Operational Research – the unsung hero

I am the head of the Operational Research profession at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). In our department we are often referred to as the “modellers” because our main role in DECC is to provide the mathematical models and analysis that help our colleagues to design develop and monitor government policies.  Our work is at the heart of our country's efforts to provide secure affordable energy whilst at the same time meeting the climate change commitments we have made to the world.

Operational Research (OR) doesn't often make the headlines, but if you look "under the bonnet" of our major policies you will find a model that has been used to help understand the effects of the alternative courses of action. For example, we have developed a simulation language which is based on real world data and the physics of energy in homes to help our colleagues understand the effects of changes to the fabric and energy practices of our nation. And, later this year, DECC will take the leading role in setting the 5th Carbon Budget. OR is at the centre of this important decision, helping us to understand the ways in which we need to change our energy system to move to a lower carbon future.

I have been practicing OR for a quarter of a century and in that time we have moved into a world of vastly increased computing power with ever increasing amounts of data. Operational Researchers – and especially today’s fast streamers - have been and will continue to be leaders in the drive to harness these assets.

Fast streamers are a vital part of the picture. They are the new blood in our profession and bring with them many new ideas, skills and above all enthusiasm for learning and helping decision-makers. A fast streamer will be expected to work on major policy developments from day one. Sometimes they will be involved in a a completely new field of policy, developing approaches from scratch and supported by the network of other practitioners and the practical training provided by the Government OR service.
It's challenging work which is helping to make energy in our country greener, cheaper and more secure.

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