Thursday, December 29, 2011

Festive Scenes from Boston









Wherever you may be during this peaceful, yet, festive, time of the year, the wonder of this season makes it truly special.

Being a resident of Massachusetts, albeit the more rural western part, I never miss an opportunity to travel and to see other sights. Much of my travel is work-related, which I do enjoy immensely.

Yesterday, my family and I were in Boston, not for work, but to experience the celebratory atmosphere at this time of the year and to see some friends.

Above are some photos taken yesterday in Boston that capture the serenity and spirit from Quincy Marketplace to Faneuil Hall, the State House with its gold dome, and the skaters on the Boston Common.

Amazing not to have snow as a blanket but green grass instead.

Even the geese seem to be having second thoughts about migrating south.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Beware -- Why the European Union Cap and Trade Aviation Emission System May Lead Paradoxically to More Carbon Emissions

As families are set to gather for the holidays and to celebrate the New 2012 Year, and this may include taking planes, trains, or automobiles to reach the desired destinations, the European Union's (EU's) highest court in Luxembourg has approved the European Union's cap and trade system for aviation, which is to officially be put into practice on January 1, 2012. This news was reported in The New York Times.

According to the article in The Times: The European initiative involves folding aviation into the six-year-old emissions trading system, in which polluters can buy and sell a limited quantity of permits, each representing a ton of carbon dioxide. The legislation requires that airlines account for their emissions for the entirety of any flight that takes off from — or lands at — any airport in the bloc.

The goal, European officials have said, is to speed up the adoption of greener technologies at a time when air traffic, which represents about 3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, is growing much faster than gains in efficiency.

I have done research on emission permit trading systems in a series of papers focused not only on reducing pollution of firms but also in transportation. Some of the latter research was done with my former doctoral students, Padma Ramanujam and Kathy Dhanda. Padma, who now works at SAS, in Raleigh, North Carolina, received the Transportation Science Section of INFORMS Dissertation Prize in 1999 for her doctoral dissertation, "Transportation Network Policy Modeling for Congestion and Pollution Control: A Variational Inequality Approach."

I have also published papers that one needs to be careful in designing and implementing transportation pollution and congestion abatement policies since if the entire network and user behavior are not captured then the policies may have paradoxical outcomes! One paper that I wrote on the topic is, "Congested urban transportation networks and emission paradoxes," which was published in Transportation Research D and another, joint with June Dong, was "Paradoxes in networks with zero emission links: Implications for telecommunications versus transportation," which was also published in Transportation Research D.

In fact, the major theme of my Sustainable Transportation Networks book, published in 2000, was how to capture rigorously policies for pollution reduction in transportation systems, including the use of cap and trade systems.

Consider now about the following scenario: Suppose that you are a global logistics company and your goal is to minimize total costs and to route your planes and cargo accordingly. If it will cost you more to transport the cargo from Asia directly to Europe because of the "price" imposed on emissions generated you may decide to stop midway and then to proceed, knowing that you will just be charged for the emissions generated on the flight leg (the last one) that ends up in Europe.

The Wall Street Journal in its Wednesday, December 21, 2011 edition has an article that illustrates precisely the above strategy. The article, "UPS weighs EU flyaround," complete with a map, discusses how UPS may add stopovers on cargo flights to Europe in hopes of reducing EU charges for excess carbon emissions. Rather than flying from Hong Kong to Cologne directly, a current route of about 5,700 miles, flights would land in Mumbai, and then head for Cologne, Germany, a proposed alternate route of 6,800 miles, and one with obviously greater emissions not only because of the distance traveled but the increase in the number of takeoffs and landings! But, UPS would reduce the cost of the tax by about a quarter because it could only be charged for the distance flown from Mumbai to Cologne.

I have images of cargo planes being flown just to the border of the European Union, landing, and then taking off again.

The Times article did not capture the above major issue and it is clearly an environmental (and business) one, but The Wall Street Journal article did so and did it brilliantly.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Risk Reduction and Cost Synergy via Supply Chain Network Integration

Nothing like waking up and having a message from a publisher that the galleys of your paper are ready for proofing.

Plus, when there are no changes needed, and the paper looks great, it makes it all even sweeter.

This morning, my co-author, Dr. Zugang "Leo" Liu, and I were delighted to experience the above and our paper, Risk Reduction and Cost Synergy in Mergers and Acquisitions via Supply Chain Network Integration, is the lead paper in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Financial Decision Making and appears in volume 7(2), (2011), pp 1-18.

I had blogged about our research on which this paper is based in a post: Supply Chain Risk, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Synergy.

In this paper, we developed a network model that captures the costs and the risks associated not only with the production, transportation, and storage activities in supply chains, but also with the merger / acquisition (M&A) itself. The framework allows one to estimate the expected total cost and the total risk of the supply chains before and after the merger. In addition, we provided three synergy measures that can assist decision-makers in the evaluation of potential gains of M&As from different perspectives. The measures are: the expected total cost synergy, the absolute risk synergy, and the relative risk synergy.

The first measure quantifies the expected total cost savings obtained by the merger; the second measure represents the reduction of the absolute risk achieved through the merger, and the third measure reflects the reduction of the relative risk through the merger.

Our results provide interesting managerial insights for executives who are faced with M&A decisions. The first set of examples showed that, if the expected total costs and the risks of the merger are negligible, both the total cost and the total risk would be reduced through the merger. In addition, the risk reduction achieved through the merger was more prominent when the uncertainty of link costs was higher. Our second set of examples showed that the cost and the risk of merger could have a significant impact on the total cost and the total risk of the post-merger firm, and should be carefully evaluated. Our examples also demonstrated that whether a merger makes sense economically may depend on the priority concerns of the decision-makers, and on the measures used to evaluate the gains. For instance, a merger that could not lower the expected total cost might still be able to reduce the total risk, and, hence, may be considered beneficial to the firms' stakeholders.

With all the articles appearing recently in The Wall Street Journal on Mergers & Acquisitions (horizontal as well as vertical) it is exciting to be doing research that is both interesting and timely and that includes networks applied in new ways!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Humanitarian Healthcare Hero -- Dr. Daniel Clapp

He was standing in our driveway holding a plate on which was an exquisite Scandinavian sweetbread and watching us decorating our Christmas tree.

He had been watching for awhile.

I glanced out our bay window and saw Dr. Dan Clapp, our neighbor, wearing a UMass Amherst jacket and smiling at us.

We invited Dr. Clapp in, and thanked him for the Scandinavian sweetbread that has become a tradition in our house on Christmas morning after the gifts are unwrapped.

