Some Dangerous Misconceptions Concerning Operational Research and Applied Systems Analysis

Tomlinson R (1981). Some Dangerous Misconceptions Concerning Operational Research and Applied Systems Analysis. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RR-81-019. Reprinted from the European Journal of Operational Research, 7(2) [June 1981].

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Abstract

After defining the field of interest as operational research and/or applied systems analysis (ORASA), this paper examines ORASA by describing and then qualifying seven 'near-truths' about the subject; each is sufficiently accurate to be accepted by many ORASA practitioners, but equally each contains the seeds of dangerous misconceptions and distortions if its limitations are not recognized. The seven near-truths and the corresponding qualifications thought necessary may be summarized as follows. 1, "ORASA is problem solving": certainly an important aspect but achievement of understanding is the more fundamental goal. 2, "Models are central to ORASA": what is truly 'central' is complex reality even though the models may be 'essential' to the process. 3, "Problems can and must be defined (uniquely and invariantly)"; definition is vital but redefinition in the light of increased understanding or the views of different analysts is equally necessary. 4, "Models are partial representations of reality": often the aim, but it is important that the exact meaning and range of validity of the models must be understood by their interpreters and the relationship between models and reality very closely examined. 5, "Tactics and strategy are entirely separate": it is misleading to postulate an absolute qualitative distinction - both overviews and problem-solving applications are needed and successful ORASA analysts must combine the two. 6, "All rigorous thought can be expressed in mathematical terms": rigor is necessary but, given the nature of real-world problems, it is essential to combine 'hard' mathematical analysis with equally valid insight from the 'soft' sciences. 7, "ORASA is a science": scientific in its approach but multidisciplinary and cross-cutting in the expertise on which it draws.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Research Report (Reprint))
Research Programs: Management and Technology Area (MMT)
Bibliographic Reference: Reprinted from the European Journal of Operational Research; 7(2) [June 1981]
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:49
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2016 07:19
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/1584

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