February 1996 € Volume 23 € No. 1


Real World


NSF Boosts Human Behavior Science

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 138 awards totaling $9.6 million to advance fundamental scientific knowledge about human behavior under the new Human Capital Initiative (HCI). The agency received 280 proposals for the initiative announced earlier this year. HCI aims to build research on the capacity for productive citizenship by examining factors such as education, the workplace, family processes, neighborhood influences and economic forces. Chief among its goals is to create databases that will give researchers more powerful tools to help advance knowledge.

"There is a critical need for data that allow us to track and understand what's going on in these areas," says Bill Butz, NSF's division director for social, behavioral and economic research. "There is applied research and policy-related research, but not enough fundamental research. We need this definitive research to expand our knowledge in such areas as welfare reform, immigration, and other human resource programs."

Among the awards toward that end is a grant to a social psychologist from the University of Texas-El Paso to study how basic human thought processes lead to over-generalized beliefs about entire racial and ethnic groups. This research will shed new light on problems of prejudice and discrimination. An award to sociologists from the University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota and Harvard University will study links between productivity and compensation and training in the workplace. Another grant to anthropologists from Florida International University will study immigrant groups and establish a longitudinal data base which will help determine important factors in school performance. An award to an economist from the University of Pennsylvania will examine a large set of identical twins to more accurately estimate the influence of families on individual behavior.

A key grant to an economist from Northwestern University will examine the relationship between public assistance and the overall economy. "The assumption has been that we need a public assistance system as a safety net for the economy," Butz adds. "But when the economy has turned up, public assistance has continued to rise. Why? We lack a fundamental understanding of the behavioral and economic processes that are driving this relationship. This research will help develop this understanding."


Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Scientists and Engineers ...

Immigration of scientists and engineers (S&Es) increased in 1993, even as overall immigration to the United States decreased, according to the National Science Foundation. The increase was partly due to the Immigration Act of 1990, which allows for increases in immigration of highly skilled workers.

In 1993, 23,534 S&Es were admitted to the United States on permanent visas, according to a Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS) report developed from Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) data. The increase continued three years of growth in S&E immigrations.

Engineers made up nearly 62 percent of the S&Es admitted, and nearly half of the scientists admitted were mathematical scientists and computer specialists.

Women, mostly from Asian countries, represented 21.3 percent of the S&Es admitted - an increase from 15.8 percent in 1989.

Of the total S&Es admitted in 1993, 1,403 applied under the Chinese Student Protection Act, which allows Chinese nationals living in the U.S. on temporary visas to adjust to permanent resident status.


Thanks for Nothing

While in New Orleans for the 1995 Fall INFORMS Conference, Frank Trippi and Matt Rosenshine were walking from a nearby restaurant back to the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel when they spied an envelope on the sidewalk. Upon opening it, Trippi and Rosenshine found a check for $131,874.31. After returning the check promptly to the shipping line which issued it, the INFORMS duo barely received any thanks for their effort. As reported in the New Orleans' Times-Picayune and the Atlanta Journal/Consitution, Trippi said "I gave it (the check) to a manager, and he muttered 'thank you' and that was it. I figured he would at least offer me dinner to be polite. He didn't even offer me a handshake."


HyperTech Interface

Accessing large amounts of different types of data -- map, database, aerial photo and text files -- can be difficult using a conventional database interface, and next to impossible from remote locations. HyperTech, a graphical hypertext interface being developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology with funding from the U.S. Air Force's Rome Laboratory, may put such information right at the user's fingertips.

Georgia Tech researchers have developed HyperTech to combine map, database, aerial photo and text files to help Air Force personnel easily access linked information.

HyperTech accesses large amounts of diverse information, but unlike many of its predecessors, it uses a standard, commercial relational database system called Sybase. Not only is Sybase the Air Force standard, it also is heavily relied upon in the business world, says senior research engineer Kirk Pennywitt of the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

"Although our system is based on a Sun UNIX platform, the data can be exported to HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the language of the World Wide Web," says Pennywitt, who is HyperTech's project director and works in GTRI's Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory. "HyperTech can be read by people on other computers using World Wide Web browsers available for PCs, Macintoshes, UNIX and every other major type of computer platform."

