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Comeback! Reviving the Warwick R User Group with In-Person and Online Events

By Blog

Dr. Heather Turner of the Warwick R User Group (also on Twitter) recently talked to the R Consortium about the group’s struggle to stay active amid the pandemic. With the pandemic and changes in the organizing team, the group took a hiatus for a few years. They made a comeback at the end of 2021 and are currently alternating between in-person and online events. She also shared the group’s plans to host hybrid events in the future.

Heather has over 15 years of experience in the development of statistical code and software, gained through positions in academia, industry, and as a freelance consultant. She is currently a Research Software Engineering Fellow at the University of Warwick.


How did you get introduced to R? How do you use R in your work?

I started learning R during my Ph.D. as I needed it for my studies and research. Then during my postdoc, I worked to create an R package, and that’s when I started to learn more about software development. At that stage, I moved a bit more into statistical programming rather than statistics. And that’s what I have been doing since in academia, industry, and as a freelancer. 

About a year and a half ago, I started a 5-year fellowship working on Sustainability and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the R project. The aim is to foster a broader and more diverse community of contributors to R, particularly the base packages maintained by the R Core Team. So while I do use R in my work, I am involved in a lot of community engagement activities encouraging other people to use R and to contribute back to the project. Anyone interested in contributing should visit contributor.r-project.org to find out how to get involved.

What is the R community like in the UK? Can you name a few industries using R in the UK?

Our R User Group is based at the University of Warwick, so most of our group members are researchers and Ph.D. students at the university. During the pandemic, we were able to increase the reach of our group outside of the university through online events. We are currently trying to alternate between in-person and online meetings. Most of the people attending our meetings outside of the university come through a connection to alumni working in the industry. So our group has a strong link to the university.

The R community in the UK is very vibrant, with several active R User groups. R is widely used in universities and in industry. I recently attended an NHS-R Conference organized by the NHS R community. The use of R in the NHS and other public sector organizations is rapidly growing. 

In industry, R is being used across sectors. It is being used in Pharma and also in journalism. The government here in the UK and the Office of National Statistics are also using R. Many data scientists working for a variety of businesses use R. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?   

The pandemic coincided with our main group organizer moving away. So our group wasn’t very active for a couple of years. We restarted our group with online meetings at the end of 2021. Initially, we hosted some joint meetings with other R user groups, like the Barcelona R User Group and the Manchester “R-thritis” group at the University of Manchester. Once we got things going and gathered a community again, we started hosting some in-person events. Over this past year, people have been gradually getting back to in-person events. We would love to host in-person events more frequently, but our members also like the flexibility of online events.  

We have been using Microsoft Teams for our online meetings because we also use that at the university. We have a GitHub repository for our group. The organizing team uses GitHub to set up to-do lists for organizing meetings. 

We don’t upload recordings of our meetups on YouTube as speakers are often not very comfortable with that. We have a website and we share slides from the speakers there. For now, we are hosting either in-person or online meetings, but we would love to host hybrid meetings in the future. We had some changes in the organizing team and we are still picking things up. But that’s definitely something we are working on.

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting? What was the topic and why was it so interesting?

Recently, we had a couple of connected presentations related to reproducibility. It sort of spun out of a discussion that we had in our in-person meeting. One of our members had this issue with reproducibility and asked the group about different tools that are available. We thought that was quite a big topic and we could have a couple of sessions for that. The first session looked at package management tools like automagic or renv and the next session was about containers, specifically docker containers.

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?

There are many significant projects that the R Consortium has funded and I’m grateful for the support they give to the R project and the R community. Some of the projects that have been particularly useful to me as a community organizer are the satRdays, Forwards workshops for women and girls, R Community Explorer, and the R-Ladies organizational guidebook. But my current favorite is the R Girls School Network – I was happy to meet the founder, Dr. Razia Ghani, at NHS-R Community Conference 2022 in Birmingham recently and some of us from the Warwick R User Group hope to visit her school in the future. I think it is great to have materials on R that are accessible to children in high school and to have a network that particularly encourages girls to find joy in using R.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite?  Why is it your favorite?

My favorite active working group is the R Repositories working group. They are working to make the CRAN check process and policies more transparent to package developers, to avoid some of the frustrations that can come with packages not passing CRAN checks.

When is your next event? Please give details!

Our next event is an online meetup, where Ellen Zapata-Webborn from the UCL Energy Institute will talk about “Using Predictive Modelling to Study the Impact of COVID-19 on Energy Consumption.” 


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

How a UseR! 2014 Experience Led to the Development of a 1,700-member R Community in Budapest

By Blog

Dr. Gergely Daróczi is an active member of the R community, founder of the Budapest Users of R Network Group and organizer of the satRday and eRum conferences. Gergely shares about his path which led him to become an enthusiastic developer, promoter, and supporter of the R language. He is committed to proving the benefits of the language to the community in Budapest and worldwide. 

Gergely has a Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornivus University. Gergely became a data engineer and R programmer, founding his own company dedicated to web-based reporting and R consulting. As a result of his extensive experience, Gergely wrote the book “Mastering Data Analysis with R.” He worked for Fintech and adtech startups in California, and is currently the co-founder and tech lead of a precision medicine platform at Rx Studio.


Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work? What do you do when you’re not programming? 

My interest in R started when I was at university, in an Economics class back in 2004. I really remember that class well because it was about the chaotic dynamics of the potato market in Hungary – a rather abstract and complex theory for a sophomore. We had done a simulation in R, and I was fascinated to see how useful the language was. Since that moment, I have been interested in learning R, and up to now, I am still using it.

Regarding my work, the R language has been a game changer, from the time I was working for market and public opinion research companies, where I had to do survey analysis with R, until I founded my own web-based reporting and R consulting company. Then I moved to Los Angeles to work as a lead R Developer and Research Data Scientist, and R has been the main programming language in my whole professional career. 

When I am not programming, I spend time with my family: I have three kids, and I really enjoy being with them. 

What is the R community like in Budapest? What was most surprising to you about the community? 

Everything started in 2014 in Spain, when I had the pleasure of meeting many people from GitHub and other communities at the annual useR! conference. It was great to meet everyone in person, especially Szilard Pafka, who urged me to start the R User Group in Hungary. I liked the idea, so I started looking for other interested colleagues and we had our first meetup, gathering 10 people. Fortunately, the community has grown and we are now 1,700 members in Budapest, an amazing number considering our small country. On the other hand, the number of active community members is much lower: before COVID, we used to have 50-100 people showing up, but after COVID on average 25 people or even less.

For me, the most surprising thing about the community is to see people with different backgrounds, such as medical sciences, social sciences, natural sciences, and more, who in the end share the same goal: learn and promote the use of the R language. 

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in Budapest? 

The people who attend these meetups are very diverse, you find people from all backgrounds like professors, students, programmers, and more. All of them are looking to learn R or to meet others using R.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future? 

Unfortunately, we had no events during the pandemic. In fact, the R User Group in Budapest just came back in June this year. The reason why we did not have online events during COVID is because I definitely believe that meetups are much better when done in a face-to-face way, like being able to talk after the talks, having lunch together, having a drink… Activities that are hardly possible in online events.

What trends do you see in R language over the next year? 

The trend that I particularly see over the next years is the increasing integration of programming languages, such as the introduction of C++ in R, or using Java or Python through R for the past years, and integrating packages from other languages (such as Rust) in R rather than writing everything in R. 

What is your favorite R event that you have attended? From a small meetup to a big conference! 

Among the big conferences, I liked the Use R! Conference because I had the opportunity to interact with people from different countries, especially with those I knew through GitHub but had not had the chance to meet in person. It is great to have so many people gathered in one place using the same language. Regarding the smaller conferences, I am obviously biased, as we had both SatRdays and ERUM conferences in Budapest, amazing events as well. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite? 

There are many good projects, so it is difficult to make a decision, but if I had to choose one, my favorite is SatRdays. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to help bring the first event live in Hungary in 2016, and I also attended others in the next few years, which were amazing. 

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite? 

My favorite is the R Validation Hub. I think it is great having a lot of open-source contributors in this critical group making sure things in the R ecosystem are implemented and distributed correctly. 

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details! 

Our last event of the year was the annual “Data Christmas” in mid-December. This is something we started doing before COVID: most of the Budapest data groups got together and organized a joint event, e.g. highlighting the new trends in R, Python, Big Data etc, as well as other important conferences and community events. This is also a good opportunity to spend a couple of hours networking with other folks interested in data science. 

But clearly, things have changed a lot with COVID. For the coming years, I am not sure we will be as active as a group as we used to be, and I honestly think that we might become a smaller group, but I am still optimistic and see a scenario where we can connect and create opportunities. I also wanted to mention that the local chapter of R Ladies was very active before COVID, and I really liked their purpose of teaching and not just giving talks … I am not sure if that will continue, but I want to believe it will.


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

Inclusive Space for Bio-Data and Medical R Group in Tampa, Florida

By Blog

Paul Stewart of the Moffitt Cancer Center Bio-Data Club talked to the R Consortium about the group’s experience of shifting events online. Paul shared that despite his initial concerns they had a smooth transition to online events. He also shared some of the techniques he uses to keep the meetings inclusive and understandable for all the participants. 

Paul Stewart, PhD, Bioinformatics Faculty, at Moffitt Cancer Center


Can you tell us about your professional background?

I am an Assistant Member at the Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa Florida. I am an equivalent of an Assistant Professor. Moffitt is a non-profit cancer hospital and research institute. I work in the department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, and my research is in bioinformatics. To put it simply, we use big molecular data to profile and understand cancer. We try to figure out what these tumors are doing and what are potential treatments based on the molecular profile of individual patients, also known as “personalized medicine”. My expertise, in particular, is in computational proteomics and metabolomics. People may have heard of the genome or genomics, which is the field that studies all of the genes expressed by an organism. Genes are the blueprints for proteins that are functioning inside all cells in our bodies. Proteomics is the field that studies all proteins expressed by an organism. This means the profiling of big data and analyses that go into profiling proteins. Similarly in metabolomics, you are looking at metabolites, small molecules in say blood and urine that can be biomarkers for the early detection of cancer.

How did you start this group? And how has your experience been so far?

