Some sightings from INFORMS Pittsburgh

OK, a “real” blogger would have put together a dozen posts from the Pittsburgh INFORMS Meeting. But I guess I am not, since I am just plain exhausted from the meeting and can’t put together any extended words. Suffice it to say, I thought it was terrific. Some glitches naturally (sorry to those who were in Greentree with insufficient transportation: wish I had a mulligan on that!), but overall I was thrilled about the things we had control over: the plenaries, the receptions, the convention center setup, the scheduling. We had 3780 participants, an all-time record for OR conferences. Thanks to all who made that happen!
A few sightings on the web: the “Practical Communist” has some postings and some absolutely amazing pictures.

Procure IQ has a number of posts on the conference, including a summary of President Mark Daskin’s plenary.

I can’t read David’s Space, but he clearly was at the conference (before heading to Chicago) and also has some great pictures.

Navigating an INFORMS Meeting

Well, the INFORMS Pittsburgh Meeting is about to begin. The weather looks like it will be fine (no hurricanes like in Miami a few years back!). It is cool tonight (Saturday) but should get a bit warmer for most of the meeting.

At the Doctoral Colloquium tonight, INFORMS President Mark Daskin made some good points about navigating an INFORMS Meeting. One point that may not be obvious to first-time attendees is that you are very welcome to leave a session in between talks (it is a bit ruder to leave in the middle of a talk, but that is certainly not uncommon). So if you like presentation 1 of a session, and presentations 2 and 3 of a session three doors down, feel free to leave after the first presentation (typically as presenter 2 fiddles with the technology) and change rooms. It is something everyone knows after a few conferences, but even first-time attendees should do this. A second point is that many people attend tutorials of areas they specialize in. The best use of tutorials is to learn something of an area that is not known to you. I admit I check out tutorials in my area (to make sure they refer to me in appropriately reverential tones), but I am really wasting my time: I should either be attending something new or partaking in social capital activities (like having a drink at the bar with friends old and new). My own talk at the colloquium was on social capital and OR, similar to my EURO talk.
For those attending, enjoy the conference! For those not attending, shame on you, and plan for Seattle next year!

Update November 5

Mark has kindly provided his full

Mark’s Two-Page Guide to Navigating the


With a focus on first-time attendees

Continue reading “Navigating an INFORMS Meeting”

Saul Gass at INFORMS

Saul Gass is one of the great people in OR. In celebration of his 80th birthday, friends and colleagues gathered in Maryland in February for a Festschrift. The book of this celebration is coming out from Springer (Amazon link given, since I can’t find it on Springer: buy it at the conference since often they give a conference discount). Saul will be signing the book from 3-4:30 PM Monday November 6 at the INFORMS Meeting. I bet he would sign some of his other books (like The Annotated Timeline with Arjan Assad, his classic Linear Programming: Methods and Applications reprinted by Dover, or if you are particularly well-heeled, his Encyclopedia of Operations Research with the late Carl Harris) if you asked nicely.

Touring Pittsburgh and High School Teachers

With more than 2500 registrants so far, it looks like the INFORMS Pittsburgh Meeting will be a very big one. But touring Pittsburgh does not seem to be high on people’s list. If you or a guest are attending the conference and want to go on one of the guest tours, be sure to sign up now! If we don’t get critical mass, we won’t be able to offer the tours. Don’t let the treasures of Pittsburgh go undiscovered!

Also, if you are a High School teacher who wants to learn more about operations research and can get to Pittsburgh, check out the High School Teachers Workshop which is really an outstanding day!

Pittsburgh INFORMS information

We are about 6 weeks away from the Pittsburgh INFORMS conference.  On the plus side, we have been blessed with outstanding local and global support (ILOG has supported upgraded conference bags, SmartOps has sponsored a new Tuesday reception, IBM Center for Business Optimization has sponsored a new Prize Ceremony and much, much more).  On the minus side, I hope readers here have hotel rooms, since the city is definitely filling up!

Pittsburgh has a lot to offer.  The local committee is putting together a local guide.  If you have been here (or live here now!) and have comments to offer, please let me know and I will update the guide.

We now have receptions for all of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (November 5, 6, and 7).  If you are one of the first dozen or so people to find me at the reception and say “Hey Mike, I read your blog”, I will be happy to buy you a drink!

Off to Iceland!

Iceland GeyserI leave tomorrow for Iceland for the EURO 2006 conference. Busy time: in addition to the IFORS Administrative Committee Meeting, I am giving a semi-plenary on “The Society of Operations Research” (more on social capital and OR) and introducing Saul Gass as the IFORS Distinguished Lecturer.

They expect more than 1700 participants at this conference, almost triple their initial expectations of 600. This has been a huge issue for the organizers since it is a busy period in Reykjavik and there are only about 3000 rooms in the city. They have done an amazing job!

Since INFORMS Pittsburgh is also looking larger than expected (with more than 3200 abstracts submitted) it is clear there is quite a bit of enthusiasm for conferences. I am not sure why that is… perhaps the economy is better so people have more travel funds.

I’ll try to post some thoughts from the conference, along with some Reykjavik pictures.

Cutting Edge Pittsburgh

For those of you wondering whether Pittsburgh will be interesting enough for this year’s INFORMS Conference, has a posting on Cutting-Edge Pittsburgh. Based on the number of abstracts submitted (more than 3100 to date;  the SF meeting in 2005 ended up with 2877), it certainly seems possible that this conference will be INFORMS’ largest ever. Between this and the amazing registration numbers at the EURO meeting (if you don’t already have a hotel room, be prepared to scramble: we have filled up Reykjavik), it is certainly easy to see OR as a vibrant, growing field!

More OR and Sports

I missed this earlier article from the Wall Street Journal entitled “The NBA Tries to Make Teamwork a Science” on how teams in the National Basketball Association are trying to measure “team” effects of their plays (thanks Otis Smith for pointing this out). Basketball, more than many sports, relies on smooth teamwork for a team to be successful. This leads to an interesting data mining issue. The article link expires in 7 days, but here are a few excerpts:

In a league long dominated by high-flying superstars, more teams are focusing this season on teamwork — and turning to surprisingly scientific methods to measure it. New technology makes it easier to track the performance of every combination of five players that steps on the court, in a long list of game situations, from out-of-bounds plays to pick-and-rolls to zone defenses. As different player mixes yield different results, teams are beginning to quantify the elusive concept known as chemistry.

[Wolf Pack: Eddie Griffin (far left) and Kevin Garnett (center) click on the court.]
Wolf Pack: Eddie Griffin (far left) and Kevin Garnett (center) click on the court.

Say, for example, that after a coach inserts two particular players into a game, the opposing team has trouble scoring. Getting ready for the next opponent, the coach might flip open his laptop, punch a few keys, and see how his team did defensively in other games when the same two players were on the court together. He’s able to do this because teams are increasingly turning to software that dissects plays, follows every pass and shot and tracks each player’s part in every possession.

Not surprisingly, it is people in Operations Research that come to the rescue. Wayne Winston is best known for the textbooks he has published on a range of operations research-related topics. But he also has been working with NBA teams on the issue of teamwork: Continue reading “More OR and Sports”