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Spotlight on Meetings and Conventions

IFORS 2017: Award-winning research. An award-winning event.

Credit: Québec City Convention Centre. Photo: Emmanuel Coveney

From July 17 to 21, 2017, Québec City played host to the 21st Conference of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies, IFORS 2017, a world-renowned event held every three years. The event, which was hailed a success by all attendees, won Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club’s 2017 Event of the Year, an award that pays tribute to large-scale conferences and conventions that draw a significant number of delegates and generate impressive results for the city. In fact, the conference generated $5.4 million in economic spinoffs for the Québec region.

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“We received so many emails from attendees who praised the conference’s organization and program,” explained Irène Abi-Zeid, Professor at Université Laval’s Operations and Decision Systems Department, Director of the Centre de recherche en modelisation, information et décision (CERMID), and one of the event’s main organizers. “Everyone was so charmed by the city and their visit.”

The level of participation in the event attests to how Québec City plays a pivotal role in key industries, such as OR. Over 1,700 researchers, professionals and students from around the globe—many from developing countries—travelled to Québec City and the to discuss the latest advancements and best practices in operational research (OR)—the discipline of applying sophisticated mathematical modelling, computer programming, statistics and data to help make better decisions.

“We received so many emails from attendees who praised the conference’s organization and program, everyone was so charmed by the city and their visit.”

“OR permeates many aspects of our lives, which is why OR societies in various countries and events like IFORS 2017 are so important.” explained Ms. Abi-Zeid. For the uninitiated, OR is used for many different applications across any industry or sector. For example, Ms. Abi-Zeid is currently working on a project with the City of Québec to collect data and measure the level of pollution generated from different urban properties, such as scrap yards, that poison potable water. The goal is to centralize both quantitative and qualitative data to glean insights on how to protect Québec City’s waterways.

Another compelling example? Ms. Abi-Zeid is also working with the Canadian Coast Guard to develop a Canadian-first automated computer program so that if a boat or person disappears at sea, experts can quickly determine the likely location and develop an appropriate rescue operation. “Right now, most of this decision making is conducted using manual processes. And there are so many criteria to take into account that precious time is wasted. We aim to change that with OR,” she said.

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Ms. Abi-Zeid is a member of the Canadian Operational Research Society, one of 50 national OR societies that operate within the IFORS spectrum. The societies, through regional, national and international conferences like IFORS 2017, have a mission to bring all stakeholders together in order to exchange know-how and tools to further OR for the betterment of society.

“Academics presented their research during the conference; however, there are so many great discussions with professionals from different industries, the business world, healthcare and the defense sector on how that research can be translated into concrete tools and strategies to make better decisions,” Ms. Abi-Zeid added. “That is why we put together a holistic program that covered OR in many fields. I think delegates really enjoyed the variety and scope of the presentations”

Ms. Abi-Zeid was thrilled with the support from the Québec City Convention Centre and Ambassadors’ Club. “I may have organized different events in the past; however, for an event of this magnitude, it was crucial to partner up with event specialists that have proven track records in planning major conventions,” she said. I am aiming to organize another international conference in 2020,” she laughed.

 

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