I was introduced to the R Consortium several years ago through the Tampa Bay R Users Group. Our group is called the Moffitt Cancer Center Bio-Data Club and even though there is a Moffitt name in the title, we are open to the public. And we have people coming and joining us virtually from all over, all the time.

We started our group in 2018 and we have around 30-50 people attending our meetups. We also hold an annual hackathon which is very successful. There has been no shortage of speakers who want to give these “Hello World” talks that the audience can understand even if they are not hardcore programmers or statisticians. At Moffitt, we work at the intersection of cancer biology, computer science, statistics, machine learning, and mathematics. It is a challenge to be an expert in all of these topics at the same time, so having this venue has been really helpful. 

I think we have done a good job keeping our group accessible given the wide range of backgrounds that we have. Attendees include lab technicians, data analysts, epidemiologists, medical doctors, bioinformaticians, and statisticians. Our meetings are designed such that everybody can benefit from them even if they don’t have a really great programming background.

What is the R community like in Tampa? Can you name a few industries using R in Tampa?

The R community in Tampa is great and constantly growing. As an academic, I tend to hang in academic circles, and locally a lot of the interactions I have is with colleagues working at other universities like the University of South Florida here in Tampa or at the University of Florida in Gainesville to our North.  

Besides the academic circles, it feels like the pandemic really helped to attract more data scientists, developers, and IT folks to Tampa. People realized that you can work from anywhere and Tampa is a great place to live. The weather is great, the beach is nearby, and Disney World is a short car drive away in Orlando. So now we have people from big tech companies like Microsoft and Google all the way down to smaller companies.

We have a robust R and data science community at the Moffitt Cancer Center thanks to our organizational structure. We were one of the first cancer centers to create a Division of Quantitative Sciences led by a VP-level data scientist (Dr. Dana Rollison), and our Division now includes my department (led by Dr. Brooke Fridley, a brilliant biostatistician and data scientist), the Department of Machine Learning, and the Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department. On the hospital side, they use data science for business intelligence and guiding operational decisions. Many companies in the area are hiring in data science and machine learning, and as a quick plug, Moffitt is no exception. Right now we are looking for postdoctoral fellows for our Integrated Program in Cancer and Data Science (ICADS) program as well as a Vice Chair for my department.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

At first, it was a bit of a struggle to get a feel for online meetings. Overall, I think we did a good job transitioning to virtual only. At first, I didn’t really like the idea and felt that online meetings are going to be a poor substitute for in-person meetings, but now I totally see the benefit. 

You are able to connect from anywhere in the world, and it’s very easy for the speakers to share their screens. During in-person meetings, speakers often had to use a foreign computer and mostly shared just screenshots or code snippets. So even though our presentations are tutorial-focused, these presentations were not truly interactive. With the transition to online, it is much easier to move from introductory slides to the actual tool/library/package and share how it works. Now it is trivial to run some commands and show the group the output live.

On the audio-visual side too, I was skeptical that people will have trouble hearing. But we didn’t have any audio-visual issues during the meetings. I also had some apprehensions about participation and felt people will not attend because that sense of community will be missing in online meetings. But the numbers really didn’t take a hit and with the amazing advances in software like Zoom, it has been great. 

In a Zoom with 30-40 people, I understand it can be a bit intimidating to unmute yourself and ask questions. To overcome this, I try to help the audience by being the conversation facilitator and by providing references to things the audience might be familiar with or asking the speaker to explain a bit more. I think these efforts have helped the audience get more involved. Going online only certainly has been a bit of a learning experience but I think overall it’s been good. And for the time being just because the logistics are much easier, we are keeping them online for the newer term.

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, video conferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?  

For video conferencing, we have been using Zoom. We also use the messaging feature of Zoom a lot as it’s really easy to message other club members at Moffitt. We have been using GitHub fairly extensively even prior to the pandemic. So during the pandemic, we have mainly relied more on Zoom, maybe some features of Zoom like the option to annotate and draw on the screen. 

We wanted to keep our club as open and accessible as possible from the beginning. So every meeting, the accompanying slides, and the links to the presenter goes on GitHub. So we do have an archive of all the meetings and it is not something new for us.

As a lot of the meetings are hosted at Moffitt if there is an internal speaker we don’t record that session and release it to the public. We do have recordings but they are password protected for privacy reasons. We do provide access to our members if they have a question or are confused. Due to these privacy issues, we are still working on setting up a Youtube channel. 

I think we will definitely keep using these techniques in the future. We have had some amazing speakers from around the globe. Our two most recent speakers were Olivier Teytaud, the developer of the Python-based Nevergrad gradient-free optimization platform, and Zuguang Gu, author of the ComplexHeatmap Bioconductor package. Also because these technologies make it much easier for the members to connect from anywhere and they don’t have to deal with traffic and parking to get to Moffitt during the workday. This has definitely been helpful for people and I think it has helped our numbers.

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting? 

My favorite presentation most recently was by Zuguang Gu, author of the ComplexHeatmap package. This package is an amazing data visualization tool. It allows you to take some data frame or matrix and, with a couple of lines of code, turn it into a publication-ready heatmap. 

