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Justifying the methods of OR

Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Publication Date
  • Hd28 Management. Industrial Management
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences


Operational research practitioners use mathematical, statistical, scientific, and other methods to structure and analyse issues in order to advise and assist their clients. In doing so they apply values, follow rules and use methodologies. The paper examines the justification of these methods, values and methodologies. Starting with a conceptual model drawn from the philosophy of science, a justification framework is developed for operational research (OR). Making a distinction between OR academic research and OR practice helps to clarify the issues. OR research is similar to scientific, mathematical and social science research; OR practice, as technology, is closer to engineering. While OR academic researchers will seek justification in the academic discipline within which they choose to work, it is argued that the justification of OR practice lies in its usefulness. For academic OR, justification lies in the justification of mathematics, statistics, science and social science; for practice, it is practitioners who decide what usefulness means in their context. Journal of the Operational Research Society (2010) 61, 1694-1708. doi:10.1057/jors.2009.147 Published online 2 December 2009

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