Time to leave the comfort zone

Time to leave the comfort zone

Sir John Sorrell

There are precious few examples of cities that are attempting to reduce energy and resource consumption and improve the quality of life for their citizens, says Sir John Sorrell. But nothing is going to happen, he argues, until politicians accept that they have a mandate to make the tough choices needed.


Begging for more than small change

Tom Crompton
Small changes to the way we live our lives are not enough to tackle the environmental challenges facing the planet, argues Tom Crompton. In this week’s Green Room, he says the stark reality is that the only option is to cut the unsustainable consumption of the Earth’s finite resources.


OR 4 Sustainability?

    Sustainability! Cometh the hour, cometh the Operational Researcher?

Daniel L. Sandars, Ian Frommer, Carlos R. García-Alonso, & Lluis Plà

OR50 is a landmark conference. During WWII many professionals and academics, from multiple disciplines, where hurled together to work on the problems of war. Out of the multi-disciplinary soup came interdisciplinary creativity. A new discipline was born. Its name was Operational Research.

Today, the problems faced by society from unsustainable economic development, such as climate change, have been described as a greater threat than anything we have faced in living memory.

Due believe the sustainability will have a profund influence on OR (or vice versa)

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1) We have come along way since the word sustainability first started doing the rounds. At first it was uncomfortably hard to use, but since then we have all operationalised it to mean what is convenient. It now means everything and thus nothing. What does it need to mean to work?

2) One argument put forward by economists is that it is cheaper to react when the threat is upon us, if at all, because by then we will be smarter and richer. After all, the OR profession rose to the challenge of WWII without long-term strategic capacity building research. Shall we join our funders and sit back and wait?

3) In any case it is all the fault of OR and its narrow pursuit of profit maximisation. What we need is a new interdisciplinary decision science built around morality and social choice. Is it Evolution or Revolution that we need?

4) Ecosystems are dynamic and non-steady state, but economist’s favoured planning models are static. Ecosystems are highly spatially heterogeneous, but planning models are highly homogenous. Never the twain shall meet?

An additional contribution for Ian (OR4Green)
1. Green Fad?
The Energy Crisis of the 1970s led to changes in behavior (smaller, more fuel efficient cars became more prevalent) and funding for alternative energy, energy efficiency, and the like increased. Over time, interest and investment in these responses waned as fuel prices settled down, only to re-emerge recently. Will the current crisis exhibit the same short-term impact only to fade in time, or will it be more lasting?

2. The Short-Term Versus the Long Term
Is it better to change all of our light bulbs today to CFCs to save electricity but increase the amount of mercury in our land-fills, or should we wait until LEDs, which are as energy efficient but lack mercury, become more affordable and wide-spread? Was corn-based ethanol for fuel a huge mistake? Many believe it can at best only make a small contribution to fuel needs, while negatively impacting food supplies and prices, and that it may require more energy to produce than it yields.

3. Quantifying Green
Given two options for completing a task, comparing their monetary costs may be straightforward, but comparing their environmental “friendliness” can be much more difficult. How can the subjectivity of energy/environmental choices be quantified in a way that allows ranking?

4. A Page from Dr. Chapman’s Book
Suppose that in the absence of any human-made impacts, and due entirely to natural processes well beyond our control, it turns out that the Earth’s mean temperature will drop 50 degrees over the next 200 years. What should we do to counter this? What should we do about global warming gases that we are currently emitting? (See for example, the comments of Australian physicist and former astronaut Dr. Phil Chapman.)

Use the commenting option below to express your opinions. Comments will be delayed whilst they are moderated for SPAM.

W(h)ither strategic applied OR?

The fate of strategic applied OR; W(h)ither Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry, Fisheries, etc! Or w(h)ither not?

Lluis Plà, & Daniel L Sandars, Javier Faulin

There is long term economic decline in the biotic primary production industries as sources of employment and thus students. Globalisation adds its toll as the food chain concentrates into control by few multi-national companies. Long-term capacity building research investments are out of fashion in many national governments.

Do you believe this scenario is realistic

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Given this scenario do you believe it has important implications for the OR community

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1) Through farmers and fishermen society access many increasingly scarce ecosystems services, such as bio-diversity and clean water. Society doesn’t expect to pay so OR will not pay?
2) World population might yet hit 9 billion with many of our lives. For the first time in a generation food security has been thrown into question in the developed world. Are we back in business?
3) In the absence of a strong strategic governmental lead can the large companies with their vast data and financial resource take up the slack? That’ll never work, beyond some short term-tactical profit-maximising studies, with no regard to societal interests? Perhaps consumers and farmers will be king!
4) It maybe that it is supra-national organisations such as multi-nationals, the FAO or the EC to take the lead? That’ll never work because agriculture is so spatially heterogeneous and needs local knowledge?
5) When the last agricultural student has left university we will simply get applied biologists and mathematicians to collaborate. Rubbish! Multi-disciplinary collaboration does not lead to good interdisciplinary science?
6) Are e-tools and open-access journals the answer to maintaining critical mass and vitality in an increasingly sparse profession without the support of dedicated university departments and research establishments?

