The International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) is a 50-year old organization which is currently composed of 50 national societies. Its beginnings date from 1955, when the vice-president of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) sent a proposal for an international conference to the secretary of the UK society, the Operational Research Society (ORS). The French Society, SOFRO, was added as a sponsoring society to what would be the first in a line of triennial conferences. This was the 1957 Oxford Conference, described by Maurice Kirby as the fifth of the seven defining moments in OR history (Cummins, 1998). The Statutes were prepared and the working arrangements for the Federation completed by January 1, 1959 (Rand, 2000), marking the birth of IFORS. The Statutes (Anon, 1959) stated the purpose of the Federation as “the development of operational research as a unified science and its advancement in all nations of the world.” Specifics about how this objective can be attained were given as follows:
1. Sponsoring of international conferences and meetings;
It is interesting to note that in order to give greater weight to larger societies but not to overwhelm the smaller ones, the Statutes had a provision that in all formal votes taken by the Board, the voting strength of each society is the square root of the qualified membership of that society. The by-laws further stated that all papers shall be published or presented in French or English.
|IFORS first 60 years at a glance
While ideological confrontation of the 1930’s gave birth to Operational Research, IFORS was born some 20 years later out of professional cooperation. The first International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) conference, held in Oxford in 1957, was considered by Maurice Kirby as the fifth defining moment in the history of OR. IFORS officially came into existence in January 1959.Conferences
The first conference following the founding of IFORS was held in Aix-en-Provence in September 1960, attended by delegates from ten member societies. The subsequent conference locations along with the names of the Organizing Committee and Program Committees Chairs are indicated below:
The conferences have always followed the format of a Monday to Friday programme, with the Wednesday reserved for tours away from the conference. Providing an opportunity for social interaction had always been the aim of this activity. The 2017Triennial Conference has been set for Quebec City while Korea’s’s bid to host the 2020 conference in Seoul has been accepted.
Special Purpose Conferences (SPCs), on the other hand, enabled smaller meetings on any OR topic to be organized either independently or jointly with other professional organizations, including any national OR society. The topic of SPC-1, conducted in 1991 in Bruges, Belgium, was Decision Support Systems, while the last and eleventh SPC was held in 2001 in Athens, Greece on the subject of New Trends in Banking Management (Rand, 2001).
1 Mexico left IFORS in 2012, and was reinstated in 2015
The national member societies represent some 30,000 individual members. Their membership ranges from around 12,500 (USA) to about 3,000 (UK and Japan) to those with less than 50 (e.g. Belarus, Lithuania, Slovakia). With few exceptions, national member society representatives were on hand to accept their IFORS 50th Anniversary memento during the 2008 Conference banquet “Members Parade”, a reminder of how broad IFORS is as an organization (Trick, 2009).
In 1982, the Association of Latin-Iberoamerican Operations Research Societies (ALIO) was established in Rio de Janeiro after OR workers from Argentina, Brazil and Chile had laid the foundations for a regional grouping the year before. ALIO also counts among its members two national societies which are concurrently members of EURO, namely, the national society of Spain (SEIO) and that of Portugal (APDIO) (Yanasse, 2008).
IFORS gave its encouragement to the development of a grouping in the Asia-Pacific region, which came into being as the Association of Asian-Pacific ORSocieties within IFORS (APORS) in 1985. Representatives from Korea, China, Japan and Australia comprised the first officers of APORS (Oyama, 2008).
When, in 1987, the IFORS’ constitution was changed, NORAM, the Association of North American OR Societies within IFORS, composed of the OR Societies in Canada (CORS) and the USA (INFORMS), was created solely so that a Vice-President would be able to represent North America.
Since EURO had been very supportive of activities in the African region, it has welcomed into its group the national society of South Africa (ORSS).
Kindred Societies and International Membership
Centre of Pakistan in 1978. The kindred society status provided the means for IFORS to have links in countries where a national society was not ready to join IFORS. TIMS merged with ORSA in 1995 to form INFORMS, which thus became the US National Society (Rand, 2001). Other kindred societies on record include Committee on Operations Research Hungary and the Resource Modeling Association (Weintraub, 2000). In 2017 there is one kindred society: Airlines Group of IFORS (AGIFORS).
Inspired by UNESCO, IFORS joined with four other international federations to form FIACC (the Five International Associations Co-ordinating Committee). FIACC existed to exchange information about conferences of the sister federations, which include the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC), the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), the International Federation for Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (IMACS), and the International Measurement Confederation (IMEKO). At present, there is limited communication and no joint activities carried out with kindred societies and the FIACC.
International Abstracts in Operations Research
IAOR was thus first published in 1961 under the editorship of Herbert P. Galliher. There was relatively little change in the method of collecting, indexing, and publishing material until 2005 when the Administrative Committee directed that a Strategic Plan for IAOR be crafted to determine how best to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the internet. That plan plus a subsequent definition of detailed requirements led in March 2007 to the AC commissioning a project which would incorporate available technologies into the production and distribution of the content of IAOR.
Over the last few years, following the recommendations of the IAOR Strategic Planning Committee, a comprehensive plan of action was undertaken to completely transform IAOR from a paper-based publication to an online journal capable of meeting the challenges created by the widespread availability of powerful browsers on the Internet. The objectives of this transformation are: to regain IAOR’s role as the “First Source” for those researching the OR literature; and to maintain its profitability for IFORS and its Publisher (Gendreau, 2008). This it aims to do by being: a one-stop-source format; easily searched; possessing added value; up-to-date; and with a printed version also available
In 2010, David K. Smith (UK) retired as Editor of IAOR, having served 19 years in this capacity, the longest-serving Editor in the journal’s history. During his tenure, he edited and indexed more than 70,000 abstracts. His successor K. Preston White, Jr. (USA), had served IAOR as the US Contributing Editor since 1985.
