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Newsmakers: Edelman Award, INFORMS Prize and other honors

Holiday Retirement earns Edelman Award

Scott Shanaberger (fourth from left), chief operating officer at Holiday Retirement, and the Edelman Award-winning team celebrate at the Edelman Gala.
Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

Holiday Retirement won the 2017 Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences from INFORMS for its use of operations research (O.R.) to improve the pricing model for its more than 300 senior living communities across the United States.

The prestigious Edelman Award, considered the “Super Bowl” of O.R. practice, was presented at an Oscar-like gala held in conjunction with the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research in April in Las Vegas following a nearly year-long process that included vetting and site visits, as well as judged presentations by finalists at the Las Vegas conference.

With approximately $1 billion in annual revenue, Holiday Retirement is the largest private owner and operator of independent senior living communities in the United States. The company partnered with Prorize LLC, an Atlanta-based revenue management firm that leveraged O.R. to develop its senior living rent optimizer (SLRO), the first revenue management system in the industry. The SLRO system enables a consistent and proactive pricing process across Holiday, while simultaneously providing optimal pricing recommendations for each unit in every one of their communities.

“We are thrilled to be presented with the Franz Edelman Award, which recognizes the greatest achievement and most significant impact in operations research and analytics. This is an incredible accomplishment and honor,” said Scott Shanaberger, chief operating officer at Holiday Retirement. “This recognition is the realization of the hard work and collaboration of many people at both Holiday and Prorize in harnessing the power of operations research to transform our senior living operations and business model.”

This year’s other Edelman Award finalists included:

  • American Red Cross for “Analytics-based Blood Collection Methods”
  • Barco for “Platform-based Product Development”
  • BHP Billiton for “Detailed Integrated Capacity Estimate (DICE) Model”
  • General Electric (GE) for “RailConnect 360”
  • New York City Department of Transportation for “Off-Hours Delivery (OHD) Program”

First awarded in 1972, the Franz Edelman Award recognizes and rewards outstanding contributions of analytics and O.R. in the for-profit and non-profit sectors around the globe. Each year, INFORMS honors finalist teams that have improved organizational efficiency, increased profits, brought better products to consumers, helped foster peace negotiations, and saved lives. Since its inception, the cumulative dollar benefits from Edelman finalist projects have surpassed $240 billion.

U.S. Air Force and Disney receive the 2017 INFORMS Prize

The U.S Air Force (left side) and The Walt Disney Company (right side) were co-recipients of the 2017 INFORMS Prize.
Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

The U.S. Air Force and The Walt Disney Company both received the 2017 INFORMS Prize for their pioneering and enduring integration of operations research (O.R.) and analytics programs into their organizations. The prizes were presented at the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research in April in Las Vegas.

The INFORMS Prize honors effective integration of operations research into organizational decision-making. The award is given to organizations that have repeatedly applied the principles of O.R. in pioneering, carried, novel and lasting ways.

The U.S. Air Force launched its operations research program in 1942, which has since grown to include approximately 539 military and 849 civilian operations research analysts serving in nearly 300 Air Force organizations and agencies. The diverse applications of O.R. span operational effectiveness, acquisition of new systems, cost analysis, manpower and personnel, along with logistics and infrastructure. Air Force analysts provide timely, credible and defendable analyses that have been and continue to be essential to informing decisions.

“The Air Force’s commitment to operations research was forged 75 years ago in the urgency of World War II and continues today,” says Kevin Williams, director of Air Force studies, analyses and assessments. “We continue to drive analytical innovation and excellence as we address the challenges of the future in nearly every facet of the planning and execution mission of the United States Air Force.”

From improving the consumer and guest experience, to creative content development and operational excellence, The Walt Disney Company uniquely leverages diverse analytic applications to create innovation and value across nearly every system and organization within the company. In addition, Disney brings together analytics professionals and industry leaders to connect and share best practices to advance the field as part of an annual conference.

