In view of the success of the UK Operational Research Society’s Pro Bono Scheme, which links OR professionals with charities to their mutual benefit, participants in the upcoming European OR Conference will be keen to learn which of their countries it can most easily be expanded to.
In an attempt to answer this question, the chart above shows a measure of the penetration of Operational Research in each country (the number of members of the national OR Society per million population) against a measure of the importance of the charitable sector in that country (the percentage of the population claiming to have given money to charity over the past four weeks), for those European countries where both data items are available. Clearly one would be looking for countries with a large charitable sector and a high penetration of Operational Research.
The UK is in the lead on both indicators, followed at a respectful distance by the normal suspects in North-Western Europe together with Croatia and Slovenia. The fact that Norway/Sweden, Germany/Austria/Switzerland and Hungary/Czech Republic are all very close to each other gives us some hope that we are actually measuring something real here.
Whether one can implement such a scheme successfully probably depends on having some central body that can make it happen, and it is nor clear that other European countries have an infrastructure comparable to the UK Operational Research Society. Even more importantly perhaps, one needs a driving force who is determined to make the thing happen in the first place.
With regard to the variables employed, membership of national OR societies is probably a reasonable measure of the penetration of OR in particular countries, and it would be hard to find anything else without a great deal of effort. As ever in international comparisons, the size of the charity sector is subject to definitional problems, for example where you have churches funded out of taxes (as in Germany) or charities contracted on a large scale to carry out what would otherwise be functions of the State (as in the US or the UK).