The researchers developed HyperTech to work with the Air Force's "Electronic Footlocker" concept of storing information digitally and having it ready for deployment to remote locations.

"So, for example, you have information on a foreign country and a situation arises there -- you extract all the pieces of relevant information from the Electronic Footlocker, put it on tape or CD-ROM, and ship it off with people when they head for the field," Pennywitt explains. "You might have information consisting of message traffic, maps, photographs, reference information and other items to store in that digital format."

HyperTech lets users create links between pieces of information where an association might not be obvious. A link, familiar to hypertext and World Wide Web users, is an underlined or highlighted word or symbol, and by clicking on it using a mouse, the user is transported to a related document.

"You could have an article talking about the economics of certain products and that could relate back to the strategic importance of a certain country," Pennywitt said. "Basically the operator can traverse the information in non-linear fashion."

HyperTech will allow users to update databases while they are on location or in the field, so they are acting on the most current information possible. In addition, this particular interface avoids one of the main problems hypertext users encounter frequently: following so many paths within the information that they become lost.

"Our system provides a navigable map of all the data elements of the system," Pennywitt explains. "Pieces of information are represented as boxes, and the links are presented as arrows going in and out of them, so you can see which elements are linked to others, and how."

HyperTech also provides multi-user support so more than one person can access information at one time. Multimedia support for text, graphics, video and sound are standard features.

By March 1996, the researchers hope to make HyperTech capable of automatic link generation, solving the problem many users face -- time to create all the links they need between databases. They also plan to develop customizable views of the data.


Top 25 Technology MBA Programs

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management bested the nearly 300 U.S. business schools polled in a survey to determine the top 25 Techno MBA programs. The survey was conducted by Computerworld, a newspaper focusing on information systems management.

The newspaper polled more than 3,000 corporate recruiters and 300 business school deans (with 10 percent and 34 percent responding, respectively) to determine the nation's strongest Techno MBA programs -- business and computer technology courses combined into a single master's degree. The ranking was based on the program's ability to produce information systems (IS) leaders, managers and entrepreneurs, as well as their reputation for IS scholarship, curriculum, faculty and students.

The top 25 Techno MBA programs, according to Computerworld, are as follows:
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2. Carnegie Mellon University
3. University of Texas at Austin
4. University of Minnesota
5. University of Arizona
6. University of Michigan
7. University of Pennsylvania
8. Purdue University
9. University of Pittsburgh
10. New York University
11. University of Illinois, Urbana
12. Texas A & M University
13. Georgia Institute of Technology
14. University of California, Berkeley
15. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
16. Ohio State University
17. Michigan State University
18. University of Wisconsin, Madison
19. University of Southern California
20. Georgia State University
21. University of Georgia
22. Arizona State University
23. University of California, Irvine
24. Boston University
25. Northern Illinois University


Aerial Robotics Competition

Stanford University placed first in the 1995 International Aerial Robotics Competition after that team's helicopter flew autonomously for almost three minutes and retrieved metal disks from a bin. This was the first time in the five-year history of the competition, held at the Georgia Institute of Technology, that any vehicle accomplished that task, said competition organizer Rob Michelson. Two other teams also flew autonomously for more than 30 seconds, but without retrieving disks.

Stanford was also the first team to use the global positioning system (GPS) for navigation. The team employed differential GPS, which differs from other GPS systems in three important ways: 1) It can control the movements of, not just track, the position of the helicopter; 2) It is accurate to within a few centimeters, as opposed to within 100 meters; and 3) it allows for sensing the attitude of the vehicle, which includes factors such as yaw, pitch and roll.

A total of 10 teams competed in the event, which is open to teams of college students from around the world. The task calls for the robotic vehicles to locate and retrieve randomly placed metal disks, fly them across a barrier one at a time and deposit them in another bin autonomously without direct human control.

Stanford's craft retrieved a disk and flew across the barrier autonomously, but was unable to deposit the disk in the bin on the other side.

