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Leading the Way for New R useRs with Strong Connections To Local Universities

By Blog

The R Consortium recently spoke with Ryan Benz, one of the organizers for the Southern California R Users Group which covers Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. Ryan shares more about how the R Community in SoCal continues to grow by forming partnerships with local universities to offer students workshops. The SoCal R useR Group is also committed to offering a valuable learning environment and resources for those who are both new and have more experience with R.

Other organizing members that make the SoCal R useR Group possible are:

John Peach (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jpeach/), Pablo Barajas (https://www.linkedin.com/in/pabloibarajas), Javier Orraca (https://www.javierorraca.com), (and many others…) 🏆

Ryan is a computational and data scientist with a background in computational chemistry and bioinformatics. Ryan currently works as the Director of Data Science at Seer, a Biotechnology company pioneering unbiased proteomics technology to decode the proteome and improve human health. His main expertise and interests are in data analysis, visualization, and statistical modeling.


Why did you get interested in learning R?

Back when I first started in my career, data science was not a formal field, but I was interested in learning more about it. I received my bachelors in chemistry, and then my Ph.D. in computational chemistry. In my studies, I definitely gravitated toward computational methods and working with data. In my graduate studies, I took a statistics class and the professor told us about R. That is when I first started using R, but at first, I did not like it, the syntax was strange, and I did not use it much after that class. Years later in my first job out of school, I had a boss who was using R, so I had to use it too.  I continued to learn and practice, and found some really powerful packages like ggplot2. Since then, I got more involved in the R community and have been using it every day for over 10 years!

What is the R community like in your area (Socal/Orange County)?

The R community in Southern California is big and active! Without putting the community structure together, you wouldn’t realize how active and wide the R community reach is. Our user group was originally formed as the Orange County R Users Group working mostly in the Orange County area, but we recently merged with the East LA R Users group and rebranded as the Southern California R Users Group. 

In our group, there are so many people that use R in diverse and interesting ways, including finance, business analytics, biotech, big tech, and the government. We even had an interesting talk by someone using R at the local water district. We are welcoming to everyone and encourage those who are new to R and programming in general to join our events. Our experienced users also enjoy teaching and sharing their experiences with others, and still continue to learn from each other.

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

We see people of all backgrounds in our meetups. Southern California has many diverse industries and our members are using R in lots of different areas and contexts. In terms of levels of knowledge, about half of our members are fairly new to R, and the other half have more professional experience, looking to learn something new, find networking opportunities, and some are even hiring and come to our meetups as a way to meet potential candidates.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Like many groups, COVID forced us to host our events online. We are currently working on getting back to in-person events by the end of the year. Even though we were unable to see each other in person, the virtual meetups have been a good way to get top speakers in the R community. This is something we hope to continue to do even with COVID restrictions lifted.

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 are a pretty large group and people connect in many different ways. Some of the ways we  communicate are through our GitHub repositories to share events, workshops, and items for Hackathons. We also have a Slack group, but that has been somewhat quiet for general discussions, though we do use it for group organization. Our YouTube channel is also a great outlet to share meetups and talks and to make them accessible to those who cannot attend. 

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

We’ve had some recent workshops presented by Dr. Olga Korosteleva, a professor of Statistics at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at California State University, Long Beach. I think all Data Scientists can always learn more statistics and Dr. Olga has been a great teacher in these workshops presenting topics like regression modeling and non-parametric analysis. I think our community really gets a lot out of these events.

Since data science is so popular and many schools now offer data science programs, we’ve reached out to local universities, like UC Irvine, to see how we might work together. Over the last several years, we have been working with them and these interactions have been mutually beneficial. Our members, particularly the working professionals, can interact with the student, and the Universities can help support our group with meeting space, co-branding opportunities, and funds. Working with professional data scientists has been very valuable for the students, and we keep seeing great attendance at our events. This has also been a good way for students to network and make connections with professionals already in the field. I’d recommend that other R user groups reach out to universities and see if there is any opportunity to collaborate with them. 

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

A key piece is welcoming new people into the data science community and helping it to expand. R has a very friendly community and I think it is really important for us to reinforce this in our own groups. The ease at which people can now get into R is one of the reasons I believe so many people continue to learn the language and are getting into the data science field.

