Statement and Resources in Support of Black Lives

By the INFORMS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and the leadership of the Minority Issues Forum

George Floyd.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

These are the latest in a centuries-long history of assault on Black and Indigenous lives in the United States. Like you, we are appalled by the careless lack of humanity that precipitated the deaths of these individuals and countless others before them. We denounce the systemic racism that upholds power structures permitting this violence to continue with little consequence to its perpetrators. We stand with the peaceful protestors who are doing the hard work of demanding change in a system whose inertia prioritizes the interests of the white majority to the catastrophic detriment of people of color.

In a professional association such as INFORMS, some members might wonder why it is important to take such a stand at this time. After all, the mathematics of our discipline might feel, to some, as a respite from the chaos of the world around us. Our models and methods permit us to make sense of the world, guide decision-making, and enable control in spite of uncertainty. 

However, our profession does not provide a refuge to all[1]. Systemic barriers from cradle to grave result in a disproportionate lack of INFORMS members who are African American, Native American or Latinx. The composition of our membership reflects the historic tendency to restrict participation in the sciences to a privileged few. Within the organization, barriers to participation exist which inhibit inclusion and perpetuate inequities. 

There is nobody who is exempt from the hard work of promoting justice in our profession and beyond. Don’t let your perception of who you are deceive yourself into believing that you don’t have a meaningful contribution to make. As operations researchers, our unique skill set and approach to problem-solving can make tremendous contributions to social justice.

Here are some actions INFORMS members can take:

  1. Educate yourself about systemic racism and bias
    1. Visit Project Implicit to examine and reflect on your own implicit biases:
    2. Watch a movie: Several streaming platforms and film studios are providing free online access to movies about racism in America this month.
    3. Utilize this curated list of anti-racism resources, created by Anna Stamborski, Nikki Zimmermann, and Bailie Gregory, and widely circulated on social media.
    4. Here are an additional 75 things you can do for racial justice.
  2. Examine opportunities to infuse notions of social justice and equity into your everyday work
    1. Read the INFORMS Editor,s Cut on Diversity and Inclusion: Analytics for Social Impact
    2. Incorporate anti-racist pedagogy in your classroom
    3. Question whether your research agenda upholds equity principles. Here are some areas of research that could benefit from an O.R. approach steeped in social justice:
      1. Law enforcement: Broadening the focus of such work beyond operational efficiency to include the sociopolitical effects and impact on the communities being policed as well as mitigating sources of algorithmic bias.
      2. Public health: Examining disparate impacts of health policy on marginalized communities.
      3. New economies design (e.g., gig economy): Developing economic models and mechanisms that attempt to reduce socioeconomic inequities.
      4. COVID-19: Analyzing the cost/benefit distribution of various reopening strategies on different populations.
      5. “Defund the Police” vs “#8CantWait”: Moving from the rhetoric of current protests to operational implementation of their ideals and measurement of their impact.
      6. Behavioral O.R.: Incorporating the behaviors and values of the stakeholders into operational decision making.
  3. Get involved in social justice activities within INFORMS
    1. Join the INFORMS Diversity Community. It is an open community. From there you can access the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee’s blog and other resources and engage in open dialogue about diversity, equity, and inclusion in our profession.
    2. Join the Minority Issues Forum and the Forum for Women in OR/MS (WORMS) and participate in the events they organize at the annual meeting. These fora elevate the research of scholars of color and women scholars and provide important networking and community-building opportunities for INFORMS members. You do not need to be a member of a minority group or a woman to join.
    3. Participate in events organized by the INFORMS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee at the Annual Meeting.
    4. Apply to be an INFORMS Diversity Ambassador for 2021. The recently launched DEI Ambassadors Program is supporting projects this year to examine the diversity of INFORMS' editorial boards, promote awareness of analytics among students at HBCU’s, provide professional development and networking opportunities for women of color in our profession, as well as reach out to the next generation of operations researchers living in underserved communities. Keep your eyes open for the call for applications for 2021 later this summer
    5. Volunteer for Pro Bono Analytics. This program pairs INFORMS members with nonprofit organizations to provide analytics insights in support of small community organizations who lack the resources or expertise to conduct such analysis themselves.
  4. Make a monetary contribution to organizations that fight for social justice

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and we know many of you are aware of additional research being conducted in our community, best practices for inclusive pedagogy, and additional resources that would be of value to INFORMS members. Please let us know of your ongoing research, pedagogical practices, and suggestions by completing this form.

Wishing you and your loved ones good health, justice, and peace,

The INFORMS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee,
and the leadership of the INFORMS Minority Issues Forum

[1] Podcast: Science is for Everyone. Until it’s not: