The fall of 2021 ushered in the return of in-person conferences and meetings. These events were the first of their kind since the spring of 2020. Even though proof of vaccination and mask-wearing was required, it was awesome to be back in person, see old friends, and meet new acquaintances. CANA took full advantage of this opportunity to attend both the INFORMS Annual Meeting and the MORS AI Workshop.
INFORMS Annual Meeting
I never understood how big the Operations Research community was until I attended my first INFORMS Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas, in 2017. INFORMS is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, and its membership is 10,000 strong. INFORMS provides a network for members to share new methods and approaches, communicate best practices, and communicate and connect with peers. That 2017 meeting took place in the Houston Convention Center and thousands of people from all over the world attended.
This year’s annual meeting took place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. The in-person attendance was smaller than past annual meetings, with less than 2,000 people attending in person. However, total attendance including virtual attendance was approximately 7,000.
One of the highlights of the conference was the Edelman Award competition. The participants are always of an exceptional caliber, and this year’s included Lenovo, OCP, Alibaba, JD.com, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the UN World Food Program. Viewing the competing presentations was extremely informative. They can be seen here.
A particularly notable presentation was The Uncertain Courier. This was in reference to a Georgia Tech professor’s work for GrubHub, and the efforts to build a model to address the multiple uncertainties inherent in food delivery - a very challenging logistical problem. I found the methods discussed interesting in that, one, they may be relevant to handling attrition problems in other scenarios and, two, they included the use of an AI wrapper. The presentation illustrated the trade-off value between achieving the ‘best’ solution and something that works really, really quickly. This presentation, and others, offered food for deep future thought for all the INFORMS participants.
MORS AI Workshop
This event was the first MORS in-person event since March 2020. This workshop was a follow-on to the first MORS Artificial Intelligence (AI) Workshop held in February 2019. Originally planned for the fall of 2020, the workshop had been delayed a year due to COVID. The facility was great and allowed for plenty of space between attendees in all of the presentation rooms - although wearing a mask all day does take some getting used to.
Day One included tutorials covering the entire AI history, development support, roles, methodologies, and examples. There was also a tutorial on Explainable AI (XAI) that provided an overview of past efforts, and then demonstrated current packages and techniques used in different XAI areas.
The Keynote speaker was Lieutenant General Groen, Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). He highlighted the JAIC's successes and challenges over the past few years and also pointed out current projects like AI and Data Acceleration (ADA). This project is sending data scientists and data engineers out to the Combatant Commanders (CCMD) to help them identify and begin structuring their data. This first phase of ADA is scheduled to be completed in March of 2022. With the data better structured, ADA should allow for faster development of AI tools and solutions in the following phases.
A variety of other presentations reviewed everything from use cases to methods. My favorite was a series of briefs on Ethical AI. The Australian Ministry of Defence briefed their framework for Ethical AI that had been developed over the past year. There was also an interesting panel discussion with questions ranging from, “Who is responsible for AI that causes harm?”, to, “What are the legal implications of the use of lethal force in a military operation by an autonomous AI-controlled weapons system?”
International presenters and participants were hosted online and made the conference hybrid with both live and online presentations and panels. Attendees represented a broad cross-section of the community and included military, academia, industry, and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). All in all, it was a great and informative return to more robust conference participation.
Connor McLemore is one of our Principal Operations Research Analysts here at CANA. If you would like to contact Connor, you can reach him at email@example.com
Walt DeGrange is the Director of Analytics Capabilities here at CANA. If you would like to contact Walt, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.