WIMCS Professor Paul Harper (centre) at the 2008 Annual Meeting in Aberystwyth with Prof Vass Mavron and Alison Braddock, Outreach Co-ordinator.

Prof Harper was appointed to his WIMCS Research Chair at Cardiff University in September 2007; before that he was at Southampton University. Prof Harper is an applied mathematician with expertise in Operational Research; much of his research in recent years has involved taking this important tool into the Healthcare arena as a key methodology for improving organisational and clinical decision making.

"From their computers, managers can change some parameters and examine the consequences: what would happen if they had a different number of beds, operating theatres or staff levels."

Interviewed for Times Higher Education Supplement in 2006 Paul described the importance of his work in using Maths to inform policies in this difficult area when financial resources have to be limited:

Professor Harper’s research work impacts on the wider community:

His work modelling the effectiveness of breast cancer screening allows managers in the National Health Service to obtain feedback on the effects of different policy choices and links the number of cancers detected and the years of life saved to frequency of screening and the ages at which women are routinely screened.

Much of this research work is collaborative. He,, and his co-authors were awarded the Goodeve medal of the OR society (2007) for their work on maximising the beneficial outcomes in the NHS Chlamydia screening programme ((D. Evenden, P.R. Harper, S.C. Brailsford and V. Harindra (2006), Improving the cost-effectiveness of Chlamydia screening with targeted screening strategies. JORS: 57:1400-1412.).

Prof Harper’s recent activity includes:

  • Hierarchical bi-criteria efficiency/equity facility location models.
  • Small world network models for HIV, demonstrating the importance of the choice of topology and initial distribution of infection, whilst capturing the direct and non-linear relationship between the probability of a casual partnership and the spread of HIV.
  • Workforce planning models combining stochastic and optimisation methods, used by a number NHS Trusts.
  • Predicting dental care needs and modelling for optimal skill-mix of the dental care team.

Prof Harper is partner in 2 major grants:

  • RIGHT (Research Into Global Healthcare Tools), EPSRC funded award. Awarded £1.09M (with Brunel, Cambridge, Southampton and Ulster).
  • EPSRC Science and Innovation Award to Operational Research. Cardiff as part of the LANCS consortium (Lancaster, Nottingham, Cardiff and Southampton). Total award of £13m (Cardiff component £3.5m) which will fund at Cardiff 4 permanent lectureships, 5 research fellows and 6 PhD studentships

In addition he is currently PI in an EPSRC funded project to allow weather information to be accounted for in planning of hospital resources such as intensive care beds and A&E.

Prof Harper’s contribution to WIMCS is his primarily his research and research generative activity, but he is also very active as Statistics and OR Cluster Co-ordinator and in the area of Educational Outreach.

He is Chair of School Outreach Team, and was principle organiser in Cardiff for the WIMCS Annual Lectures given in 2008 by the TV presenter Johnny Ball and in 2009 by Paul Curzon and Peter McOwan of cs4fn, Queen Mary, University of London on Artificial Intelligence. He is a co-investigator on the WIMCS proposal to bring Maths Road-Shows into schools in Wales (a project that recently secured EPSRC funding under its public understanding of science programme).

Prof Harper serves on the OR society’s General Council and its Education and Research Committee, and in particular is Chair, OR in Schools Initiative.

It remains to be seen whether the recent addition to his family will give him even more energy!

Wales Institute of Mathematical and Computatuional Sciences