I told Dr. Clapp that I had promised my students to broach the cutbacks at the University Health Services (UHS) to him to see what could be done and he mentioned, in his humble way, that he would be interviewed by a reporter, Scott Merzbach, soon and we could proceed from there. He and I agreed that health of our communities (students, faculty, staff, and neighbors) should always be a top priority.

He did not state the reason for the interview and that was that he is the recipient of the 2011 Andrus Award for Community Service given to an individual in each state by the AARP. Dr. Clapp is the winner out of 26 nominees in the state of Massachusetts. The coverage has now hit the media with articles in our local papers (the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Amherst Bulletin) and beyond.

Dr. Clapp had worked at the UMass Amherst University Health Services for 32 years and considered it, at that time, as a model university health center. Since "retiring" in 2002, and throughout his professional career, his volunteer work would make someone half his age (he is now 75) panting for breath.

In 1964, he and his wife, Solveig, moved to the Philippines to work as missionaries at an orphanage where he treated patients suffering from malnutrition and other illnesses that affect those living in poverty. They stayed there for a year, and, after assuming his position at UHS, he and his wife would return every few years for a month to the Philippines. While in the Philippines, he also was a field agent for the Pathfinder Fund of Boston, which focuses of female reproductive health services.

Dr. Clapp's volunteer activities have included Meals on Wheels, starting a free clinic in the community, which serves 300 patients, many homeless and without health insurance. He is Chairman of the Council on Aging in Amherst, an on-call physician at the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, where he does examinations of military recruits, and is the physician for the Senior Health Services Nursing Center at the Amherst Senior Center, to name just a few of his volunteer healthcare and humanitarian activities.

He is also a great supporter of UMass Amherst women sports teams and plays the trumpet in the Oompah Band that I have heard play at many festive community occasions and events.

Dr. Clapp was nominated for the Andrus Award for Community Service by Nancy Pagano, the Senior Center Director in Amherst, who according to the wonderful front page article in the December 23, 2011 edition of the Amherst Bulletin by Scott Merzbach, said "the award recognizes a man who doesn't seek attention. His modesty is his cloak as he moves quietly and reliably serving those in need."

Dr. Clapp, you are our hero. Thank you for considering me to be your friend.

You are an inspiration and role model for us all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management Using Game Theory


Does one ever get tired of doing research and publishing?


I know that I certainly haven't, and recently marked what seems like a milestone, at least to me -- and now have over 150 of my articles published in refereed journals.

I do research and write (as well as teach) because I love what I do and solving tough problems is not only challenging but also satisfying (once you figure out the solution).

I received the digital offprint of our latest paper, "Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management Under Oligopolistic Competition and Brand Differentiation," joint with Min Yu, which has now been published in a special collection in the International Journal of Production Economics on Green Manufacturing and Distribution in the Fashion and Apparel Industries. The guest editors are: Tsan-Ming Choi, Chris K.Y. Lo, Christina W.Y. Wong, Rachel W.Y. Yee.

Seeing an article that we worked hard on in print is always thrilling.

The fashion supply chain management paper is part of a body of work that we have completed on sustainability and network themes. The fashion and apparel industry is facing vast challenges in terms
of environmental issues and has some unique features, which made it very interesting from a mathematical modeling point of view.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), textile manufacturing pollutes as much as 200 tons of water per ton of fabric. In China, a textile factory may also burn about 7 tons of carbon emitting coal per ton of fabric produced. Polyester is a man-made fiber whose demand from the fashion industry has doubled in the past 15 years and its manufacture requires petroleum and releases emissions into the air and the water. The production of cotton accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, which is the largest exporter of cotton in the world.


In the last three decades, there has been a migration of clothing manufacturers from developed to developing countries. Whereas in 1992 about 49% of all retail apparel sold in the United States was actually made here, by 1999 the proportion had fallen to just 12%. Between 1990 and 2000, the value of apparel imports to the
US increased from $25 billion to $64 billion.

However, lower production costs are not the only reason for the globalization of apparel manufacturing. Some firms may be taking advantage of a looser environmental regulatory system and/or lower environmental impact awareness in developing nations.

Given the global dimensions, it is crucial to quantify the emissions generated along the entire supply chains associated with the fashion and apparel industry, including the emissions generated in the transportation and distribution of the products across oceans and vast tracts of land.

Increasingly, the pressure to minimize the environmental pollution is coming not only from consumers but, more recently, even from fashion firms that wish to enhance or to maintain a positive brand identity. For example, H&M identified that 51% of its carbon imprint in 2009 was due to transportation. In order to reduce the associated emissions, the company began more direct shipments that avoided intermediate warehouses, decreased the volumes shipped by ocean and air by 40%, and increased the volume of products shipped by rail -- a quite impressive achievement.



In our sustainable fashion supply chain management paper, we used game theory to develop a new model of oligopolistic competition for fashion supply chains in the case of differentiated products with the inclusion of environmental concerns. The model assumes that each fashion firm’s product is distinct by brand and the firms compete until an equilibrium is achieved. Each fashion firm seeks to maximize its profits as well as to minimize its emissions throughout its supply chain with the latter criterion being weighted in an individual manner by each firm.

The competitive supply chain model is network-based and variational inequality theory is utilized for the formulation of the governing Nash equilibrium as well as for the solution of the case study examples. The model and computational scheme can be applied to explore the effects of changes in the demand functions; in the total cost and total emission functions, as well as in the weights associated with the environmental emissions.

Fashion and apparel can be beautiful and it is important that its production and transportation does not mire the beauty and sustainability of the environment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Anonymous $350 Million Donor is Revealed and It Is a Cornell Alum

He always flies coach. He does not own a house and his watch cost $15.

The mystery man who gave $350 million to Cornell to support the new science center that it was awarded yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg of NYC, in partnership with Technion of Israel, has now been revealed.

The magnanimous donor is a Cornell University alum, who graduated from its School of Hotel Management in 1956.

His name is Mr. Charles F. Feeney, and The New York Times has a wonderful article on him and his generosity and vision. He views this initiative as transformational and I concur.

According to The Times, Cornell and Technion promise to start offering classes next September in temporary space, and to complete 300,000 square feet of space on Roosevelt Island by 2017 and more than 2 million square feet by 2037. Plans call for about 280 faculty members and 2,500 students in master’s and doctoral programs, a larger contingent than the universities had proposed a few months ago.

The schools have also committed to training at least 200 teachers each year in science education.

The universities plan to organize the campus around three overlapping, shifting “hubs”: technologies for “connective media,” applicable to everything from finance to social media; health care industries; and sustainable development, chosen in part to mesh with the city’s existing strengths.

Now isn't the above something that one can get excited about?!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Official -- Congrats to Cornell and Technion!

Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has chosen Cornell University in partnership with Technion - Israel Institute of Technology to build a $2 billion graduate school of applied sciences it was just announced in The New York Times. Congrats to both institutions on this achievement that may spawn a Silicon Valley II in one of my favorite cities in the world.

According to Bloomberg, this project, to be constructed on Roosevelt Island will be transformative.

According to the article: The school, which will not be fully built for 30 years, calls for 2,000 students, 300 faculty members and two million square feet on a patch of city-owned land that now houses a little-known hospital. In addition, the universities are offering a $150 million fund for startups begun on the campus that remain in New York for three years.

There was some major drama surrounding this competition, since Stanford University, considered another top contender, pulled out last Friday and The Chronicle of Higher Education had a provocative article emailed out this morning, entitled, "Stanford's Dream of 'Silicon Valley II' Dissolves Into Angry Recrimination."

Best of luck to Cornell and Technion and a salute to Mayor Bloomberg for his promotion of science and engineering!

How exciting that Cornell’s plan calls for 500,000 square feet of public space and partnerships with the public school system, including math and science support for at least 10,000 students.

I very much enjoyed the quote of Cornell’s president, Dr. David J. Skorton, “This is a story of connectivity — of connectivity between people and their ideas, between researchers and business people, between students and their dreams.” “This is an exercise in inclusion and having all the ships rise in this fine city. New York City is positioned to become the new technological capital of the world.”

I have a fondness for Cornell having been there multiple times to give invited talks and I even served on the National Allocation Committee for the NSF Supercomputer Center there before it lost its funding. Last time I was at Cornell was this past summer.

I am sure that the champagne is flowing in Ithaca and in NYC.

You can read the press release here.

Before Disasters Strike -- Assessing Supply Chain Performance Under Disruptions

As documented in numerous studies, as well as books, including our Fragile Networks book, the number of disasters is growing as well as the number of people affected by disasters.

Having the appropriate supply chains in place that are resilient to disruptive scenarios will not only save lives but make the disaster recovery process less painful and costly.

Along with my collaborators, notably, Dr. Qiang of the Graduate School of Professional Studies at Penn State University Malvern, and my doctoral students, Min Yu and Amir H. Masoumi, we have been developing quantitative tools and metrics for supply chains in humanitarian operations and healthcare.

In particular, we have been focusing on a broad class of products known as critical need products.

Critical needs products and supplies are those that are essential to human health and life. Examples include food, water, medicines, and vaccines. The demand for critical needs products is always present.

Our first paper on the topic, Supply Chain Network Design for Critical Needs with Outsourcing, Anna Nagurney, Min Yu, and Qiang Qiang, was published in the Papers in Regional Science 90: (2011) pp 123-142.

Critical needs supply chains also play a pivotal role during and post disasters during which severe disruptions can be expected to have occurred. Indeed, the past few decades have visibly demonstrated that disasters, whether natural or man-made, may severely damage infrastructure networks, such as transportation and logistical networks, may cause great loss to human life, and also may result in tremendous damage to a nation's economy.

Hence, critical needs supply chains are essential in both healthcare and humanitarian logistics operations. Given their importance also in terms of emergency preparedness and planning, special attention to them is needed, since their functions are so important to the well-being and the very survival of our societies.

Specifically, in the case of disruptions to critical needs supply chains, there are two primary parameters that may be seriously affected:

1. the capacities of the various supply chain network activities (production, storage, transportation, etc.) and

2. the demands for the products may not be satisfiable.


Indeed, as shown by numerous recent disasters, disruptions may tremendously reduce supply chain capacities as well as impact the demands for critical needs products.

Hence, it is essential for organizations to have performance metrics which enable them to assess what are the costs associated with supply chain disruptions under different scenarios. Moreover, will the demands be met and, if not, what can one expect to be the unmet demand?

To provide appropriate metrics and tools to organizations ranging from humanitarian ones to governmental ones as well as international bodies, as well as corporations, we have constructed a bi-criteria supply chain performance indicator that captures the probabilities of capacity disruptions under different scenarios as well as demand being unsatisfied.

The indicator is developed, discussed, and applied in our paper, A Bi-Criteria Indicator to Assess Supply Chain Network Performance for Critical Needs Under Capacity and Demand Disruptions, Qiang Qiang and Anna Nagurney, to appear in Transportation Research A: Special Issue on Network Vulnerability in Large-Scale Transport Networks.

Since the goals of supply chains for critical needs are quite different from those of commercial supply chains, they should be evaluated by distinct sets of metrics. As pointed out by Beamon and Balcik (2008), the goals for humanitarian relief chains, for example, include cost reduction, capital reduction, and service improvement (see also Altay and Green (2006)). Tomasini and van Wassenhove (2004), similarly, argued that: A successful humanitarian operation mitigates the urgent needs of a population with a sustainable reduction of their vulnerability in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of resources.

We hope that our paper has contributed to this growing research and application domain in a rigorous way.

Our earlier work on supply chain disruptions in commercial supply chains included the paper, Modeling of Supply Chain Risk Under Disruptions with Performance Measurement and Robustness Analysis, Qiang Qiang, Anna Nagurney, and June Dong, in Managing Supply Chain Risk and Vulnerability: Tools and Methods for Supply Chain Decision Makers, T. Wu and J. Blackhurst, Editors, Springer, Berlin, Germany (2009), pp 91-111.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Business School Dean?

Have you ever thought of yourself as having the corner suite and leading a top-flight organization?

Have you ever envisioned yourself as being the CEO?

One doesn't have to lead a major corporation to be a leader and one can accomplish an immense amount as the consensus and esprit de corps builder/spokesperson and communicator/top manager/top fundraiser/energizer/moderator/negotiator and hirer of outstanding talent as the Dean of a Business School.

Plus, what could be more rewarding than seeing students getting the best education possible and thriving?!

Those of us in education have seen the best and, perhaps, also the worst, in deans and other administrators, and although we hope to forget the latter, the impact on an institution can be quite damaging especially to the morale and energy and to what is left, if I may say, of "team spirit."

So, what does it take now to succeed as a Business School Dean? The lessons are actually useful for other Deans as well, including Engineering ones (and there certainly has been national press lately about winners as well as losers).

According to the The Chronicle of Higher Education, Business Schools Are Hiring a New Kind of Dean, and the example that is highlighted, along with an interview, is Dr. Sally Blount, the relatively new Dean of Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. She is a fellow blogger; see Dean Blount's Blog: reflections on Kellogg, management education and life in the 21st century.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed article is motivated, in part, by the release of a Korn/Ferry Institute report, The Business School Dean Redefined, which is a very interesting read. The Institute studies executive recruiting trends, so it has a good perspective.