A lot of data I work with is high-dimensional, and there is often related information like clinical features, gene mutations, etc., and this software allows you to add these as annotations to the heatmap very easily. You can even have a plot on top of your plot. It is amazing software, and it’s been a very helpful tool in my work. He’s been developing this for years, and I highly recommend this package for heatmaps.

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

I think it will be moving more and more into the tidyverse. I am slightly more old school as I learned R more than 10 years ago, and I still do a lot of work in base R. I am slowly working my way into some of the tidyverse packages. stringr is currently my favorite. I think I and others need to get on board because the tidyverse does make a number of data processing and transformation steps much easier.

Machine learning is also becoming in demand in the field and a lot of that work is done in Python. But I think there are some packages and libraries enabling efficient machine learning to be done within R. I think there will be more development in this area and there will be better ways for R to interact with other programming languages.

Do you know of any data journalism efforts by your members? If not, are there particular data journalism projects that you’ve seen in the last year that you feel had a positive impact on society?

I think the New York Times has some wonderful examples of data journalism and they set a high bar with their data visualizations. We can learn a lot from them on how to take all these numbers and transform them into understandable results so that readers from all backgrounds can understand them. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium,  do you have a favorite project?  Why is it your favorite?

I am a big fan of outreach and education (part of the reason why I organize our club), so my favorite funded project is “Setting up an R-Girls-Schools Network“. 

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite?  Why is it your favorite?

My favorite active working group is the “R7 Package“. I really like the idea of a modernized successor to S3 and S4.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We meet on the third Thursday of the month at 3 pm New York time. We just had our annual hackathon, and I am up against the holidays, so I am still in the middle of arranging a speaker for next month. If you are interested in sharing a package you authored (or even a package that you like using), then please reach out to me.


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

R en Buenos Aires in 2023: Compiling a list of Latin American R packages

By Blog

The R Consortium caught up with Elio Campitelli, organizer of the R en Buenos Aires Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to talk about their experience leading a group with almost 1,000 members. Elio discusses their early exposure to programming, the group’s special interest in R and social sciences, and plans on building a compiled list of Latin American R packages in 2023.

Elio Campitelli, organizer of R en Buenos Aires, is an Atmospheric Scientist who began programming at the young age of eight years old. They got very familiar with statistics language and the sciences from early on. In their free time, they enjoy playing the piano and studying languages like German and Argentinian sign language. They also started creating art with AI and are in the process of learning more AI Technology.


Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work?

I started to learn R when I was doing my undergrad at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. There I met several, now, friends who would join me in the R Community to study and use the R language. I am now the maintainer for several R packages and give courses.

What is the R community like in Buenos Aires, Argentina?

I think the most surprising thing is that the R community is so large and thriving. I started meeting people who use R and have a passion for it. I think the R community is mostly composed of academic members; in my experience, there are fewer people that come from industry, and there are a lot of people that come from the social sciences. Our most attended event was about the use of data science in social sciences; the room was packed and the meetup went overtime with questions and debates about the uses and biases of algorithms.

What industries do you see more in Buenos Aires?

I come from academia, we have some people who come from industry. I also see people in the community coming from agricultural sectors; they use R to analyze crops and agriculture issues. It is quite surprising to see the work they are doing with R.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members?

We were very affected by Covid. We used to have physical meetings in big rooms with snacks and drinks for people in the community courtesy of Medallia. But with Covid, we had to move online, and it was tough to organize meetings that would not interfere with the personal and professional lives of the people in the community. During these meetings, we do a lot of expositions, in which people show what they do with R, and their experiences using this tool, but also people show their projects and books regarding programming and R. 

What trends do you see in R language over the next year?

One of the things that I see in the R language now is the prospect of being able to run R in the browser with web assembly (https://github.com/georgestagg/webR). Having something like that would be amazing; to create apps like Shiny but entirely in the browser.

Also, being able to teach R with no installation and without depending on cloud infrastructure can be great but expensive considering we need to pay in dollars. 

What is your favorite R event you have attended?

Latin R is an R conference in which people talk about R and the use of R in industry and academia. I also helped to organize many events with people I love and whom I get to meet in person during those events. It’s amazing talking about R and its uses with people in my language.

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

In our most recent event, we had people from the tourism ministry in Argentina who are using R in the government. They showed us what they do and how are they using R in that context. In January we are starting the year with a meetup to present a compiled list of R packages to be maintained or authored by people in Latin America. In the long term, we are looking forward to more people that wish to organize these new meetups. We need fresh blood! Check out our Meetup and Twitter for updates on what is happening with R en Buenos Aires. 


