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Operational Research

Operational Research (OR) is a set of techniques that can be used help policymakers and practitioners make better decisions in complex situations.

This essentially involves creating mathematical models of ‘real world’ situations or services. A common approach in recent decades with advances in IT is the use of computer simulation models. In this way OR can help to identify ways in which a system or service can be improved or to test options for delivering a new service or simply explore how the system works.

Some advantages of using OR techniques

  • ‘What if’ scenarios can be developed to show what would happen if a system was changed in a particular way e.g. if staff or vehicles were deployed differently, without costly ‘real world’ trials.
  • The fact that simulations can be presented both visually and dynamically in a non-technical way can help non-analysts to visualise issues highlighted in a system or the implications of proposed changes more easily.
  • Effective models or simulations can still be developed even when some data are not currently available by using expert knowledge and sensitivity analysis around such expert assumptions can determine the need to collect actual data.

For further information about OR and its use in Government visit the Government Operational Research Service website (external link).

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