Use the comment option to express your views. There will be a delay as comments will be moderated for Spam before publication.

Meat in a low-carbon world


By Tom Heap
Costing the Earth, Radio 4

Cow in field
Cows consume 8kg of grain for 1kg of meat

Feel-good food just got tricky.

It was easy when “good” meant anything which could have stepped off a John Constable canvas: free range chicken, foraging pigs and grazing cattle.

But then climate change came along. No one noticed at first, still concentrating their fire on the obvious targets like 4x4s, long flights and coal power stations; but our meaty diet is laden with greenhouse gases, and trying to reduce them throws up some unpalatable choices.

Read More at the BBC

Recent papers

Agricultural countermeasures in nuclear emergency management: a stakeholders’ survey for multi-criteria model development
Turcanu, C; Carle, B; Hardeman, F

Information and its management for differentiation of agricultural products: The example of specialty coffee
Niederhauser, N; Oberthur, T; Kattnig, S; Cock, J

Procedure for the classification and characterization of farms for agricultural production planning: Application in the Northwest of Spain
Riveiro, JA; Marey, MF; Marco, JL; Alvarez, CJ

Wither agricultural DSS?
Matthews, KB; Schwarz, G; Buchan, K; Rivington, M; Miller, D

Decision modelling for environmental protection: The contingent valuation method applied to greenhouse waste management
Parra, S; Aguilar, FJ; Calatrava, J

OR50: Agriculture and Natural Resources

We are moving close to the point where to conference database will be polled for titles and authors to use in the invitational program.  The call for papers remains up until at least the end of June.  We currently have 14 submissions in our stream and a few that we know are in the pipe line. We probably represent around 7-10% of the conference activity at this stage.


Lluis Pla and myself are leading two plenary debates where we raise issues from agriculture and set them into a wider OR debate, each lasting around 90minutes.  The deabtes will be transcribed by the OR society for publication in OR INSIGHT, the society’s magazine. The titles are:

1) Sustainability! Cometh the hour, cometh the Operational Researcher?

2) Strategic Applied OR: Wither Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, etc or wither not?

Within the setting of the conference we will also be holding meeting for EWG-ORAFM and for the UK Special Interest Group

Green light for UK group

The OR Society

The OR society has given us the go ahead to reinstate the old Agriculture and Related Industries Special Interest Group as a new group for Agriculture and Natural resources.  As a special interest group we hope to facilitate a fraternity of researchers and prationers working at the interfaces of modelling, economcs and or engineering.  Within this context we will hold meetings where we hope to engage with people whose work is of interest to OR but who may not themselves be interst in full on OR.

See our weblink http://www.orsoc.org.uk/orshop/(waoaju5511gj0w555ncjb445)/orcontent.aspx?inc=agricult.htm

ORAFM Launch their e-newsletter

orafm logo

Dear ORAFM member,
it is a pleasure to announce the launchment of our

Click NewsLetter

It is an internal document edited by/for the members of the group to keep
us informed of the MOST important NEWS concerning us (as ORAFM group).

At a glance, you’ll see the latest news. In this first number, the
preparation of the stream within OR50, the meeting of the group and the
EURO Summer Institute in 2009. Don’t miss it!
Best wishes,

L.M. Plà
Coordinator of the EURO WG ORAFM


PS. It intends also to avoid multiple emails giving redundant
informations. We plan to edit one each one or two months. All of you can
contribute sending to the editorial team your comments and news.

Learning and Intelligent OptimizatioN Conference

    Learning and Intelligent OptimizatioN Conference

                              LION 3

                14-18 January, 2009. Trento, Italy

              More details and up-to-date information at

Building on the success of the previous editions we are organizing a new event for January 2009. The LION conference is aimed at exploring the boundaries and uncharted territories between machine learning, artificial intelligence, mathematical programming and algorithms for hard optimization problems. The main purpose of the event is to bring together experts from these areas to discuss new ideas and methods, challenges and opportunities in various application areas, general trends and specific developments.

The conference program will consist of plenary presentations, introductory and advanced tutorials, technical presentations, and it will give ample time for discussions.

Relevant Research Areas

LION 3 solicits contributions dealing with all aspects of learning and intelligent optimization. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

– Stochastic local search methods and meta-heuristics
– Hybridizations of constraint and mathematical programming with
– Supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning applied to
heuristic search
– Reactive search (online self-tuning methods)
– Algorithm portfolios and off-line tuning methods
– Algorithms for dynamic, stochastic and multi-objective problems
– Interface(s) between discrete and continuous optimization
– Experimental analysis and modeling of algorithms
– Theoretical foundations
– Parallelization of optimization algorithms
– Memory-based optimization
– Prohibition-based methods (tabu search)
– Memetic algorithms
– Evolutionary algorithms
– Dynamic local search
– Iterated local search
– Variable neighborhood search
– Swarm intelligence methods (ant colony optimization, particle swarm
optimization etc.)
Continue reading Learning and Intelligent OptimizatioN Conference

My professional interests are represented here #Agriculture #OperationalResearch ( #OR ) #Environment