Publishing Covid-19 research

Kia ora koutou,

I hope you are staying safe during the pandemic. I am aware that some of our members are involved in research to help fight against Covid-19, but there may be others of you involved that I am not aware of. The Royal Society of New Zealand is calling for papers on all aspects of Covid-19 and I thought I’d bring it to the attention of all of you in case you have some work you’d like to contribute.

Kia kaha, Mike

PS. Ilze Ziedins, Cameron Walker and I have been doing some modelling of the Covid-19 pandemic

Prof Vicky Mabin part of Griffiths Medal winning team

Prof Vicky Mabin is one of the authors that have been awarded the Griffiths Medal for their paper Using the Theory of Constraints to resolve long-standing resource and service issues in a large public hospital. See below for more details. Congratulations to Vicky and her fellow authors.

“Congratulations to Prof Vicky Mabin, Julie Yee, Sally Babington, Dr Vanessa Caldwell, and Robyn Moore for being awarded the Griffiths Medal by The Operational Research Society. Based in the UK, the ORS is the oldest and biggest OR society in the world representing a profession at the very heart of analytics.

From left: Prof Vicky Mabin, Julie Yee, Sally Babington, Dr Vanessa Caldwell and Robyn Moore, Griffiths Medal winners for 2019.

The Griffiths Medal 2019 is awarded by The OR Society for the best paper in Health Systems journal in the preceding two years.

If you think that the only way to improve health services is by adding more resources, think again! The paper describes how we used Theory of Constraints (TOC) to address the resourcing issues caused by rising demands and fixed budgets that plague public hospitals everywhere. A pilot implementation changed the decision rules for determining when the pharmacy supplied chemotherapy drugs. This led to an improvement in average patient wait times of 87%, 37% increase in production, two-thirds (67%) reduction in nursing overtime, reduced stress levels, while drug costs were held constant. The resulting two-tier system has been in place and working well for over 12 years.

As the Griffiths Medal winner, the paper is free to access for a year

Using the Theory of Constraints to resolve long-standing resource and service issues in a large public hospital. Health Systems 7(3), 230-249

Keywords: Theory of Constraints (TOC); change; Operations research; health services; problem structuring; resource conflicts; Chemotherapy; Hospital; Health services

In 2006, Julie, Sally and Vanessa undertook an initial thorough analysis using TOC with Vicky’s guidance as part of an MBA Problem Solving and Decision Making course that Vicky taught. Julie led the pilot implementation in the hospital in 2007, Robyn helped compile the paper and with Vicky, undertook further research to see the paper through to publication in Health Systems. Julie now works for ACC, Vanessa for Mid-Central DHB, Sally for DOC, while Robyn is an operations researcher and local business owner.

The path to publication was a long and unusual one. Believe it or not, an earlier conference paper describing this project was copied extensively without any acknowledgement, amounting to an alarming case of plagiarism. While the journal supported our complaint and immediately removed the offending paper, after revision by the authors Syed Amin Tabish and Syed Nabil to delete all traces of our work, incredibly, their paper was reinstated. We were therefore particularly gratified to have our paper published in the reputable Health Systems journal, and especially delighted to receive the Griffiths Medal.”

Some diagrams from Vicky’s paper:

The research changed the situation from this:

to this:

giving the following results:

Represent ORSNZ at IFORS 2020

Dear ORSNZ members,

There is an opportunity to represent ORSNZ at the upcoming IFORS (given that the Coronavirus situation has been resolved). Our IFORS representative, Andy Philpott, is not going to IFORS this year so if you are planning on going and would like to represent ORSNZ please let me know (president[AT] Below is a letter to Andy that outlines some opportunities for ORSNZ’s rep at IFORS 2020.

Kind regards,
Mike (ORSNZ President)


IFORS 2020 is coming up and I do hope to see you there. As you know, it is during our Triennial Conferences that we get to meet during the Board of Representatives meeting where the Administrative Committee reports on its activities.

We would like to hear from you, our members, and for this, we have organized a session called the Lightning Talks and the Roundtable Discussion which I describe below.   