Conference Proceedings and International Transactions in Operational Research
To avoid these problems, it was decided to change the method of publication of conference papers. The International Transactions in Operational Research (ITOR) was thus published in 1994 under the editorship of Peter Bell (Canada). The difficulty of maintaining a steady stream of quality paper submissions was addressed by a review of both the Editorial Board composition and the editorial policy. The new editorial policy instituted by current ITOR Editor, Celso Ribeiro (Brazil), gives importance to special issues focused on current topics, as well as to international perspectives of operations research, in particular, the applications of OR in development, a subject that is seldom covered by other major OR journals. The journal is continuing to improve as a commercial success, with a significant shift from print to online for institutional subscriptions, i.e., online subscriptions represented 36% of the total by the end of 2008 compared to only 17% at the end of 2005. In order to attract papers from more sources, ITOR is completing the process of obtaining ISI recognition for the journal (Gendreau, 2008).
In December 1992, participants of the first International Conference on OR for Development (ICORD) held in Ahmedabad, India, made recommendations on how OR could best be advanced in developing countries. What has come to be known as the Ahmedabad Declaration called for a range of actions from IFORS to support and strengthen OR in developing countries. Notwithstanding the perceived lack of commitment on the part of IFORS to deliver on this “wishlist” (Rosenhead, 1998), IFORS support of development-relevant OR activities have continued. Successor ICORDs were held in Rio de Janeiro (1996), Manila (1997), Berg-en-dal (2001), Jamshedpur (2005) and Fortaleza (2008).
In 2009, IFORS set aside funds to sponsor the conduct of more frequent workshops in di®erent regions with the goal of enhancing continuity and sustaining interest in between the three-year ICORD cycle. Such workshops were envisioned to focus on a particular theme for OR in Development (ORD), such as health, food, poverty, with the intent that representatives from such workshops would present their findings and follow up work at a full meeting held in conjunction with the IFORS Triennial Conference (Stewart, 2008). Some proposals had been received from national societies to conduct such workshops. However, revisions requested by the Developing Countries Committee that would make the proposals consistent with the aims of the program have not been received. As of this writing, funds for this purpose have yet to be spent.
IFORS has in the past published OR for Developing Countries Newsletter, later renamed DC to DC (Direct Connection to Developing Countries), the purpose of which is to keep people in contact between the ICORD conferences. This feature has been incorporated into the regular IFORS newsletter. The IFORS Prize for OR in Development (known as the Third World Prize until
1993) competition has been held at every triennial conference since 1987. The Prize recognizes exemplary work in the application of OR to address issues of development. For the 2011 competition, prize money has been doubled and the limitation that authors must be nationals of developing countries has been removed. Jointly with EURO, IFORS has initiated several activities, including sponsoring conferences and scholarships in the African continent in an effort to address the lack of organized OR activity in the area.
The site includes information about local and international conferences, activities of member societies, updates on IFORS committee activities, links to national societies and regional groupings, the IFORS newsletter, and educational and training material. Announcements on available scholarships and competitions continue to be updated here. As part of fostering excellence in OR education, the website includes OR Educational Resources, the goal of which is to gather high quality educational material such as case studies, methodological readings and algorithms and make them available to IFORS members. One component of this project is tutORial, a collection of interactive web-based tutorial modules on generic OR topics developed by Moshe Sniedovich (Australia).
The IFORS website was redesigned in 2008. By 2009, the website started accepting on-line voting and discussion postings on topics being presented to member society representatives. With the significant role played by the internet, IFORS continues to recognize the potential of this tool in promoting OR.
News has regularly appeared. It has taken on the task of communicating ideas, interesting developments, conferences, major OR events from member societies, including at least one technically oriented article per issue. Envisioned to also take over the DC to DC, it covers developing country initiatives and activities. Each issue also features an editorial from an AC member. The format of the newsletter is electronic and is published on the IFORS website. With every edition of the newsletter, the link to the website is sent to society representatives with a request to send the link or the copy of the newsletter to all its members (Ittmann, 2008). Hard copies are printed for distribution only for the annual report which has traditionally been available in the middle of the succeeding year.
IFORS Distinguished Lecture (IDL)
Young Scholars Program
Leadership, Organizational Structure and Financial Position
IFORS is run by a Board composed of the Representatives of each member country who vote on major issues confronting IFORS. The Administrative Committee (AC) is responsible for the execution of activities and drafting of proposals for Board approval. The AC is elected for a period of three years, except for the Treasurer whose term is renewable twice at the maximum. The Secretary’s location corresponds to the headquarters of IFORS. In its 50th year the IFORS 2007-2009 AC is composed of:
Owing to the efforts and activities put in motion by its past leaders, IFORS, for the last 18 years, has ceased operating on a financial shoestring. IFORS is now in a position to do more. As the present treasurer, Peter Bell, says, the issue today is not so much, Do we have the money?” as “What else can and should IFORS be doing?” (Bell and del Rosario, 2008).
The current AC, under the leadership of Michael Trick, takes IFORS to the 60-year mark. It is faced with the challenge of expanding and continuing to cater to the needs of IFORS national member societies, through which the goal of developing OR worldwide is best achieved. As such, communication through newsletters, conferences, publications and the website is key to making the membership active participants of the global OR community.
As a responsible member of the global community, IFORS in turn, must renew its commitment to pursue the application of OR where it is most needed in developing countries. Lastly, any organization must be in a sound financial health to function effectively. Vigilance on the preservation and enhancement of revenue streams (as has been done with the publications initiatives of the past), coupled with a judicious use of funds and selection of appropriate programs will enable IFORS to do more as it opens the door to its next 60 years.