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

Learning the Fundamentals of R, Workshop with R-Ladies Gaborone and Botswana R User Group

By Blog

By: Simisani Ndaba and Edson Kambeu 


Starting from the far left; Simisani Ndaba (Instructor), Reatile Setilo, Phenyo Sabone, Kelly Masoto, Epiphany Ntongana, Edson Kambeu (Instructor), Emma Ramajalwa, Boago Okgetheng

Saturday morning on the 29th of October 2022, the Botswana R User Group, the Department of Computer Science at the University of Botswana, and R-ladies Gaborone collaborated to conduct an R workshop focusing on the fundamentals of R programming for R enthusiasts. Both organizations are the only R communities in Botswana and have had online events on R related topics from speakers around the world. The Department of Computer Science provided the venue and technical support. Altogether, the seven attendees were from different institutions around Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. Half of the attendees had a basic knowledge of R programming and the other half had a background in Java and Python programming. The workshop was instructed by Botswana R User Group founder, Edson Kambeu, and R-Ladies Gaborone co-founder, Simisani Ndaba. Edson Kambeu, who is a Finance Lecturer, traveled all the way from Francistown, a city in the north of the country to help instruct the workshop. The instructors used google docs to share educational data science websites, R resources, communities, conferences, and workshops for the attendees. 

The Software Carpentry, R for Reproducible Scientific Analysis, was used in the workshop. The other instructor, Simisani Ndaba, is a certified Carpentry Instructor which enabled the Carpentries lesson to be used. The workshop started with an introductory presentation about R programming in Data Science to raise awareness about how R is used in academics and work in Botswana. Afterward, the R programming fundamentals were covered from RStudio IDE, Data Structures, and R packages, to getting help from CRAN and R package vignettes. The attendees were able to understand R functions and statements and questioned parts of R statements they tried to understand like StringAsFactors and they also tried different outputs from changes in R statements. During explanations of the course material, attendees had questions about the similarities between R and Python, and Java and made online searches for alternate functions which demonstrated their curiosity and interest in R capabilities.

At the end of the workshop, attendees were presented with a digital certificate of attendance of the workshop. The workshop has demonstrated an extreme interest in R programming and more workshops need to take place often. The funding was provided by the R consortium which supports R programming community organizations worldwide.

The attendees expressed how the workshop could have reached more people had the event been advertised more broadly through WhatsApp groups, posters, and the university email, which are the main communications channels for the close R Community in Botswana. The workshop had been advertised using Meetup.com, the online platform for community organizations, Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. People from the social media pages requested an online session which is under consideration and may even attract more participants from around the world. Stay up to date with the latest R activities in Botswana by following R-ladies Gaborone and Botswana R User Group! 🥳


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

Regaining Momentum with In-Person Meetups

By Blog

The R Consortium caught up with Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck of the BernR User Group to talk about the challenges of organizing an R User Group during the pandemic. The group has focused many of its meetings on introductory level R topics. Michael discussed the challenges of maintaining the frequency of the meetings as they shifted events online. He also shared his hope of bouncing back with in-person meetups next year.

Michael finished his Master’s and Ph.D. in Psychology and currently works as an Associate Professor at the University of Bern.


How did you get introduced to R?

I am a Psychologist by training and have been working mainly in academia but also in industry. For the past 15 years, I have been using R for research and training. I teach R courses at the university and through the Advanced Studies Program at the University of Basel together with Dirk Wulff – a course series called The R Bootcamp. We started the BernR User Group several years ago, and it grew really quickly. Once we hit the number of members required for a professional meetup account, I learned about the support we could get from the R Consortium and applied. So we set up a professional Meetup account with the R Consortium’s support. Thanks for that!

What is the R community like in Switzerland? 

R is being used extensively in the Pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland, but most of these groups are based in Basel. Here in Bern, the use of R is mostly in academia and administration. In universities, many departments use R, but we also had people from finance and medicine, so there are additional interesting use cases outside of academia.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we were a small group, with events hosted regularly. We met once a month and around 10-15 people attended these in-person meetings. Everybody involved liked it because it was a pleasant group to participate in with a really welcoming atmosphere. In our group, we prefer to talk about basic stuff as most of our members are beginners. It didn’t make sense to talk about super advanced stuff when there is a need for basics. So our talks were on topics like introduction to R or introduction to graphics using ggplot, wrangling data with dplyr, and using RMarkdown

During COVID, we stopped the in-person meetings and sat out the first year. Then we started hosting online meetings, but the frequency declined a lot. So there was a big hit that was brought in by COVID in terms of how often we meet. We went down from eight times a year to maybe twice. 

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, video conferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?  

For our online meetings, we are using Zoom. There are no online discussion forums that we use. We post the slides and code produced during our meetings to GitHub. We do not record or upload our session because we feel it hinders discussions. If a session is being recorded, people are less likely to speak up, especially newcomers. So I feel that not recording our sessions gives a bit more room for people to talk. 

From my teaching experience, I know that hybrid events can be tricky and I don’t see a lot of benefit in hosting hybrid events when it comes to small groups. In the future, I might consider recording specialized talks for members to go back to. 

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting? 

One of our organizers, Simon Schwab, did a really amazing talk titled “Introduction to R with the Standford heart transplant data”. He works in the medical area of transplantation medicine or transplantation research, so it’s really down his avenue. He’s an expert on these data sets and gave a detailed introduction to them at a very nice pace. It was a two-part talk series in which he covered loading data sets, displaying them, some summary stats, and then a bit more advanced regression.

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

For my group and maybe our department, I think it is clearly reproducible science. Reproducible code is something that has a strong future. I have started using Quarto and trying to introduce it to my group for presentations and projects. This is where things should go at the end – fully reproducible science. 

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

We are struggling at the moment to book a space for physical events. We are bound to host online events, and we agreed that there have been too many online meetings. So we really want to go back to in-person events. We are hopeful that we will get a room from the university next year to host our in-person events and start out again in January or February. I want to give a shoutout to Simon Schwab and Fabio Molo – they are the two in the ‘we’ I am talking about throughout the interview.


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

UPDATE: Successful R-Based Package Submission with Shiny Component to FDA

By Announcement, Blog, News

The R Consortium is happy to announce that on Nov 18th, 2022, the R Submissions Working Group successfully submitted a test submission package with a Shiny component through the FDA eCTD gateway! The submission package has been received by the FDA CDER staff. All submission materials can be found at: https://github.com/RConsortium/submissions-pilot2-to-fda

The objective of the R Consortium R submission Pilot 2 Project is to test the concept that a Shiny application created with the R-language can be bundled into a submission package and transferred successfully to FDA reviewers. The application was built using the source data sets and analyses contained in the R submission Pilot 1 Project.

To our knowledge, this is the first publicly available submission package that includes a Shiny component. We hope this submission package and our learnings can serve as a good reference for future regulatory submission efforts, when considering Shiny as a tool for a more user-friendly interface to navigate through analysis results. Additional agency feedback will be shared in future communications.

To learn more about the R consortium R submission Working Group and the Pilot 1 submission, more information can be found at:

A Community Gathering in Oxford for Learning about R and Networking Opportunities

By Blog

The Oxford R useR Group organizers are leading the R meetup effort in Oxford, UK. The group has over 600 subscribers and brings together >20 R enthusiasts together monthly in an informal setting and over pizza to talk about R coding, learn from one another, and network across sectors.

Meet the Organizers of the Oxford R useR Group 👋



Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work?

Mariagrazia: I started working after graduating from university. I actually needed to re-learn R, because my degree course was really theoretical, so I didn’t really see any real data that was applied to R. It has been really rewarding learning R and seeing all the different things that I can do with it. Also in my daily job, I’m a statistical consultant, so regarding my projects, I have a lot of variety which is really exciting, but we have to constantly learn new ways of delivering content to non-statistical users.

Aino: R is a very useful tool for biological data analysis and communicating scientific data. I’ve learned more and more about it over the years while doing research, thanks in no small part to fantastic online materials and community.

Kaspar: Data visualization, specifically the ggplot2 package, drove my interest in R initially. I agree with what Aino said about how welcoming the R community is towards newcomers and how many fantastic resources are available online. My current work involves using both R and Python, among the two I find R incredibly useful for data wrangling and data visualization.

What is the R community like in Oxford, UK?

Mariagrazia: The user group has been changing a lot in the past few years. It was a huge group since Kaspar formed it along with the previous person that was organizing the group. The pandemic slowed us a little bit down, we are now recovering from it. We have people from many different backgrounds and several departments at the University of Oxford; there are a lot of people from biology, medical science, and a few people from other departments in industry. We also have many people with statistics and medical science backgrounds, as well as other local councils. It’s very interesting how people use R in their work, specifically when we talk about analyzing data.

Aino: When I first joined the group, I was surprised to meet many R users from many different areas of the public and private sectors — this opened my eyes to the wide uses of R beyond academia where I worked at the time. The group is diverse not only in sectors where people work but also in age and level of experience in R. The monthly meet-ups that we host give people a chance to connect across these differences. 

Kaspar: We founded this group back in 2016. Thinking back, I recall the excitement of designing our logo and the challenges of finding the first venue. We gradually managed to build up a diverse community of attendees from different parts of the university as well as from various industries. It is really cool to meet all these people from so many different areas and learn how they use R in their work. Our meetups typically involve a talk which is followed by informal networking over pizza, this is thanks to our sponsor Ascent. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, Zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members?

Mariagrazia: During the pandemic, we decided not to organize the reunions via Zoom or any digital platform because it was really overwhelming. It was a point when everything was moving online; job, family, and even social life. We concluded that people didn’t need another online meeting, because we use these opportunities to get to know people and network, which is not something our members felt comfortable doing online. Right now, we have the facilities to make hybrid meetings, and we do not exclude that possibility because there are people that do not want to lose the opportunity to meet members and ask some questions.

Aino and Kaspar: Also, in these meetings, we have volunteer speakers who give presentations. Often, these are made available online afterward so that people who could not attend the meetup can catch up and be up to date with new topics and tools.

What trends do you see in R language over the next year?

Aino: One positive trend is tools that support better ways to work in multiple languages simultaneously, especially in R and Python. This is useful in my field where both languages are very popular. 

Mariagrazia: Something in my daily job that I have found very useful is the program Quarto, which is used for marking data and building a more straightforward report. Or Shiny, to produce reports daily in my work.

What is your favorite R event you have attended?

Kaspar: Some of my favorite events are our meetups. We have had amazing speakers, and I really enjoy connecting with all our members. 

Aino: I also have enjoyed R Ladies London, also an R group that hosts online and in-person meetups. The NHS-R group also do some fantastic online talks.

Mariagrazia: I enjoyed the EARL Conference which is organized by Ascent, a company that develops tools for R. I was very interested because their workshops showed tools and domains that can be applied to many areas when working with R.

