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Time to Improve Operations Research on Wikipedia

The wikipedia article on operations research needs help.  Let’s see how it begins (as of today:  it might change any moment now, given the way wikipedia works):

Operations research (N America) or Operational research (UK/Europe) “is a scientific method of providing executive departments with a quantitative basis for decisions regarding the operations under their control.”[1] Other names for it include:

  • Operational analysis (UK Ministry of Defence from 1962)[2]
  • Quantitative management[3]

“The historical development of Operational Research (OR) is traditionally seen as the succession of several phases: the “heroic times” of the Second World War, the “Golden Age” between the fifties and the sixties during which major theoretical achievements were accompanied by a widespread diffusion of OR techniques in private and public organisations, a “crisis” followed by a “decline” starting with the late sixties, a phase during which OR groups in firms progressively disappeared while academia became less and less concerned with the applicability of the techniques developed.”[4]. In the current phase, the increase in computing power coupled with the birth of related techniques like business intelligence (BI) and business analytics are leading a resurgence of OR.[5]

Oh great, we get a 1947 definition of operations research, as quoted on a 1954 dustcover. It is synonymous with “Quantitative Management” based on a single South African department brochure. It’s main interest is historical, though it might be resurging. By the way, it is the Canadian Operational Research Society and the Mexican Institute of Systems and Operational Research, so even the statement on where the various terms are used is incorrect. And “UK/Europe”? Wikipedia suggests there is a certain redundancy there.

After that, it is 2/3 history and 1/3 lists. This is not the way to introduce people to our field!

I have fought this fight before, and lost. So I do things like the INFORMS Resources Page (for at least a bit longer), this blog with its lists of other OR blogs, my twitter account, OR-Exchange (for questions and answers, and maybe announcements in OR), and other things to make the successes of our field better known (and maybe show an illustrative failure or two). I’m not willing to add wikipedia to my list.

Fortunately, others are willing to do so. Siamak Faridani posted a question on OR-Exchange asking how to improve the wikipedia article.

OR articles on Wikipedia obviously need some attention.

My question is how can we join forces to improve these articles?

I have made a project page on Wikipedia there is a “To do list” on that page in which you can insert the articles that need attention and request new articles. If you would like to help in edits you can also add your user name to the list of contributors and we will ask for your inputs as we work on articles.

Even if you do not like to edit Wikipedia articles please consider helping with populating the to do list and I will try to work on those articles as much as possible

By its nature, the wikipedia article cannot be the responsibility of one person. If you are looking for ways to help the field, I highly recommend (for you, not for me!) spending some time improving the articles on operations research and related topics, either on your own or in conjunction with Siamak.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Francisco Marco-Serr | November 27, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Regretfully, cyber-squatters on Wikipedia take us to a brand new e-dictatorship for knowledge. It’s a shame since every time I cite Wikipedia to a friend or relative I’m always told anyone can write nonsense there; in OuR case, you’re adding gas to that flame, but it’s true.

  2. Florian Bahr | November 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Of course, the distinction between Operations and Operational Research (and its specific accentuation wrt to the US/N America and UK) is somewhat obsolete (though, as the two countries with the most old-established OR institutions (I guess? British ORSOC: 1937 and ORSA, nowadays merged into INFORMS: 1952), their naming was prototypic).

    In German-speaking countries, OR debuted as “Ablauf- und Planungsforschung” (~Operations Research), “mathematische Entscheidungsvorbereitung” (~Mathematical Planning/Programming) or “Unternehmensforschung” (~Management Science). Today GER, AT and CH all go for “Operations Research”. Other European OR Societies, e.g. HELORS (Greece), commited to “Operational Research”.

    Below the line, I have bigger issues with the discrimination/differentiation between OR and MS (btw, the latter one has its own synonyms – like Management Engineering in DK) … so does Wikipedia:

    Oh, and we also have: Decision Science(s), “Decisioneering”, …

    Too many hats …

  3. Graham Sharp | November 30, 2009 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I have no great problem with distinctions being made between the original UK Operational Reseach and the subsequent decision in some territories to rebrand this as ‘Operations’ Research. Both are widely understood to be synonymous.

    However, I have a great concern about seeing a proposal to treat ‘O.R.’ and ‘Management Sciences’ as synonymous as they are not! O.R. is ONE OF the Management Sciences (along with economics, financial analysis, market research, statistics and, probably, many more professions that use data to help managers make better decisions). To conflate these terms would potentially damage attempts that many O.R. Societies are making at marketing the O.R. profession.

    Incidentally, there are 45 Societies that serve the O.R. community throughout the world. Of these, 42 include the words Operational/s Research (or, in one case, a translation thereof). Only two use the phrase Management Science without including O.R. The Italians go their own splendid way…

    Please voice your concern about the idea of merging these Wikipedia pages.

  4. Ritesh | December 9, 2009 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    Would like to suggest if something of the following can be included.

    “Lifecycle (phases) of solving a problem using Operation research”