on Education, Pro Bono OR and Research continues to grow and thrive and we have been active in our role on the Council of Mathematical Sciences and the development of the new Academy. This has involved responding to numerous consultations, identifying representatives from the OR community to participate on various sub committees and task groups and working collaboratively with our peer Learned Societies to advance STEM and the Mathematical Sciences. Through our continued membership of the Science Council and Alliance for Data Science Professionals, we continue to ensure Operational Research remains front and centre as a Professional Body and an important player within the Mathematical Sciences community.

Progress continues towards the development of a new, fully open access journal and our journey to awarding body status with Ofqual as an End Point Assessment Organisation reaches an important milestone. At the time of writing, we have been invited to panel by Ofqual which is the final hurdle towards recognition as an Awarding Organisation. Ofqual recognition means we will be the End Point Assessment Organisation for learners enrolled on the Level 7 Operational Research Specialist Apprenticeship and provides an exciting opportunity for us to grow a qualifications portfolio and a useful revenue stream for the Society. Along with other plans to diversify our income, we are revisiting our strategy to ensure it remains fit for purpose in a post-COVID world. This may involve some governance changes in how we design our General Council and Committee structures. Ensuring we have the right balance of member engagement, staff support, scrutiny and oversight to make our decision making robust, efficient and agile enough to exploit opportunities, deliver impact and mitigate risks.

2024 will see us continue to lay the foundations for the Society’s future long term sustainability. Investing in new revenue streams to diversify our income will be a key priority as we tackle the challenges of a reducing publications income. We will also consider our positioning and brand to ensure that the Society is in the best possible place to take advantage of future opportunities and emerging technologies, associated techniques and tools of OR. Our 75th Anniversary year will continue during 2024, culminating in the OR66 annual conference at Bangor University in September. This will all be done against a challenging economic backdrop where we will see income squeezed and costs increasing. Nevertheless, what remains is a vibrant, valued and importantly visible Society that continues to advance the knowledge of, interest and education in OR for future generations. My heartfelt ambition is that the legacy of the Society’s 75th Anniversary is a catalyst to ensure a vibrant, valued and visible society for the next 75 years and beyond.

Thank you to my team of dedicated staff, our President, Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, General Council and numerous member volunteers. Finally, thank you to you, our members, for your continued support of the Operational Research Society. Here’s to 2024!