Annual Conference OR65 – Presentation from Dr Harley Pope

OR65 was the annual conference of the Operational Research Society and this year was a celebration of its 75th year.  Operational Research (OR) has a range of names including ‘management science’, ‘business analytics’ or data science’.  It is multidisciplinary with both quantitative (hard) and qualitative (soft) methodologies and approaches to problem structuring, solving, and intervention.  The OR conference is based in the UK and has close ties to the UK Government Operational Research Service (GORS).  GORS analysts help to support government policy through empirical analysis using scientific and mathematical techniques.

Systems thinking features as a significant theme within OR, and was the largest strand within this year’s conference.  The overarching aim of this year’s systems strand was to bring systems practitioners together to discuss the current state of the field, and whether there was an emerging consensus around new trajectories and development within the field.

Other themes within the conference of potential interest to the Walker Institute, include:

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • OR and Net Zero
  • Community Operational Research
  • Soft OR and Problem Structuring Methods
  • Optimisation under Uncertainty
  • OR for Strategic Decision Making and Policy Making
  • Forecasting
  • Hybrid Modelling and Simulation
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning


What happened:

Dr Pope attended the conference and delivered a presentation on the following topic: “Finding common ground or harmonising the incommensurable? A critical reflection on integrating diverse systems thinking approaches through exploring the nature of mind and its foundational role in the act of structuring reality.

The purpose of the talk was to stimulate discussion around the ways that we often unconsciously use metacognition in mapping systems and using problem structuring methods.  It provided a critique of a popular systems thinking method and suggested approaches that could be used to improve systems pedagogy and personal practice in order to enhance the outcomes of using different types of systems methodology.

Dr Pope participated in other systems theme events including workshops to define emerging trends in the systems literature.  He will also convene a community of practice to incorporate insights from neuroscience, embodied cognition, contemplative, and introspective practices, in order to enhance systems learning and practice.

The talk was received well by the delegates in the room, and it contributed to a wider discussion on the role of cognition in systems mapping.