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The Community of Operations Research

For the past three or four years, I have given a talk at the INFORMS Doctoral Colloquium about the importance of social capital in a successful career. This talk is based on the book Bowling Alone by Putnam which argued that society (particularly US society) is becoming more detached, with fewer people engaged in the sort of interactions that lead to social capital. I think this issue is particularly important to OR people, since most of our best work comes by spanning boundaries, working with people in other fields in order to advance the other field while invigorating OR.

Some argue the web creates communities. I don’t think that is really true. The number of true, ongoing communities seems pretty small. One group I know if is a mailing list on an author I adore: Patrick O’Brian (the movie Master and Commander was based on his work). This is an active mailing list that has been around for a decade. Even for this “community”, the number of people who are active for more than a couple of years is astonishingly small, which suggests to me a lack of a true community. So is the technology too limiting or will face-to-face always matter?

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Hari | November 16, 2005 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I am a PhD candidate in the Industrial Engineering department at Arizona State University. I was at the doctoral colloquium, and heard your talk. I thought your point of view was very interesting. I hadn’t thought that social groups were declining in any way. I also thought your talk was very entertaining. Hope to hear more of your talks in the future.

  2. Michael Trick | November 23, 2005 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Glad you enjoyed the talk. I love giving it! The “Bowling Alone” stats are endlessly fascinating.

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