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Bird flu Logistics

J. Michael SteeleJ. Michael Steele has a blog on “Bird Flu Economics”, looking at economic aspects of an avian inluenza pandemic. His blog provides a welcome dose of reality in the arguments about effect and appropriate response to the avian flu. A recent post of his points out how little logistics (read OR) planning has been done in this area.

Logistical nightmares are at the heart of every H5N1 pandemic senario anyone has ever concocted, yet it is hard to tell if anyone in the OR community is currently looking hard at this.

Isn’t it clear that pandemic logistics is a research area that deserves encouragement at every level?

Let’s at least catalog what is being done — or not being done!

Steele has done lots of interesting work. In the early 1980s, he did a lot of fundamental work in the use of probabilistic analysis in combinatorial optimization, including writing a great chapter in the Traveling Salesman book (as an aside: it is a travesty that the book costs more than $250; while dated on the TSP, it still provides a great overview of the various themes associated with combinatorial optimization and remain one of my favorite books of all time). His current work is primarily in mathematical finance and statistical modeling. He has a recent book on the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality (a much more reasonable $30!).