Some time ago, I wrote this answer: https://or.stackexchange.com/a/3323/405 to a question here on this stack exchange. I've had similar discussions with colleges, but I never found anything written down on "meta topics". So I thought, probably someone else knows much more about this then me.

Actual Question: I am looking for literature about operations research. In particular sources that look at it from a meta perspective. Examples of what I would consider "meta-questions" would be:

  • Is operations research a form of engineering, an inductive or a deductive science?
  • How is long term progress achieved and measured in operations research?
  • How do the different subfields interact?
  • Is there a theory to practice pipeline?
  • Is there a pipeline in the opposite direction?
  • How long are the pipelines?
  • What differentiates operations research from the neighboring disciplines?

TL,DR: Are there any meta papers about operations research?

  • $\begingroup$ @TheSimpliFire That's a fascinating read, thanks for sharing! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ Not a direct answer but the 1979 classic The Future of Operational Research is Past $\endgroup$
    – David M.
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidM. That seems like a great read. It would be very kind of you, if you could post as an answer! $\endgroup$
    – PSLP
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:47

2 Answers 2


Is operations research really research?1 discusses how the Design Research paradigm can be used to evaluate OR problems.


[1] Manson, N. J. (2006). Is operations research really research?. Orion. 22(2):155-180.

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    $\begingroup$ Most Operations Research is more research than most Data Science is science. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ Funny story, prompted by mention in article of medical practice vs. research. Ca. 1980, someone in another department at Stanford sent an intra (Stanford) university Manila envelope containing a paper addressed to "Prof Richard W. Cottle, Operations Research Department". It was delivered to the medical school. Eventually, after a bunch of question marks by staff at the medical school, it was routed to Department of Surgery. Finally an astute Surgery professor got it routed to the Operations Research Department, whereupon Prof Cottle proudly hung it on the bulletin board outside his office. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 14:43

One of my favorite OR papers is Ackoff's The Future of Operational Research is Past (1979). It's thought-provoking and quite...colorful.

While looking for that paper, I found a few others in related vein:

OR/MS: Dead or Dying? RX for Survival by Hall and Hess (1978)

Present Positions and Future Prospects in Management Science by Jackson (1987)

The Natural Drift: What Happened to Operations Research? by Corbett and Van Wassenhove (1993)

These papers all have 100+ cites (according to Google Scholar). There's a long tradition of discussing OR as a discipline within the OR literature.


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