What is your favorite project from the R Consortium?

Mariagrazia: My favorite project is the R-Girls-School Network. It is one of my favorites because, in my field of work, statistics, there is a huge gap between men and women in this kind of discipline. So, giving the chance for girls to develop the necessary skills early in their school career is great for introducing them to a scientific or a programming career. Another project that I liked is R Deposits. I think it’s really important to make these tools accessible, especially in research you need the capacity to make an interface to produce and analyze data and make a difference.

Aino: I also got very interested in the R-Girls-School Network, like Mariagrazia, as I also support the availability of these tools for everybody. They can be especially useful for young researchers to develop their skills.

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

We don’t have an event planned just yet. Our last event was on November 28th, it was a Causal inference in R. For future updates on what’s going on with the Oxford RUG, you can follow us on Twitter or our Meetup Group, as well as our Github where we include previous talks and other materials.


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

Spreading a Passion for R with the Münster Community in Germany

By Blog

Dr. Shirin Elsinghorst recently shared her great experience with the R language, motivating her to start the Münster R useR Germany. Shirin shared how R has become a very important part of her life, from her first contact with the language while receiving her Bachelor’s degree, in the workplace, and even as part of her spare time activities. She also emphasizes how significant is the presence of women in the IT world, describing herself as a staunch supporter of the R-Ladies.

Shirin Elsinghorst is a biologist by training turned bioinformatician and Data Scientist. She has a PhD and a Postdoc, in which she worked with Next Generation Sequencing data. Shirin has a keen interest in data analysis through R, using the language every day in her work as a data scientist at codecentric. Shirin Elsinghorst is the creator of the R exprAnalysis package, which streamlines RNA-seq data analysis pipelines. Her passion for teaching has led her to give conferences, workshops, meetups, and blog posts to inspire others to use R.


Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work? What do you do when you’re not programming?

SE: I am a biologist by training and R has always been the go-to language for statistical analysis of experiments. Therefore, I had gotten to know R from the beginning of my Bachelor’s program. I had been using it sporadically for analysis, like survival curves, Analysis of variance (ANOVAs), t-tests, etc. However, I was not very well versed with R until my Ph.D., which ended up being very bioinformatics-heavy. For my Ph.D., I had to analyze quantitative traits (Quantitative Trait Analysis) and RNA-Seq data. Surprisingly, I got really into the bioinformatics part and so totally enjoyed writing and improving R code and packages, that I ended up going for a bioinformatics postdoc. During these two postdoc years, I did a lot of Next-Gen-Sequencing analysis, like RNA-Seq, microarray analysis, analysis of SNPs (GWAS), methylation patterns, and microRNAs in regard to genetic epidemiology, specifically autoinflammatory diseases. During my spare time, I founded my R-blog (shirin-elsinghorst.de) and self-taught machine learning and other interesting ways to analyze data.

Even though I very much enjoyed working in academia, I did not enjoy the impact a career in it would have on my family life. So, I decided to switch to an industry where I found a great position as Data Scientist with an IT consultancy in Münster, Germany. Here, I also founded the Münster R User Group.

What is the R community like in Münster, Germany? What was most surprising to you about the community?

SE: The R community in Münster is very heavy on academia. Münster is a big university town with lots of students. In my experience, universities, particularly the life sciences, still pretty much exclusively use R. So, there are a lot of beginner users but also some very amazing PhDs, postdocs, (young) professors, and people in the industry who are doing some very cool stuff with R. This was probably the most surprising to me: just how many incredible projects people were working on with R, that went way beyond student-material.

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in Münster?

SE: The meetups were usually a mix of some students, Ph.D. students, postdocs, and professors, but also people working in the IT industry. Münster is not a very big city but still has a lot of businesses. We have more traditional IT firms and consultancies but also town-funded firms and a lot of startups.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?

SE: Since COVID we did not have any in-person meetups anymore. However, COVID pretty much coincided with my two parental leaves. During the first, I had help with organizing a few more meetups but ever since COVID, this completely went away. I had been sharing some virtual meetups from other R User groups, so people did not have to completely go without R-content.

What trends do you see in R language over the next year?

SE: In my experience, R tends to develop into being just one part of an analysis, as opposed to the entire analysis being performed in R. There are many tools very specific to certain tasks that are written in other languages, like C, Perl (yes, that does still exist), Python, Java, etc. t just makes sense to use different tools for different tasks. And use R for what is really good at statistical analysis and visualization.

What is your favorite R event that you have attended? From a small meetup to a big conference!

SE: This will most definitely be the rOpenSci Unconference 2018 in Seattle! It was absolutely great to meet so many R-folks. It was just amazing!

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?

SE: There are so many amazing projects there, but I feel especially drawn to “Consolidating R-Ladies Global organizational guidance and wisdom”. As one of the fewer ladies in the IT-world, I am a staunch supporter of the R-Ladies and would like to see more ladies venture into informatics.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?

SE: Here, I choose R/Business. As a longtime R user, I enjoy working with R a lot and it is still my go-to language for most Data Science tasks. However, I find that in business, there are a lot of misconceptions about R, such that it is not suitable for use in production or in a business context in general. I would very much like to advocate for a place of R alongside Python in Data Science.