According to the report: "Managing the 'business of the business school' is a complex job, similar to that of a CEO, yet with challenges that do not constrain private-enterprise chief executives." "Few CEOs, for example, must grapple with the concept of a tenured work force, highly diffused authority, and funding constraints placed by donors."

The report notes that a new leadership profile for business deans has emerged, one that emphasizes:

1. Strategic skills
2. Enterprise management
3. Innovation
4. People and relationship effectiveness.

And, according to Dean Blount,"Instead of simply looking for someone who gets along with the faculty, has a solid research reputation, and gets things done, search committees want someone who can build rankings, as well as market share, and "manage relationships with multiple stakeholders."

I would say that what is needed now is a leader who can manage complexity and optimize the scarcer resources, remembering that any organization rests on its people and without successful and creative people (faculty, students, staff, and administration) that also enjoy working together, and thrive together, one has simply a set of individuals doing what they may perceive is best for themselves and not for the organization.

(Sorry, but with my research in networks, transportation & logistics, and operations, I do view organizations as complex networks and we can have system-optimization (unselfish behavior) or user-optimization (selfish behavior) and with the right incentives, they will coincide.)

Any great leader, and that includes a Dean of a Business School, must have the respect of her/his constituents, must be a team-builder, must recognize talent, and must create an environment in which everyone can thrive (and enjoy the process) in a mutually supportive manner.

And when the successes happen (and they will) the Dean needs to acknowledge them and to make sure that they are communicated to the world beyond.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stanford Pulls Out of NYC Science Center Competition So Will Cornell Get It?

It's just been announced that Stanford University has pulled out of the science center competition in NYC, which is the initiative and dream of Mayor Bloomberg.

The Chronicle of Higher Education just emailed the following article," In a Surprise Reversal, Stanford Pulls Out of Competition for NYC Campus," which can be accessed and read here.

I have been blogging about this competition and it seems that now Cornell, with a partner in Technion in Israel will, indeed, be the frontrunner.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Ed article:

Of the five bidders still in contention—the city eliminated a proposal from Amity University, in India, and another from a consortium of New York research institutions—only Cornell and the Technion are vying for the 10-acre site on Roosevelt Island, seen as the most desirable of locations the city offered.

"There's a little bit of Yahoo-ing around here," said Lance R. Collins, Cornell's dean of engineering and a key academic architect of the university's bid. But he said even with Stanford's withdrawal, the negotiations continue. "Until I hear the mayor say our name, I'm not counting our chickens."

The Awesomeness of Math, Physics, and the Higgs Particle -- Professor Brian Greene Captured It Best

This past week, I received a very informative email from one of the major scientific publishers, Elsevier, that stated:

Traditional scientific coverage is slowing due to a fall in the number of professional science media working today. In 2009, Nature chronicled the situation by noting that the number of dedicated science sections in American newspapers fell from a peak of about 95 to 34 between 1989 and 2005. Accordingly, in the same survey, 26% of global journalists reported job losses, and of the remaining journalists, 59% had less time per article available.

The Nature article appeared in the same year that more than 1.5 million articles were published, a figure that is growing by 3-4% each year. Meanwhile, research is becoming more technical, inter-disciplinary and global in nature.

In other words, when we need experienced traditional science media professionals most, we have fewer of them. However, the number of freelance science journalists and bloggers is increasing. In fact, as of 2009, of the 2,000 US-based National Association of Science Writers members, only 79 were full-time staff science writers for newspapers. Further, remaining science reporters cited getting more story leads from science bloggers, which suggests science is still being covered, but by a new breed of reporter.

One scientific endeavor that has, nevertheless, been getting a tremendous amount of news coverage in both the press and on the internet is that of the 40-year search for the elusive Higgs particle, which may be nearing an end because of the physics experiments (with help from engineers and computer scientists) being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider, a 17 mile tubular underground track outside Geneva, Switzerland, that crosses the Swiss-French border and then back again. Some researchers have dedicated decades of their lives in the quest for the Higgs particle in order to understand the "basic constituents of the universe" as Professor Brian Greene of Columbia University stated so eloquently in his excellent OpEd Piece, "Waiting for the Higgs Particle," that was published in yesterday's New York Times.

The excitement and suspense of conducting scientific research is captured by Professor Greene, who is a Professor of Physics and Mathematics. He ends his OpEd piece in a truly thrilling way, that captures the awesomeness of scientific research and the beauty of math and how he got hooked on science (yes, as I have written several times, it is often a teacher as well as a parent that inspires).

His concluding paragraphs from his outstanding New York Times OpEd:

Within a year, additional data should settle the question. Perhaps the finding will be disproved. That’s the nature of cutting-edge research. But if confirmed, wow. The legions of physicists, engineers and computer scientists, whose collective efforts created the Large Hadron Collider, will have revealed the deepest layer of reality our species has ever probed.

For me, as a theorist standing outside the experimental effort, the result is no less exciting. Years ago, when I was in high school, my physics teacher gave the class a homework problem: calculating the trajectory of a ball swinging from the ceiling by a piece of chewing gum. That night, when I finished the calculation, I ran down the hallway to show my father — I was utterly and profoundly amazed that mathematical symbols scratched in pencil on a piece of paper could describe things that actually happened in the real world. That’s when I became hooked on physics. With Tuesday’s announcement, tentative though it may be, I’m awed yet again.


I had the honor and privilege of meeting Dr. Brian Greene when I was a panelist at the World Science Festival in NYC in June 2009. He and his wife, Tracy Day, are the brainchilds behind that amazing annual scientific extravaganza.

This is certainly an exciting year both in science as well as in the reporting and discussing of it!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare -- Teaching a New Course at the Isenberg School

I will be teaching a new Spring semester course, beginning in January 2012, entitled, Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare.

The course will be offered in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and will be meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-10:50AM.



The number for the course is SCH-MGMT 597LG and the course is an upper level undergraduate / graduate level course. Students should have a background in operations research / management science and, ideally have had a course similar to my Transportation & Logistics course, although I am being flexible in prerequisites, since this is the first time that this course is being offered.

I have already started preparing lectures for this new course and am very excited about being able to teach it.

We will be using primary sources, results from case studies, journal articles, videos, and there will be invited practitioners to discuss real-world experiences from the field.

The course will also be covering rigorous analytical models and performance metrics.

I became very interested in this topic of research and practice several years back and organized a workshop on the topic that was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation at that took place at its Bellagio Center on Lake Como in Italy.

The website for the conference along with the findings and many of the presentations by both practitioners and researchers can be accessed here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Will Your Children be Operations Researchers?

I like to ask colleagues and even fellow travelers while flying how they got interested in and selected their chosen field/profession.

I, also, if the conversation gets animated and interesting, may even venture and inquire about whether their parents or another relative may have been an influence on the career that they have chosen. Or was it a teacher who saw a special spark and talent and commented on it and nurtured it?

Being immigrants, my family always valued and emphasized math and science and many males in my family were engineers, including my father and uncles, whereas my mother, although trained as a pharmacist in the old country, became a teacher in the US.

Trying to optimize the allocation of scarce resources was an underlying theme while I was growing up, with my father paying careful attention to the budget. As children, we never felt that we were wanting. But, then again, living close to NYC, we had the most magnificent museums and other cultural institutions to explore and enjoy, which we did on many Sundays. Summers, when not working at either summer camps or in hospitals (another early career interest was medicine), we would spend in the Poconos in a very primitive, rustic bungalow colony, which was heaven (despite no running hot water, etc.). We would explore the woods for hours, swim in fresh water lakes, and pick berries in the wild. A special treat would be going to a drive-in movie or walking 4 miles round-trip to get a New York Times.

Also, there would be math games that we would play and even math competitions with chalk problems on oiled dirt roads. These would, typically, take place on weekends when the fathers would come to visit their families or when they had their vacations.

Making the most of what we had was how we lived, so scarcity made for abundance.

Also, as far back as elementary school, Mrs. Fuller, my seventh grade teacher, said that one day I would be a calculus professor (I do teach in a business school and am proud to say that the students in my classes do make use of calculus).

I do wonder what roads/paths the children of INFORMS members will take (or have taken) and hope that you can join me in sharing your stories.

This blogpost is my second entry to this month's INFORMS Challenge on O.R. and Families.

My first post was on My Academic Mother.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Global Outsourcing of Electronic Recycling -- Profits at What Costs?


Yesterday's New York Times ran an article, which I shared with some of my collaborators and students, and one already responded with the following message: It breaks my heart whenever I hear this kind of news. A big powerful country should not take advantage of its position.

The article, "Lead from Old U.S. Batteries Sent to Mexico Raises Risk," focuses on the immense health costs and environmental damage from outsourcing of electronic waste recycling to Mexico, a practice that has grown over the past several years.

The article is filled with ironies.

According to the article: The rising flow of batteries is a result of strict new Environmental Protection Agency standards on lead pollution, which make domestic recycling more difficult and expensive, but do not prohibit companies from exporting the work and the danger to countries where standards are low and enforcement is lax.

Also, according to the article, "lead is gold" and the American car battery industry likes to boast that it has the highest recycling rate for any commodity — 97 percent of the lead is recycled — and most states have laws mandating that stores take back old batteries. Whether deposited at the store where they were purchased or with a local mechanic, used batteries are redirected to recycling plants, where the real goal is not environmental stewardship but extracting the precious lead that is the gold of a protean trading system where traceability is impossible.

By outsourcing electronic recycling to Mexico not only are domestic recyclers in the US being hurt economically, but Mexicans who reside near recycling plants that do not adhere to proper lead recovery standards are faced with extraordinary health risks and negative impacts. There are schools located close to such facilities and more and more children are being identified with high lead amounts in their blood. Lead leads to neurological disorders, delayed/stunted learning, and behavioral problems.

I have conducted research on environmental sustainability for about 15 years now and have written both papers and books on the subject with my doctoral students who continue to produce scholarship on this topic. One of my most heavily cited papers is a paper with my former doctoral student, Fuminori Toyasaki, who is now a Professor at York University in Canada.

The paper is: Reverse Supply Chain Management and Electronic Waste Recycling: A Multitiered Network Equilibrium Framework for E-Cycling, Transportation Research E 41: (2005) pp 1-28.

Several of my former doctoral students, who are now all professors at business schools, just had a co-authored paper accepted on closed loop supply chains that is also relevant to electronic recycling. The paper, The Closed-loop Supply Chain Network with Competition, Distribution Channel Investment, and Uncertainties, by Qiang Qiang, Ke Ke, Trisha Anderson, and June Dong, will appear in OMEGA -The International Journal of Management Science.

Another relevant article of ours, Environmental and Cost Synergy in Supply Chain Network Integration in Mergers and Acquisitions, co-authored with Trisha Woolley (nee Anderson) quantified synergies, including environmental ones, associated with mergers and acquisitions, a topic of clear relevance to this application domain.

Along with Dr. Toyasaki, Professor Tina Wakolbinger of the Vienna University of Economics and Business and I are now completing a study on outsourcing, regulation, and electronic recycling.

I lived in Mexico the summer between my graduation from high school and my freshman year at Brown University. That experience remains one of my most wondrous ones of living in another country.

Businesses must look at the entire product supply chain life cycle to ensure that it is socially responsible and environmentally sound. Outsourcing to countries with low environmental awareness and poor environmental standards monitoring is contrary to civilized business practices.

Besides, what is more important than a company's reputation!

For an informative and accessible presentation on e-cycling, delivered by my husband, who also provided the above collage of images, see: Our Campus - Our Planet at the University of Hartford Freshman Orientation (pdf)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Photos from the International Cuisine UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Party









As is our tradition, today the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter hosted an end of the semester party with international cuisine.

The party took place in the Isenberg School of Management.

Students came from the Isenberg School of Management and from Industrial Engineering as well as from Public Health. Some staff and faculty and special guests also came.

The food was fabulous (I spent so much time talking and eating that I did not get a chance to take many photos of the food). There was cuisine from China, Vietnam, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Ukraine, Poland, the US, etc.!

We took photos of chapter officers (past and present who could make the party).

A wonderful time was had by all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Financial Networks -- Special Issue of Computational Management Science

Last December I very much enjoyed speaking on Financial Networks at the Measuring Systemic Risk Conference, organized by Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago, Andrew W. Lo of the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and David Marshall of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

I wrote about the conference in a blogpost entitled, Oprah was not there and neither was George Clooney but Chicago still Sparkled with Intellectual Brilliance.

Recently, I received an invitation from the editor of the journal, Computational Management Science, Dr. Berc Rustem of Imperial College, to edit a Special Issue on Financial Networks.

This invitation I also could not refuse.

Below is a Call for Papers, which will also be posted shortly on the journal website.

Call for Papers

Special Issue of Computational Management Science

Financial Networks

Guest Editor:

Anna Nagurney

Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Areas of Interest

Networks are a powerful scientific framework for the modeling, analysis, and solution of complex economic, social, and management problems.

Financial networks, in particular, have evolved to become a theoretical and computational paradigm for a spectrum of decision-making problems from the micro to the macro levels, and ranging from portfolio optimization to systemic risk assessment, financial intermediation, contagion analysis, and even electronic finance.

