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Dead words in operations research

Sometime ago, when writing about Stafford Beer, I wrote:

Stafford Beer was one of the founding people in British operational research. He was one of the people who saw operational research in World War II and adapted those methods to work in practice, in his case at United Steel, followed by some consulting companies. He ended up founding many aspects of systems science and “cybernetics” (a term I rarely hear these days).

Turns out I was right about “cybernetics”. PhD Comics (a must read for both doctoral students and those who supervise them, live with them, parent them, or otherwise have to interact with them) has a nice graph that shows how often “cybernetic” shows up in academic paper titles (upper right, with “robot”):

Cybernetics didn’t have much of a heyday, and that was long ago. I wonder what other operations research words have come and gone. Anyone up for some hours with ISI Web of Knowledge?

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Barry O'Sullivan | November 18, 2009 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Whatever about searching for this information in ISI, it is very interesting to use tools like Google Trends, which generates plots for search and news volume separately, to gauge web interest in some of these topics. An interesting plot can be generated from the following queries:

    carbon, climate, green, sustainability
    – sustainability is bottom of the pile, interestingly.

    carbon, climate, sustainability, environment
    – green is the keyword that is used!

    recession, investment, pension
    – note the cyclic nature of the latter two.

    cleantech, clean tech
    – seem to be media inventions 🙂

    operations research, optimisation
    – why the decrease in interest, as measured in terms of search volume, which is the opposite to interest in the news?

    constraint programming
    – interesting. Cork is the city that is responsible for putting CP on the ‘trend’ map 😉 Surprising that CP didn’t register until 2005 in terms of search volume, and not until late 2007 in the news – largely due to a sports scheduling application (I bet Mike will enjoy that!).

  2. Michael Trick | November 18, 2009 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Interesting! Comparing “operations research” with “cybernetics” suggests cybernetics hasn’t died out at all as a google search term. And the countries that show the most interest (Indonesia, Singapore, etc.) must mean something!

  3. Steve Sims | November 19, 2009 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    I agree with Barry, Google Trends is a very useful tool and as a web designer/developer, I’m surprised that more people don’t use it…