For the student competitors, the event provides important experience in solving real-world engineering problems and working on a team. For the AUVSI, a Washington-based non-profit educational organization, the five years of competition sponsorship have increased interest in autonomous air vehicles, which could be used to lower the cost of routine aerial inspections and flights into hazardous areas, as well as reduce risks to soldiers in combat scouting.


Easing the Pain of Re-engineering

Operations researchers and management scientists may work more behind the scenes in the re-engineering of a company than a manager, but their sensitivity to the situations created by re-engineering and the managers' plight should not be dismissed.

In a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal, it was noted that in a re-engineering environment, it was necessary for company leadership at all levels to commit to working side-by-side with employees and create an atmosphere where employees would be able to help shape their new environment and cope with the disruption.

The following suggestions were made to help managers achieve the goal of having employees emerge from the re-engineering process stronger both personally and professionally, thereby giving the organizations greater promise of a more competitive future:

  • Make your organization a bulls-eye for headhunters: managers can no longer promise lifetime employment, but they can promise to make their employees very employable.

  • Get naked: business leaders must share more about the business than they might have felt comfortable with in the past. This needs to be done to help establish the trust between management and employees that is necessary to heal the wounds of re-engineering.

  • Make your vision a jointly owned commitment: To do this, an honest, two-way interchange of meaningful information must take place between the employees and management.

  • Show some (real) guts: Leaders must demonstrate vulnerability, culpability and candor if they expect their employees to respond with honesty, innovation, calculated risk and trust. Leaders must admit to not knowing all the answers and be willing to ask for help and critical feedback. Leaders must take responsibility for what has gone wrong. Finally, good leaders create forums to have candid discussions with the work force.

    The bottom line that companies must realize is that successful organizations will emerge when action is taken to minimize the pain of reengineering and prevent it from turning into something worse -- cynicism, disloyalty and distrust.


    Web-Based Workflow Applications

    Action Technologies has released the Action Workflow Metro -- a workflow solution for the Internet, which allows companies to use the Internet to coordinate enterprise business processes, such as improved customer satisfaction, reduced product delivery cycle time, and lowered costs for delivery of products and services, through any standard World Wide Web (WWW) browser product.

    Metro includes 20 customizable applications such as customer service, sales and marketing, human resources, finance and accounting, and engineering applications. These applications leverage both a corporate intranet for internal enterprise applications, such as human resources, and the Internet for extended enterprise applications such as customer service.

    The Action WorkFlow Metro applications are launched from a company's web site. For example, a customer can go to a company's web site and submit a request for technical support. Once the request is submitted, the customer can check its status at any time from the web site. Within the company, the request is routed and tracked to ensure the necessary steps are taken to satisfy the customer and reduce the number of calls into the help desk. Employees within the company can access a human resources application from their company's web site and enroll directly for benefits, saving administrative time and costs, and allowing the employee to track the status of the request.


    Doctorate Salary Survey

    A record number of doctorate degrees -- 1,226 -- were awarded in the mathematical sciences during 1994-95. Simultaneously, the unemployment rate for new doctoral recipients also reached the highest level ever reported -- 14.7 percent. These findings are contained in the first report of the 1995 Annual AMS (American Mathematical Society)-IMS (Institute of Mathematical Statistics)-MAA (Mathematical Association of America) Survey.

    The report also notes these other findings in the U.S. production of mathematical scientists:
    • Among U.S.-citizen new doctorates in the mathematical sciences, 25 percent are women.

    • The median starting salary of new doctoral recipients in teaching remained the same -- $35,000 -- for men and women.

    • The number of U.S. citizens among new doctorates -- 567 -- is almost 21 percent more than those earning doctoral degrees last year, and 57 percent above the record low reported in 1986-1987.

    • Numbers of under-represented minorities receiving doctorates continue to be low -- six of the U.S. citizens are Black and nine are Hispanic. Twenty-five are members of other minority groups.
    This report is based on information collected from questionnaires distributed to departments and new doctorates.


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    OR/MS Today copyright 1997, 1998 by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. All rights reserved.


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