• Document: Editorial: Special Issue: Community Operational Research: Innovations, Internationalization and Agenda- Setting Applications
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University of Massachusetts Boston From the SelectedWorks of Michael P. Johnson March 5, 2018 Editorial: Special Issue: Community Operational Research: Innovations, Internationalization and Agenda- Setting Applications Michael P Johnson, Jr. Gerald Midgley, University of Hull Available at: https://works.bepress.com/michael_johnson/99/ Special Issue Editorial Community Operational Research: Innovations, Internationalization and Agenda-Setting Applications Michael P Johnsona and Gerald Midgleyb,c,d,e,f,* Special Issue Editors Jason Wrighta and George Chichiraua Editorial Assistants a Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, USA b Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, Hull, UK c School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna, Sweden d Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand e School of Political and Social Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand f School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Introduction For readers who have never come across Community Operational Research before, it has been variously described as “OR… for community development” (Midgley and Ochoa-Arias, 2004, p.3), OR for “social purpose organisations” (White, 2018) and OR with “the meaningful engagement of communities” at its heart (Midgley, Johnson & Chichirau, 2018). We will not dwell on definitions and their implications for practice, as this is the focus of the first section of papers in this special issue. Suffice it to say, however, that community concerns are central to Community OR projects, whichever definition is preferred. We are proud and excited to be introducing this special issue to you, for several reasons. First, the quantity, quality and diversity of the papers all exceeded our expectations. Second, for us, this collection of papers exemplifies what it is possible for OR to aspire to in terms of both benefit to society and academic publishing. In the context of this last comment, we want to say something about how we approached our editorial role, which is consistent with our normative vision of OR. The Editorial Process: Towards a Normative Vision of OR We received 90 proposals of potential papers in response to our special issue call – many more than expected. The quality of these was generally high: it was going to be difficult to EJOR: SI – COR Editorial 1 March 5, 2018 decide which authors to invite to submit full papers to be sent to referees, and which to decline. We sat down to think through our selection criteria. In our initial call, we had stipulated what we were looking for. In addition to reflections on the nature and purpose of Community OR, we were keen to publish reports of projects, but not just descriptive case studies: to be worthy of inclusion, a paper had to illustrate the value of a theoretical or methodological innovation that could be adopted or adapted in future projects. In other words, papers reporting projects had to offer some insights with the potential to be taken up by our wider research community. This is not unusual for academic journals to insist upon, and it formed our first criterion for selection. We then added ‘quality of the argument’ and ‘clarity of the writing’. Our discussion of criteria then moved to what we appreciated and what we found lacking in the OR literature. We both expressed our frustration that so many academic OR papers of a predictive or prescriptive nature offer methodological innovations without actually applying them in practice. While researchers may present sound arguments for the methodological foci of their papers, their modelling too often uses simulated data, or data adapted from elsewhere, in hypothetical case studies. Of course, it could be seen as a high bar to ask researchers to present real projects, but this seems to us consistent with our normative understanding of OR as intervention. By ‘intervention’, we mean modelling to inform real-world decision making, where we have to think carefully and often critically about what it means in a particular context to best serve clients, stakeholders and/or communities. After talking it over, we made a decision to exclude from consideration for this special issue all papers proposing methodological innovations that did not describe actual interventions (for example, model-based changes in operations or strategy) on the grounds that, if the innovation has not actually been tested in practice (rather than on a hypothetical case study or using secondary data), the evidence of utility is too weak to merit publication. Indeed, we suggest (controversially perhaps) that an approach that looks good on paper may be theoretically or methodologically elegant, but unless there is evidence that it can usefully inform

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