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

SE: I have only been back from parental leave since October of this year, so I’ll try to revive the MünsteR group in the near future to host in-person events again. However, as my kids are still very small, attending events in the evening is still impossible for me at the moment. But I am looking forward to when that changes again! You can check out any updates via our Meetup group.


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

Going Global During the Pandemic

By Blog

Vassilis Georgiou of the AthensR User Group talked to the R-Consortium about the group’s journey during the pandemic. Even though the group wasn’t hosting very regular online meetups, it remained active by becoming a part of the Global R User Group. This group allowed the members of AthensR to attend events from R Users Groups around the globe. Vassilis hopes to revive the group’s local events and expand its reach.

Vassilis is the Director-Innovation at IRI, Athens. He has a Ph.D. in Statistics-Computational Intelligence from the University of Patras.


How did you get interested in R?

I work for a company named IRI, which is based in Chicago and has an office in Athens. We perform market analysis in the retail industry. We gather receipts from supermarkets across the globe, organize the data, and run a series of analytics. I am the director of the R & D team and develop different algorithms and we do all of this in R. Everything we do is in R, from prototyping to developing. We also develop shiny applications to give the stakeholders preliminary results and get feedback. Once an algorithm is final we give it to the software engineers who will build web applications in Java or another language on a large scale. There are also cases where we give access to clients to R Shiny web apps. This is my professional contact with R. Besides that, it has now been several years since we started the AthensR group. 

What is the R community like in Greece? Can you name a few industries using R in Greece?

Many universities in Greece teach R and there are many people who are proficient in R in both academia and industry. Almost all statistics departments mainly use R and it is also becoming popular in other fields like electrical engineering. There is a realization that while MATLAB/Python is useful, they need to use R for statistical things. 

In our company, we have been asked many times why we use R and not Python because they feel Python is a more complete language. We have given them some case studies. For example, if you are running a simple regression analysis but have multicollinearity issues in R you would not get coefficients of this variable. In Python, it will give a coefficient of 1 billion which is useless. So this way we convince them that for statistics we will stick to R. 

Besides the AthensR there are other R user groups in Greece. I know about the Patras R User Group, but there are a few others. Many companies use R for R & D mostly. In our company, 80 percent of our development in R is mostly for R & D prototyping. R can be used in production but there are some restrictions to take into account. And since we don’t always know who will be using it and how skillful they will be, we try to avoid providing access to R source code in production but provide access to Shiny web apps that protect the source code from being accidentally altered. We use statistical modeling R codes internally for our delivery teams and operations teams to run it themselves. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Not just in the case of our group, I feel that shifting meetups online overall has made it difficult to network. While in most events the speakers are very accommodating and the events are interactive, the element of networking is definitely missing and people are not able to bond. 

During the pandemic, we did not host regular meetups online. However, I was contacted by Nicolas Attalides who is organizing the Global R User Group. It is a meetup that brings together R Users Group from all over the world and provides them with a common platform. So whenever there was a new talk planned, we would also publish it in our local R Users Group. Since most groups were hosting online events, members of our group had the opportunity to listen to speakers from Brighton, Barcelona, Vienna, Tunisia, and many other places. So in a way, the pandemic gave our group access to R talks from around the globe.

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, video conferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?  

We have been using Zoom for our online meetups. We do not currently have a Youtube Channel or a GitHub account. We would like to host hybrid events in the future so that we can hold on to this sense of inclusion and people from around the globe can attend the events. 

I need to expand the organizing committee of our group to start hosting hybrid events. During the pandemic, I have been working remotely, so I am not based in Athens. I also struggle to find enough time to manage the group, as I have been single-handedly organizing the group. I hope to find some new organizers based in Athens who can help me organize physical and hybrid meetups. Expanding the organizing committee will help us in reaching out to more people. We are currently a group of around 150 people, however, the number of R users in Athens is much higher than this. Only from the universities every year I would say at least 4-500 people graduating who for sure have broad exposure to R. 

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting? 

There was a really interesting talk titled Bayesian item response modeling in R with brms back in April. It was organized by Oslo UseR! group and the author of the BRMS package Paul Burkner presented it. Also, there were a couple of really nice introductory talks last year with Shiny and with data manipulation by Nicolas Attalides. They were really nice for people who don’t have a lot of experience. He gave a really detailed step-by-step demo on how you can build shiny applications from scratch without knowing anything about HTML or developing web applications. You can publish your application in just a few minutes. In half an hour you have your own app and you can give the URL to someone. 

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

For now, my focus is to expand the organizing committee of the group and start hosting more regular physical or hybrid meetings. I also hope to expand our group by attracting more members and expanding the organizing team. I think efforts in these directions will have a much greater impact on our group as opposed to the trends in the R language. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project?  Why is it your favorite?

MATTER 2.0: larger-than-memory data for R. It is a main issue of R to be able to efficiently handle data objects that do not fit in memory. Such an initiative could help R penetration even more.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We currently don’t have any upcoming events planned just yet. You can stay updated via our Meetup Group.


How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and meetup.com accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!