Hello all, I will be very grateful if I can find answers to this. Our professor gave it to us as an assignment and I don't seem to get the answers anywhere through google search.

The question again is: What are factors that distinguish OR from other courses/fields of study?

asked 28 Mar '12, 10:43

Grace's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 28 Mar '12, 10:59

Ehsan's gravatar image

Ehsan ♦

Last year, I was giving a course "quantitative methods" (which is our "introduction to operations research") for business administration bachelor students, second year. One day, a student came to me after the lecture and said

"Your course is unlike the other courses. In your course we have to think. Thank you!"

It made me think a lot about university education, but you can imagine I was quite happy.

Here is an article (sorry, in German) underlining this.


answered 29 Mar '12, 02:53

Marco%20Luebbecke's gravatar image

Marco Luebbecke ♦
accept rate: 16%

Unfortunately, we don't answer homework questions here. I recommend you continue your search on the web and find some differentiating factors from your own perspective. OR promotional websites such as Science of Better, OR Champion, or Learn about OR could provide you with some good hints.


answered 28 Mar '12, 11:06

Ehsan's gravatar image

Ehsan ♦
accept rate: 16%

Very interesting assignment!

I would focus on the following:

  • OR integrates many other sciences (courses): economics, math, computer science, statistics etc. so in order to be a successful OResearcher you should have an understanding of these.
  • The gap between theory and practice is very small - actually I think there's no gap at all...

answered 28 Mar '12, 11:13

Florents%20Tselai's gravatar image

Florents Tselai
accept rate: 7%

I'm new to the OR world (I am currently pursuing a masters). Your second bullet point caught be off guard. Very interesting observaation, thanks.

(30 Mar '12, 16:35) austinboston

I understand where you are going with the last bullet point i.e OR practice is tightly connected to theory, but I disagree on how far you take this argument. IMO there's still quite a gap between theory and practice.

(01 Apr '12, 16:34) Bo Jensen ♦

Truth is, there will always be a gap between a university's degree and the real world. However, the point is that almost any OR model can be directly applied in practice. Even someone with basic knowledge of LP formulations can solve a wide variety of (simple) real life problems. Contrary to other sciences where many concepts and theories are too far from reality.

(01 Apr '12, 18:19) Florents Tselai

I think many OR/MS consultants will disagree with you on"any OR model can be directly applied in practice.".

(01 Apr '12, 18:58) Bo Jensen ♦

I would even go that far and say "almost no OR model can be directly applied in practice" ;-) Models are cool and needed. Also algorithms. But still, they are often the smaller part of a practice OR project; we recently had a thread here about this...

(02 Apr '12, 01:51) Marco Luebbecke ♦

I agree with @Bo and @Marco. Personally, I think there are various reasons why there is a gap between OR practice and theory:

a) Many decision making problems are either hard to clearly define or too complicated to model. In these situations, we usually compromise and leave out some assumption (e.g. make decisions sequentially instead of decision integration or neglect nonlinearity of parameters such as cost and demand to make the resulting objective function and constraints linear). Therefore, solutions of resulting models are usually not ready to use and some polishing is necessary.

(02 Apr '12, 03:58) Ehsan ♦

b) The issue of uncertainty is not completely solved and we are still not capable of effectively modeling and solving very complex stochastic programs.

c) While the amount of progresses in solving NLP and MINLP during the recent years have been huge, large-scale problems still requires sophisticated and carefully designed methods unique to them. In other words, we don't have any general single solver capable of solving all types and sizes of problems, for example MIPS.

(02 Apr '12, 03:59) Ehsan ♦

d) Human is a very important part of every decision making process. However in many common OR modeling techniques, you have to leave the human out. Ssome methods such as game theory or systems dynamics are useful in modeling complex human behavior or social-economic systems, but they have their own limitations and drawbacks.

(02 Apr '12, 04:00) Ehsan ♦
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Asked: 28 Mar '12, 10:43

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Last updated: 02 Apr '12, 04:00

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