“Driven by our desire to create, innovate, learn and inspire, we use analytics and data to enhance our business in unique ways,” says Mark W. Shafer, senior vice president, revenue & profit management, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “At Disney, we’re storytellers, and analytics have become part of our story, and will ensure we continue to create magic for years to come.”

Air Force Academy’s O.R. program saluted

Jack Levis of UPS (far left) and Prize Committee Chair Robin Lougee (far right) congratulate the USAF Academy.
Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

The U.S. Air Force Academy won the 2017 UPS George D. Smith Prize for its operations research (O.R.) program, which prepares graduates to become frontline O.R. practitioners as analysts in the Air Force. The program exposes more than 50 percent of cadets to at least one O.R. course and provides cadets the opportunity to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in O.R. A year-long applied senior capstone serves as the apex of the program, during which teams of cadets consult for military, corporate, local government and nonprofit organizations to address real-world problems.

Organizations that have teamed with the USAF program in the past include DARPA, the Missile Defense Agency, Lockheed Martin, Walmart and the Healing Warriors Program.

Named in honor of the late UPS Chief Executive Officer – a champion of operations researchers at a leading Fortune 500 corporation – the UPS George D. Smith Prize is created in the spirit of strengthening ties between industry and the schools of higher education that graduate young practitioners of operations research. The prize is awarded to an academic department or program for effective and innovative preparation of students to be good practitioners of operations research or analytics.

“By teaming with a variety of organizations to provide its students access to real-world data and problem-solving opportunities, the Air Force Academy stands out among other academic institutions in its dedication to preparing graduates for success,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “As the demand for O.R. and analytics professionals continues to rise, it is more important than ever for young professionals to stand out as the top talent. The Air Force Academy’s program makes sure they do.”

The award was presented at the 2017 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research.

For more information about the UPS George D. Smith Prize, click here.

Student Team Competition targets food production

Aurelie Thiele presents the U.K.-based team of Peter Riley, Anna Scholes and Adam Green (l-r) as the winner of the O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition.

Aurelie Thiele presents the U.K.-based team of Peter Riley, Anna Scholes and Adam Green (l-r) as the winner of the O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

With the backdrop of a fast-growing global population and looming challenges to produce enough food to feed the world, a group of students from the University of Warwick, Nottingham University and Cardiff University in the United Kingdom developed a new method to produce better-performing soybean strains that could lead to a worldwide increase in food production. Their solution was developed as part of the first annual O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition. The new competition, organized by INFORMS and sponsored this year by Syngenta, challenges students to apply their considerable talent to develop solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our world today.

Eight teams comprised of graduate and undergraduate O.R. and analytics students from around the world competed in this year’s inaugural completion. Each team used the same data sets and software options to develop solutions to provide unique new analysis of data on soybean varieties bred for commercialization, and propose solutions for developing better performing plants.

“The O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition not only shines a spotlight on the incredible young talent that is preparing to enter the field of O.R. and analytics, but provides these student teams the opportunity to hone the skill sets that will place them on the path to success as they embark on their careers,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “From problem-solving and teamwork, to documenting and communicating their findings, the competition prepares students for the demands of a real-world workplace experience.”

“We are honored to have won the first O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition,” said Peter Riley, student team leader. “Not only did we have the chance to test our skills against brilliant students from around the world, but we were able to do so in way that could help make a lasting difference for countless people. It makes for a truly rewarding and fulfilling experience, and we look forward to building on what we’ve learned and accomplished as we move forward in our studies and careers.”

The winning team was announced at the 2017 INFORMS Business Analytics Conference in Las Vegas, following a final oral presentation by each finalist team. Finalists were selected by a panel of industry and academic experts based on each teams’ use of the full analytics process, from framing the problem to methodology selection, data use, model building, and quantitative analysis.

“Syngenta is proud to support innovative thinking among emerging young leaders in analytics,” said Joseph Byrum, senior R&D strategic marketing executive with Syngenta and Syngenta lead for the Student Competition organizing committee. “This competition served as an excellent entry point for students interested in learning more about how analytics can help solve the challenges facing agriculture today.”