This special issue of Computational Management Science seeks to capture the state-of-the-art of financial networks through high quality, original research papers that include numerical results.

Reviewing Information

The submitted papers will be peer-reviewed by anonymous reviewers according to the standards of a leading international journal.

Submission Information

The deadline for submission is July 15, 2012. Manuscripts must be written in English and conform to the style of the journal Computational Management Science and not exceed 25 pages.

Please submit manuscripts to:

http://www.editorialmanager.com/cmsc/

and select Article Type: S.I. Networks, to ensure proper processing.

If you have questions, the Guest Editor can be contacted at:

e-mail: nagurney@isenberg.umass.edu

Faculty Openings in Operations Research and in Logistics at Gothenburg University

I received a message from a colleague at Gothenburg University in gorgeous Sweden about two faculty openings and a request to disseminate the announcement further, so I am delighted to be doing so.

Specifically, there are two open positions for senior lecturers in logistics and operations research at University of Gothenburg.

More information is on the links below.

Operations research: http://ledig-anstallning.adm.gu.se/detail.php?lt_id=7055&lang=eng&eng=true

Logistics: http://ledig-anstallning.adm.gu.se/detail.php?lt_id=7054&lang=eng&eng=true

Several former doctoral students of mine now have faculty positions abroad -- in Austria, Sweden, and Canada, and they could not be happier.

I have lived in Sweden (Stockholm) and highly recommend this wonderful country.



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with Dr. Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, on Leadership

Dr. Ruth Simmons, the President of my alma mater, Brown University, will be stepping down at the end of this year. She will have served Brown brilliantly over a period of 11 years.

The New York Times has a great interview with Dr. Simmons, as part of its Corner Office series.

What especially impressed me in the interview, was how she had to overcome some tough times (it was suggested to her to leave the PhD program at Harvard, for example), and how she learned from those experiences. She very much values team-work, ambition in her employees and members of her leadership team and people who are genuinely interesting (physicists who like poetry, for example).

One of my favorite excerpts from the interview with Dr. Ruth Simmons is below:

I keep going back to this fundamental idea of being able to respect other people, especially if you’re in a senior position. You can get a lot more done if people have a sense that you respect them, and that you listen to them. You would be surprised at the number of interviews I’ve done where the person never stops talking. If I’m interviewing someone and if they never stop talking, I will never hire them, no matter how qualified they are. If you cannot listen, you can’t be the site of welcoming, nurturing, facilitating new ideas, innovation, creativity, because it really is ultimately only about you. So I look for people who listen well and can respect the ideas of others.

It is truly amazing what this youngest of twelve children from Texas has been able to accomplish.

Her shoes will be really tough to fill.

I wish the next President of Brown a lot of luck.

UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Hosts Party at the Isenberg School


It has been a very busy semester not only with classes but also with numerous conferences, seminar presentations, and other events.

We made it through Hurricane Irene and a multiple day electric power outage due to the October snowstorm.

So, before final exams begin, join us for a party this coming Friday at the Isenberg School, as is a tradition of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

There will be many different international cuisines and great students and colleagues, so come, if you can.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Didn't Get Tenure but Got the Nobel Prize

I hadn't realized that Tom Sargent, the co-recipient of this year's Nobel prize in Economic Sciences, with Chris Sims (sorry for shortening their first names but they are colleagues from Computational Economics and the latter even from supercomputing days), did not get tenure at UPenn. UPenn must be smarting a bit from declining him tenure.

The article in today's
New York Times about this great pair of economists, who dazzle with their math and who continue to do research, highlights their cameraderie, work ethic, and a bit of discomfort at all the media attention. It also broke the news (at least to me) that Tom Sargent was denied tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. He then went on to join Chris Sims at the University of Minnesota.

I loved the quote from the Times article: Mr. Sargent says his most important work is spoken “in the beautiful language of math.” (Although he knows it’s not widely understood.)

“The kind of work we do, that real economists do, will never catch on with the public,” he said.

So the moral is: do what you love, and even if you don't get tenure at your first academic institution, you can even get the Nobel prize, like Tom Sargent did.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fixing Glaring Gender Gaps in US Research Labs

You look around and realize only you and the secretary in the research lab are females.

Years after, one of your students who now works at the same research lab realizes that she is one of 5 females out of 500 at the same research lab.

The above experiences happened at the Los Alamos National Lab, a top scientific research lab in the United States.

And, the female scientist who had the first experience above is now doing something about it.

Her name is Dr. Maria Gomez and she teaches at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, which is part of the 5 College System in western Massachusetts (I teach at one of the five -- UMass Amherst).

Yesterday, I read an outstanding article, written by Chad Cain, in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, on what Professor Gomez is doing to inspire and educate females in science and especially in her specialty -- chemistry. I enjoyed the article so much that I wrote to both Professor Gomez and Mr. Cain yesterday and congratulated them (and heard back from both of them).

I saved my hardcopy and shared it also with my daughter.

You can read the full article here (minus the nice photos).

Professor Gomez ( I did some additional research) completed her PhD at Brown University, as I did, and although she only saw her father several times in her life, he was a mathematician and her mother would tell her it is in your genes something which I keep on telling my daughter since her parents have PhDs in physics and applied mathematics (from Brown).

The article further highlights the misrepresentation of females in what are the STEM (sciences, technology, engineering and math) fields. The relatively few women who do receive degrees in those fields are concentrated in the physical and life sciences.

According to the article: Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S., they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, according to a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The report, culled from U.S. Census figures, found that women comprised 27 percent of the computer and math workforce (the largest of the four STEM components) and about 14 percent of the engineering workforce. The numbers are higher in the physical and life sciences, at 40 percent female.

In a 2010 report called "Why So Few?" the American Association of University Women offers a similar picture.

Women have closed the gap in the fields of biology and agricultural sciences, making up some 50 percent of those earning a doctorate, according to the report. The numbers drop off considerably for other fields. The figure for women earning doctorates in math, for example, stands at about 30 percent, while about 20 percent of computer science doctorates are awarded to women.

Students need more role models such a Professor Maria Gomez to see what is possible and how rewarding and satisfying research in math and sciences can be.




Friday, December 2, 2011

Baking Holiday Cookies with Photos



December is a time of the year when, in academia, projects and papers for courses are due, exams are being prepared, then taken (by students), and graded (by professors).

While working on finishing up the semester and writing up a final exam I every year look forward to baking and distributing cookies with my daughter.

Yes, I am a professor who likes to bake (and also loves to give out and eat cookies).

Somehow (I think we in Operations Research just tend to be very efficient at our tasks), I managed to finish a paper this past week that I will be presenting in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, this Monday, and did my first batch of holiday baking.

