The Science of Better: Michael Johnson’s Research on Foreclosed Housing
December 29, 2011
Barbara Graceffa, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
Did you ever wonder how Disney is able to make its amusement park lines run so efficiently? Or how UPS lays out its delivery routes or a police department decides which patrol cars should respond to calls for service? The answer is operations research—a powerful mathematical modeling science used in many industries and organizations to make decisions with less risk and better outcomes.
Just ask Associate Professor and Department Chair of Public Policy and Public Affairs Michael Johnson about the values of operations research. He would tell you that the tools of operations research—or OR as it is commonly referred to—can deliver new insights into problem solving, save millions in costs, increase revenues, and inform high-level strategic planning decisions. In short, it can lead to improved processes, productivity, and performance.
The non-profit Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) defines OR as the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods—like simulation, optimization, probability and statistics—to make more effective decisions and create more productive systems based on more complete data, careful forecasting, and risk assessment. OR has a long history of addressing important public-sector problems, from needle-exchange policies to reduce the transmission of the AIDS virus, to strategies to provide supplies to victims of natural disasters quickly and efficiently, to choosing sites for libraries, parks and community corrections centers that meet the needs of underserved populations.
INFORMS promotes the use of operations research through its website scienceofbetter.org. Johnson, who earned his PhD in operations research, is now featured in a podcast on that site. The podcast, Defender of Neighborhoods, is an interview with Johnson on his research on foreclosed housing. During the interview, he explains how math models may help community-based organizations with limited resources successfully acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties to revitalize distressed neighborhoods and discusses how predatory lending and lax regulations contributed to the current foreclosed housing crisis and housing market slump.
- Listen to the podcast
- Michael Johnson's Scholarworks page: Learn more about Johnson’s research—including his new edited collection, Community-Based Operations Research: Decision Modeling for Local Impact and Diverse Populations
- Discover the graduate program offerings in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies