OR55 day three - the last day

Nobody likes the last day of conferences; it would be optimal for most people if the last day was abolished.

We have to recover from the fine dining of the previous evening, and the exertions of dancing for those who did so, and then one is faced with having to pack, not only everything that you brought, but also the free conference bag, USB stick, books and papers that you collected, plus anything that you have bought.  And all this has to be done in a way that allows you to arrive at the conference venue in time to hide the case away in the luggage room, and get to the first session of the day.  Presenters and stream chairs hate being on the programme first thing on the last day.  But someone has to do it, and the delegates who had this did very well - though some of the audiences were smaller than usual.

We'd had a brush with university bureaucracy late on the previous evening.  The plenary speaker for day three did not come to the dinner, so - en route for our rooms - we asked the porter whether he had arrived.  "Sorry", came the reply, "to tell you would be a breach of privacy".  The following morning, the assistant at the desk cheerfully told us that he had come.

I had business outside the presentations of papers so only went to five papers today.  The first looked at the fitness of rugby players, and models that could be used to assess fitness from the team coach's regular questionnaires; the measures of fitness could not be collected directly as frequently as the questionnaires.  With some judicious modelling, regression equations could be found which had an R^2 of 79% - pretty good.  Following that, we heard about some models of training schedules for athletes; based on some ideas of the interaction between the benefit of a period of exercise and the fatigue it would lead to.

After a break, I was glad that the seminar rooms were close together as I moved between rooms at the 30 minute "bell".  First, a fascinating talk about how OR can be used to help charities be more effective.  David Pritchard said that there were several reasons why OR methods are not used more widely by charities:
  • Lack of awareness of what OR can bring
  • Culture, since the sector defines itself as being driven by concern for the objects of the charity, compassion, equity, needs etc.  The emphasis on the concern for these may be at odds with interest in efficiency, optimisation and cold analysis
  • A data-poor environment with little data for traditional OR
  • Weak mechanisms for rewarding effectiveness
And these are not just in charities!  After that I skipped along to hear about models for queues at Heathrow, where there are models to help plan the deployment of immigration staff meeting the passengers off planes.  It was good, old-fashioned queue-modelling, with several relevant twists.  The models need to relate to the times of arrival of the planes, where they come from (passenger mix), and the size of them - as well as how far the passengers have had to walk to get to immigration.

Back along to the first room to hear about "Hands-on OR in healthcare in remote rural Africa" from Andrew Dobson who had recently returned from Bwindi hospital in Uganda ("Twelve hours by bus from Kampala, the last eight on unmade roads").  He had analysed the sources of funding for the hospital, noting how donations from individuals had dropped over recent years.  Overseas visitors come to the area to see mountain gorillas, and there was scope for a regular marketing of the needs of the hospital to these tourists; another piece of work concerned making the pharmacy more efficient.

The final plenary was an informative and (in places) amusing walk through some of the work that the government's Behavioural Insights team (part of the Cabinet Office) has done and is planning.  Michael Sanders suggested that there are three ways that authority can affect behaviour - by regulation, by incentives, by information.  The team had developed the acronym EAST, for Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely for its ideas.  They have a blog, where much of the material we heard is recorded, so I won't repeat it. 

And then there were the farewells, though many people had left earlier in the day.

It has been a good conference, and lots of people gave the event 8 or 9 out of 10 on the feedback.  A common complaint was the hills on the campus, and we can't get rid of them!  I only attended one presentation which was less good than it could have been; it has been mentioned in one of the daily blogs, but I will not say which!  There was death by PowerPoint, a phenomenon which happens when a slide has too much written on it.

I crossed Exeter by bus, as planned, and got home to find that the expert had been and the drain was sorted out, after Sunday's debacle


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