I also very much enjoy the logistics of baking (from the shopping for the ingredients to the preparation to the artistry and science of assemblying the cookies, decorating them and baking them).

Above are some photos taken of the results. All the cookies (except for one plate) have already been distributed to some friends and neighbors (hope to bake more after the semester and grading are over with).

In the meantime, enjoy this holiday season!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Academic Mother

It was my second year at MIT.

My first year at MIT, back in 1988-1989, I had spent in the Transportation Systems Division in Engineering, supported by an NSF Visiting Professorship for Women (VPW). During that year, I taught a course and also organized a speaker series to bring Women in Operations Research to MIT, and their talks took place at the MIT Operations Research Center. My dissertation advisor at Brown University had been Stella Dafermos, who held appointments in Applied Mathematics and in Engineering. Stella also had had a VPW earlier at MIT and I had decided to apply and received the NSF grant/award.

My first year at MIT was terrific. I had received my promotion and tenure two years prior (four years after getting my PhD from Brown University in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in Operations Research) and I was always open for new challenges and experiences.

UMass Amherst, I suspect, was pleased with what I was doing in terms of research and I was lucky to receive a UMass Faculty Fellowship after my VPW, which allowed me to take another year to think, conduct research, and to write, so I elected to stay at MIT. I loved living on Mass Ave (past Harvard right next to a trolley bus station), riding the T, interacting with the students and colleagues at MIT, and taking advantage also of seminars at Harvard. That year, I hosted several visitors from around the world, whom I would treat to the buffet lunch on the top floor of what was then the Sloan School of Management building.

I especially enjoyed running into the Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson, whether in the cafeteria, the snack shop, or the elevator, resplendent always in his bow tie, who seemed to like to eat as much as I did. His query: "Anna, have you proved any good theorems lately?" stays with me. It was a marvelous year and even on Saturdays (I won't mention names) there was always a Full Professor who put on the pot of coffee at Sloan. Surrounded by brilliant, collegial minds in operations research and in economics, life was good!

As Dickens, however, wrote in his Tales of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

That September, of my second year at MIT, my mother passed away and that April, shortly before she would have turned 50, my dissertation advisor, Stella Dafermos, also died. I received the phone call in my Sloan office just before I was to give a seminar at the OR Center, which I did. Stella's funeral in Providence and her burial in April, 1990 in the cemetery on Blackstone Boulevard, as the snow was melting and the daffodils were popping up, I will never forget.

Within 7 months, I had lost my two mothers.

Stella had been the second female PhD in Operations Research. I was asked to write several obituaries, including one that was published in Operations Research, and, as her first PhD student, this was a special, albeit painful, honor and privilege. In preparing my writeups I conversed with many leaders in OR (including Nemhauser) and we concluded that she had been the second female OR PhD (although some of us had thought that she had been the first). She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University, moved on with her husband to Cornell, and then settled at Brown University.

I never had Stella as an undergraduate at Brown, but heard from my fellow Applied Math majors (many of whom were female), including my room-mate, about what a great teacher she was.

After receiving two degrees from Brown and working in the defense sector in Newport, RI, running marathons, and having my companies pay for my Master's degree at Brown, I decided to enroll full-time at Brown and Stella became my advisor. Her grants supported me and in 3 years I completed my PhD. Stella needed a student who was good at computing and since I had really enjoyed computing while at Brown and in industry plus I was always fascinated by transportation and networks, it was a great match. I also sought out the only female faculty member in Engineering and in Applied Math.

We would talk for hours in her office and even in her home, when she would welcome her children from school. Regularly, on Thursdays, she would go up to MIT for the OR seminars.

Together we published multiple papers that appeared in Operations Research, Mathematical Programming, Transportation Research B, and several economics and regional science journals.

We would read our papers out loud since not only did the work have to be good but it had to sound good --OR as poetry/literature (non-fiction, of course)! Manuscripts were written and rewritten multiple times until it was time to get them typed-up and then submitted.

Being a teaching assistant for Stella was always enjoyable, and with the likes of Irv Lustig, in classes, it made my job easy (and with Les Servi also at Brown then always pleasant).

Even as a doctoral student, I had opportunities to travel with Stella to conferences (sometimes with my husband as the navigator). At OR conferences, during the academic year, while I was an Assistant Professor, we would often share rooms at conferences (not only to save grant funds but because it was fun).

With Stella, we explored Tokyo, Athens (she was the guide there), and had some of our most memorable adventures in Amsterdam (en route to my first European conference, which was in Delft). We thought we would be settled in our hotel room, and then there would be a knock on the door -- it would be Stella asking us to join her on another adventure (in Amsterdam, we were even offered "family discounts" and on a dinner canal boat ride asked whether we wanted to be seated with our "mother-in-law" or not).

All four of Stella's PhD students (3 of whom were females) are now Full Professors (she died while her 4th student had not yet completed her PhD) and three of my former PhD students have also reached the Full Professor rank.

Stella, you gave us standards that we continue to aspire to.

Your legacy is eternal and your academic children, grandchildren, and cousins thank you.

This blogpost was written for the INFORMS blog Challenge on OR and Families.

For additional perspectives on academic genealogies and words of wisdom, connect with the writings of my fellow colleagues, Mike Trick and Laura McLay.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Design of Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities


As I wrote in my previous blogpost I am very much looking forward to being in Amsterdam next week to speak at and take part in the Complex-City Workshop.

The program is now available
and support for this workshop is being provided by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (many thanks).

I will be speaking on a paper that I just completed, Design of Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities.

I love cities and over the past few weeks have been to Boston, Paris, Miami, and New York City.

Cities, as dynamic complex networks, are the systems in which more people now live than don't and which represent the economic engines for commerce, research and development, education, health care, and even culture. They have evolved over space and time on built infrastructure from transportation networks to telecommunication and electric power networks.

At the same time, cities are the centers of resource usage from electricity and other forms of energy and fuel, to food, water, and a plethora of other products. Hence, they also are the repositories and generators of waste output and other environmental pollutants, such as carbon and other emissions, sewage, noise, etc.

The term Sustainable Cities has come into increasing use in the past two decades, with a focus of making cities more livable, with an eye not only on the present generation but towards future ones, as well. A recent World Bank report noted that the world is shrinking with cheaper air travel, large-scale commercial shipping, and expanding road networks. Today, only 10% of the globe's land area is considered to be remote, that is, more than 48 hours from a large city. Hence, our world is becoming a network of interconnected cities or a supernetwork of cities.

Urbanization is one of the most pressing and complex challenges of the 21st century, with the citizenry characterized by a growing awareness of a threat to the sustainability of the earth's natural environment, coupled with the increase in the number of people moving into and living in cities.