In addition to the winning team from the United Kingdom, seven other universities were finalists in the 2017 competition including Drexel University, National University of Singapore, Özyein University (Turkey), Université catholique de Louvain Team 1 (Belgium), Université catholique de Louvain Team 2 (Belgium), University of Cincinnati and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For more information about the O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition, click here.

Study: Sharing social responsibility produces surprising results

Firms sharing social responsibility for the social good with customers is generally seen as a win-win – more patronage from socially responsible customers and larger benefits to society. A forthcoming study in the INFORMS journal of Marketing Science, a leading academic marketing journal, however, questions the premise. The study finds that when a firm shares social responsibility with customers by asking them to “pay what you want,” promising a certain percentage of revenues to be donated to charity, consumers respond to whether firms give, but very little to how much they give. A firm only needs to donate very little for customers to open their wallet – a win for firms, but not for charities and society.

The study, “Signaling Virtue: Charitable Behavior under Consumer Elective Pricing,” authored by Minah Jung (NYU), Leif Nelson (University of California, Berkeley) and Uri and Ayelet Gneezy (University of California, San Diego), examines consumer behavior under the broad umbrella of “shared social responsibility” – where firms and consumers take joint responsibility for the social good. They operationalize shared social responsibility creatively as a variant of “pay what you want pricing,” at a major supermarket retailer in which more than 2,700 customers were offered the option of how much they would pay for the retailer’s reusable shopping bag, when a certain portion of their payment goes to a charity.

The surprising finding that customers are very sensitive to whether a portion of their payment goes to charity, but seemingly insensitive to how much goes to charity, has critical implications for the design of shared social responsibility programs. In the field experiment, customers paid more than twice as much for a reusable shopping bag when told that 1 percent of their payment would go to charity relative to when nothing would be offered to charity. But they did not pay much more when donations increased to 50 percent, 99 percent or even 100 percent. A little charity goes a long way; a lot more does not go any further.

Digging deeper into this surprising behavior, the researchers found that consumers felt the same level of “warm glow” – the emotional happiness from having done a good deed – irrespective of how much of their money went to a charity. “Consumers feel about the same whether 1 percent or 99 percent of their payment went to charity,” said lead researcher Minah Jung.

The authors dub the pattern that consumers are sensitive to whether firms give to charity, but not how much as “scope insensitivity.” Scope sensitivity sounds anodyne, but it is by no means innocuous. Notes Ayelet Gneezy, “It gives firms perverse incentives in how they frame their corporate social responsibility programs. Offering a minimal contribution can increase profit dramatically. But as the charitable contribution increases consumers don’t give more, so profits go down. The most profitable strategy for the firm is to give to charity, but the smallest possible amount.”

Nelson cautions, “Sharing social responsibility with one’s customers sounds like a sure multiplier for the social good. Not so fast. When all customers care is for the warm glow of giving, sharing responsibility with them may not be the promised manna for the social good.”

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UPCOMING ANALYTICS EVENTS

INFORMS-SPONSORED EVENTS

INFORMS Computing Society Conference
Jan. 6-8, 2019; Knoxville, Tenn.

INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research
April 14-16, 2019; Austin, Texas

INFORMS International Conference
June 9-12, 2019; Cancun, Mexico

INFORMS Marketing Science Conference
June 20-22; Rome, Italy

INFORMS Applied Probability Conference
July 2-4, 2019; Brisbane, Australia

INFORMS Healthcare Conference
July 27-29, 2019; Boston, Mass.

2019 INFORMS Annual Meeting
Oct. 20-23, 2019; Seattle, Wash.

Winter Simulation Conference
Dec. 8-11, 2019: National Harbor, Md.

OTHER EVENTS

Advancing the Analytics-Driven Organization
Jan. 28–31, 2019, 1 p.m.– 5 p.m. (live online)

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