Scheduling a Conference
4 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2021
This case uses a mathematician's experience as a first-time organizer for a prestigious conference in Barcelona, Spain, to set the stage for applying optimization methods to scheduling problems. In particular, the case addresses linear optimization with binary variables to map out a speaker schedule. The protagonist, Juana Torres, is given a list of submitted talks, a matrix of restrictions about which talk fits which topics, as well as a number of constraints on individual presenters' schedules. Her goal is to find a speaker schedule which maximizes the attractiveness to the audience without violating any of the constraints. The material includes a spreadsheet template with a basic schedule layout for students to work through.
Jun. 16, 2021
Scheduling a Conference
As a newly appointed member of the 2008 Foundations of Utility and Risk (FUR) conference organizing committee, Juana Torres had some advances she believed would add to the quality of the conference. Torres was a mathematician on the faculty of a prestigious university in Mexico. As a scholar of optimization methods, she employed efficiency principles in almost everything—including organizing the tables at her wedding.
The FUR conference, first established by a Nobel Prize winning French economist and a Norwegian behavioral scientist in 1982, earned a reputation as the most respected meeting in behavioral science worldwide. Held every two years in multiple venues globally, the conference attracted “economists, psychologists, mathematicians, management scientists, medical and health scientists, philosophers, statisticians, and other researchers” as attendees and speakers. Indeed, the caliber of speakers over the years included six Nobel laureates.
Torres's first conference as an organizer would take place in Barcelona, Spain. A conference was usually announced one year in advance and interested participants would send proposals for talks. For this one, some of the organizers prepared a list of 17 topics, mixing traditional and new trends in the field of behavioral economics. Plans were for 180 talks distributed over 13 parallel sessions, with four or five tracks each, over four days.
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Keywords: linear optimization, mixed integer programing, scheduling
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