Supply chains consisting of suppliers, manufacturers, transportation service providers, storage facilities and distributors, as well as retailers, and consumers, serve as the backbones for the provision of goods as well as services on our modern global economy. Supply chains have revolutionized the way in which products are sourced, produced, distributed, and consumed around the globe. They may involve thousands of stakeholders from suppliers and manufacturers to hundreds of thousands of consumer demand points around the globe. Cities are supplied by a complex array of supply chains servicing an immense spectrum of economic activities from food stores and restaurants, office supplies and high tech equipment, apparel, construction materials, as well as raw materials, to name just a few. The sustainability of supply chains is, hence, a precursor to the sustainability of our cities.

According to a Business for Social Responsibility (2009) paper, it is now widely acknowledged that making significant progress on mitigating the impact of climate change depends on reducing the negative environmental impacts of supply chains through their redesign and enhanced management (see also McKinsey Quarterly (2008)).

Furthermore, as noted by Capgemini in its 2008 report: 2016: Future Supply Chain, Preserving energy and raw materials and other resources like water will become a crucial aspect in future supply chains, as costs will likely remain volatile and supplies will continue to dwindle. These conditions may well create substantial pressure on current supply chain models.

Although the importance of sustainable supply chains to the sustainability of cities is being increasingly recognized, in terms of not only the enhancement of business processes in terms of efficiency and cost reduction but also the reduction of negative environmental externalities as well as waste, there have been only limited modeling efforts that capture supply chains within a cities framework. Models of sustainable supply chains are important since they enable the evaluation (before expensive investments are actually made) as to alternative network designs, technologies, as well as sensitivities to cost and demand structures.

A feature of cities that we capture in the new sustainable supply chain network design model is the frequency of freight shipments, and other supply chain network activities, which tend to be higher in urban environments, due to the larger population density. Just think of all the stores and restaurants, to start, that need to be supplied with fresh products. By optimizing the frequencies, one may minimize not only the operational costs and replenishment costs but also the environmental damage (pollution, noise, wear and tear, etc.).

My paper, in pdf format, may be downloaded.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Complex-City Workshop in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Next week I will be taking part in the COMPLEX-CITY Workshop, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Each invited speaker/participant will be presenting an original research paper. I have completed my paper,"Design of Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities," and am very much looking forward to presenting it and taking part in this workshop in one of my favorite cities.

This workshop is being organized by Dr. Peter Nijkamp and Dr. Emmanouil Tranos and will take place at the Tinbergen Institute/VU University. According to the organizers, the aim of the workshop is to bring together scholars with an expertise at the interface of spatial-urban dynamics and complexity theory. Through a presentation of advanced research papers, the organizers hope to ensure both a stock-taking of the scientific state of affairs in this field and an exploration of new and promising research endeavours. This workshop will be sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and further supported by the Tinbergen Institute and the Department of Spatial Economics at the VU University, Amsterdam.


A more detailed Aims and Scope forwarded by the organizers can be found below.

Aims and Scope of the COMPLEX-CITY Workshop

With half of the world’s population now living in cities and predictions that this will rise to three quarters by the end of the 21st century, cities represent one of the key foci around which important problems in real-world complex systems are clustered. There are clear policy implications for all dynamic urban models being developed. It seems logical that urban policy making should seek to intervene in much more sophisticated ways than hitherto and that complexity theory will provide us with the means for identifying how small changes can lead to dramatic and lasting beneficial effects which are both more equitable and efficient that anything developed hitherto. Pressing problems such as aging and climate change all involve changes in human behavior, particularly travel and social interactions, and our focus here directly identifies both data and models that are pertinent to these complexity issues.

Complexity prompts many intellectual challenges, both conceptually and empirically. The intellectual domain in which the workshop on COMPLEX-CITY is situated, is focused on the development and use of theories and models that explain, simulate and predict the dynamics of cities defined across spatial/geographical scales from the global to the local, from the world city to the village. In the last twenty years, the field has embraced new developments in complexity theory based on the inescapable logic that such systems mainly develop organically, from the bottom up, illustrating fascinating, surprising and sometime chaotic patterns of emergence, which show order al all scales and are hard to understand as anything but the remorseless action of decision-making at the lowest levels. This presents also one of the grandest of challenges to urban policy analysis: current policy instruments are often pitched at the wrong scale, producing methods of intervention which are largely ineffective in that they ignore the essential logic of the way such human systems actually develop.

The workshop has a stock-taking and exploratory nature and aims to identify critical parameters for urban policy analysis with respect to problems of development in large city systems. It will address new developments in complexity theory, based on the existing body of knowledge. What makes this particularly opportune is the fact that massive new streams of data with respect to movement and location patterns in city systems are rapidly becoming available. These are providing the momentum for new developments in theory and modeling which are taking the slow but sure developments of the last twenty years to new kinds of applications relevant to policy making. What is different is that comprehensive data are being routinely collected at the individual level relating to where economic and social activities are carried out in cities and how individuals cooperate and conflict with one another in geographical terms. The prospect exists for the first time of demonstrating how aggregate patterns in cities do actually emerge from bottom-up actions and interactions, linking physical patterns of transportation to social networks, patterns of trade to the flow of information. These developments rely on unobtrusive and automatic data collection using digital technologies that are penetrating every aspect of social and economic life, providing unprecedented possibilities for the analysis of data about human spatial behaviour. This is essential in taking complexity science to the point where it becomes truly applicable in urban policy analysis.

The quest of the workshop is to demonstrate how several long-standing ideas about urban dynamics can be tested and validated using new data sources that provide information about routine decision-making concerning locations and interactions. We envisage that many well-established models of the mechanisms governing how cities change are built around models of reaction-diffusion, which generate both smooth and abrupt change reminiscent of criticality, catastrophe, and chaos, can be tested and extended using new digital data. These range from a synthesis of monetary and social transactions to mobile phone records, electronic ticketing, financial payments, routine compilations of network geometry focusing on infrastructure and locational change, and a host of other data from which value can be easily added through synthesis with other data sets. The workshop will focus on urban models that simulate processes involved in transactional flows ranging from physical movements on transportation systems to information flows associated with phone networks to the assembly of economic data associated with markets.

There are clear links to the resilience and sustainability of city systems with regard to travel and interaction as well as to methods for sensing what is happening in real time with respect to policies that are being implemented. These links have been exploited in complexity theory with respect to spatial/geographical scales but they have not been realised in terms of temporal scales. Thus the workshop will focus on linking frequent to less frequent, and routine events to strategic one-off events, and will provide new ways of examining the link between the micro and the macro.