Lightning Talks- Perspectives on the Local State of OR and the Role of National Societies 

The lightning talks are intended to be a way of opening up windows into different aspects of OR practice across various national settings and how each national society performs its role of promoting the discipline. Representing a country, each speaker will deal with the national state of OR study and practice, which forms the backdrop in which the national OR society operates.  For one hour, five speakers will each be asked to do a 10-minute presentation. The idea is for the audience to get an overview of the state of OR study and practice in the locality. For the second half, each speaker will touch on the successes and challenges faced by the society and how these are achieved and addressed, respectively. These talks are meant to drum up interest of the audience, stimulate discussions, and provide food for thought for the succeeding session on how OR national societies tackle the successes and challenges that face them in the short term and on the long term as they strive to fulfill their objectives.

Roundtable Discussion: Learning from Successes and Challenges of National OR Societies 

This 1-1/2 hour session will involve dividing participants into small groups of not less than 5 per group. During the group discussion, each participant will speak for his or her society, guided by a questionnaire. Each group will have a facilitator, recorder and reporter. At the end of the session, reports from each group will be shared with the audience.

The group will tackle these questions:

  1. How is OR practice and education in your country?
  2. How has this affected your national OR society? 
  3. What did your national society do well? In which aspects could it do better?
  4. Are there other experiences shared by others that you could try with your national society?
  5. What do you think are your society’s key success factors?
  6. What could IFORS and/or its national societies do to help countries who are struggling to drive OR forward?

At the end of 50 minutes, each table will have a reporter who will tell the others the summary of what their group has discussed.  A secretary will record all key points and this could be included in a report or article for IFORS.  ​

I am inviting you to participate in this session. While I realize that you may not be able to come, I do hope that you’ll exert every effort to see that your society is represented. You may have some associates who are presenting papers and they could still participate in the session as this is exempted from the one-author-one-abstract rule.

The session is still being scheduled. Please coordinate with former IFORS President Elise del Rosario (REDACTED) who is putting together this session.

Grazia Speranza
President, IFORS

Hans Daellenbach Prize Event for Prof Vicky Mabin

By Mike O’Sullivan, ORSNZ President:

It was my pleasure to fly to Wellington to present Prof Vicky Mabin with her Hans Daellenbach Prize. A/Prof Bob Cavana organised an excellent event at which Vicky’s colleagues and students, alongside the Victoria University of Wellington Provost Professor Wendy Larner and local ORSNZ members, honoured Vicky’s distinguished and pioneering career. Special thanks to Bob, Tony Downward (who was responsible for the framed prize in the photos), Andrea Raith, Rosie Read (the ORSNZ Wellington Region contact) and other members of the prize panel (Grant Read and Golbon Zakeri).

My initial impression of Vicky was of a (slightly intimidating) leader of OR in New Zealand. Any discussion of OR in New Zealand at Auckland would inevitably end with “we should talk to Grant (Read at Canterbury), Vicky (at VUW), and Les (Foulds at Waikato)”. I was fortunate at the ORSNZ conference in Christchurch in 2015 to get stuck looking for a taxi with Vicky and Sarah Marshall. In the ensuing conversation I got to know Vicky a little and gained an increased understanding and appreciation of her work. Since then I have enjoyed our discussions on OR and the Theory of Constraints and my experience in OR consultancy over the past 5+ years has convinced me that Vicky’s “soft OR” has a vital part to play if we, as OR practitioners, are successful in embedding best-practice decision making in organisations throughout NZ and worldwide.

Vicky’s colleagues and students were generous in their praise and admiration of Vicky, who responded with an engaging, illuminating acceptance speech (that only increased my interest in collecting stories about the history of the ORSNZ!). Congratulations and well done Prof Vicky Mabin, Hans Daellenbach Prize recipient for 2017!

The full citation for Vicky’s prize is here:

The Victoria University of Wellington article on the event is here:

Amino – utilising blockchain to provide a global, decentralised infrastructure for sharing computing resources

Amino is a blockchain application that connects idle computers together in order to utilize their computing resources. We are setting up research lab in partnership with the University of Auckland and will provide opportunities for both employment and funded research in the following areas:

  • Artificial intelligence for trading cryptocurrencies, i.e., using BigData and AI technologies to develop an approach for trading in cryptocurrencies;
  • Internet security;
  • Blockchain;
  • Distributed cloud computing, in particular methods for the “logistics” behind distributed cloud computing aka cloud orchestration.

In this seminar we will present the ideas behind Amino as well as answer questions about employment and research opportunities.

Presenters: Felix Xia (Amino) and Dr Michael O’Sullivan (Department of Engineering Science, University of Auckland)
When: TOMORROW, Thursday 7 June 2018, 1-2pm
Where: Rooom 201, 70 Syomnds St