ORMS Today
December 1997

President's Desk

1997 has been a personally fulfilling and eventful year at INFORMS thanks, mainly, to the generous cooperation I have received from the staff and from numerous volunteers on the Board and the committees, at INFORMS Online, and on special projects like the Shared Destiny Initiatives and Student Union. My hearty thanks to all.

Perhaps my greatest satisfaction is seeing INFORMS moving so swiftly toward a future of great promise. Indulge me one last time, if you would please, as I sketch what I hope INFORMS will be like by the end of the century. Steps have already been taken toward nearly everything mentioned below.

The time is two years from today, and you are looking forward to your grandest New Year's Eve party ever.

Meetings: Presenters routinely put working papers, slide shows and related digital materials on-line, where they are accessed by many more people than come to the live presentation; software exhibits and demonstrations are becoming so numerous that they are now a major drawing card, especially for practitioners; several special-purpose meetings on important emerging topics supplement the national meetings each year and help members capitalize on new opportunities for application, teaching and research.

Publications: The full text of all INFORMS journals and magazines is now on-line, and experiments are under way with new forms of digital packaging and full-text search by non-subscribers as a way to increase readership; our on-line journal ITORMS continues to pioneer innovations that are increasingly being adopted by our print journals, and new on-line journals are starting to appear; the Web sites of several journals now host active discussions in their fields led by editors, authors and interested readers, and also offer an attractive selection of contributed on-line resources.

Subdivisions: Many chapters and sections are flourishing as never before thanks to their thriving Web sites, which boost the value of affiliation and attract new participants from around the world; some are becoming true electronic communities with sharp focus, their own white and yellow pages, well-edited FAQs, well-run discussion groups, group purchase options, a variety of specialized on-line resources (mostly contributed by members), and even niche employment services.

Web Storefronts: INFORMS Online and a new commerce-capable Web server have become our most popular vehicle for presenting and delivering products and services to members, and for attracting new members; this is accomplished through three distinct "storefronts" — one for faculty, one for students (a rework of Student Union), and one for practitioners (patterned after Student Union).

Continuing Professional Education: In response to strong demand by full-time practitioners and the rapid pace of technological change, INFORMS cooperates with leading faculty and the best training and seminar companies to offer a wide variety of job-critical learning experiences.

Personal Networking: Nearly half of all members now have a personal Web page, and a comprehensive, searchable index of these has become a popular way to learn about one another and to find people with a specific interest or attribute; well-moderated, Web-based discussion groups within the INFORMS orbit multiply the value of listservers and news groups for all members.

Employment Services: The Job Placement Service and INFORMS' increasingly comprehensive, Web-based compilation of job opportunities and candidates make INFORMS by far the leading venue for OR/MS job-hunters and recruiters in academia, industry and government.

Public Relations and Outreach: Thanks in part to the Web and database and contact management software, INFORMS PR and outreach are achieving impressive levels of effectiveness; INFORMS videos from the Edelman competition, NSA-sponsored outreach programs, and other sources are readily accessible on-line; most prize-winning OR/MS work is now on-line and heavily exploited for inspirational, outreach, PR and teaching purposes; INFORMS' External Liaisons (some are individuals and some subdivisions) to about 40 other societies are increasingly valuable as outreach conduits and rich sources of new ideas for INFORMS.

Office Technology: INFORMS' information systems for financial management, marketing, meetings management and membership services finally have achieved full system integration and Web-enablement, thereby permitting more personalized member products and services, new functionality, and far higher labor productivity; much of the labor savings go into accelerating innovation and professionalizing some of the work previously assigned to volunteers; the formerly office-bound intranet is now a global, workaday tool useful to most INFORMS volunteers; several OR/MS applications done by student teams further improve office productivity, decisions, and policy.

Membership: International membership is rising rapidly, largely as a result of INFORMS' strong Web presence and new language options, as is full-time practitioner membership; the traditional membership proportions of about one-third practitioner and two-thirds academic are well on their way to reversal, thereby leading to more application-driven research, quicker and wider application of new results, more student interest in OR/MS courses and career options, a better job market for OR/MS graduates, and improved agency and foundation attitudes toward funding OR/MS.

With advances like these within INFORMS' grasp if it can sustain its present pace, and with the ever-growing need for OR/MS technology, INFORMS is well positioned to prosper during the next millennium.

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