I’m also really excited about the tidymodels ecosystem and allowing R users to do machine learning and modeling with the same ease as we’ve grown accustomed to doing data analysis with the core tidyverse packages.

I’m also interested in the recent movement of the R community starting to embrace Python. They are both really powerful and useful languages, and there is no need to pick one over the other. I’d say to learn both if you’re so inspired and use these great tools to tackle interesting and important problems. 

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

All the Funded projects look great! Some of my favorite ones are Google Earth Engine with R, there is so much geospatial data! I also really like ​​Improving Translations in R. This is a great effort to continue to make R more accessible for non-English speakers.

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

One of my favorite working groups is R ladies. It is great to see how much they have grown! The group has a big influence on inclusion and making sure everyone feels comfortable. They’ve also been active at the rstudio::conf’s (rstudio::conf(2022)) and do an amazing job representing the R community. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

Two recent events we have coming up are:

A UseR’s Introduction to Machine Learning in AWS by Emily Robinson, Senior Data Scientist at Warby Parker on September 27 at 6:00 PM (PDT) and Advanced Regression Models with R Applications By Dr. Olga Korosteleva on October 1 at 8:30 AM (PDT).

We also hold monthly virtual meetups which are posted on our Youtube channel as well as events hosted with local universities throughout the year. Another exciting event we plan annually is a Hackathon, more details to come! Follow our group on social media for updates and R related content!

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/SouthernCaliforniaRUsersGroup 

Twitter (@oc_rug) https://twitter.com/socalrug 

Instagram: (socalrug) https://tinyurl.com/socalrug-instagram 

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ocrug/


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 Users Group Gainesville: Experimenting with New Event Formats

By Blog

The R Consortium recently caught up with Geraldine Klarenberg of the R Users Group Gainesville (also on Twitter) to talk about the group’s journey during the pandemic. Besides the regular events, the group also experimented with a new online event format. This casual format offered the members an opportunity to interact, network, and discuss different R related issues. Even though the group significantly increased its reach through online events, the organizers are working hard to continue to increase local participation in the group. 

Geraldine works at the University of Florida as a lecturer in Quantitative Data Science. She has a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Florida. She took over and revived the R Users Group Gainesville in early 2020, together with Ryan Mears and Laurence James-Woodley.


What is the R community like in Gainesville?

The R community in Gainesville is interesting because it is a small town and is very much dominated by the university. That’s also the tricky part because with our R user group we are trying to be a community group and not a university-focused group. Obviously, we are lucky that we get to use a lot of the resources that the university offers, like space and a Zoom account for hosting meetings. But there is definitely a challenge to get hold of people outside academia. So some R users work in consultancy or in local government and the rest of the R users are in academia. In academia, most of our users are working in environmental science and ecology. 

Ryan, one of our organizers, is in the Department of Psychology. Laurence, our other co-organizer, worked at the College of Medicine but recently moved to the private sector and is working in health science. It is an interesting field as a lot of people still use SAS because the government wants them to use SAS. But more and more people are moving to R, so that’s up and coming and we are getting more R users in health sciences as well. The R community in Gainesville is pretty big, especially in academic circles. We have a dedicated listserv, and that is just a university-wide thing where people discuss issues and give each other solutions on R. We do struggle to get hold of people outside academia that use R. 

In the industry, we are familiar with a couple of people working for a water management district nearby, which is a state organization: some people there use R while others don’t use it. We actually had one person from the district give a presentation to us. We have also been in touch with some people from a transportation department in Jacksonville where they use R. In environmental sciences, and wildlife organizations, both at the state level and NGOs, R is used a lot. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

So it’s been really tricky. We have been hosting our meetings online and we send out announcements on our listserv. This again is difficult because we only get to reach university members, as suppose to reaching a wider audience. We also announce meetings on Twitter. On one hand, online meetings have been interesting because we get a lot of people from all over. We also had some people from the University of Florida, who are doing fieldwork or are located somewhere else, join our meetings. So it’s nice that people can still connect to their local community. We’ve also had people from South Africa join our meetings, which was amazing. But with that, we have had more non-local people join our meetings than actual local people. So it’s been a mixed bag. On one hand, we have been making some great connections and talking to some really interesting people. But we couldn’t build that sense of local community we were aiming for. With having just resuscitated the group at the beginning of 2020, we are trying to figure out how to achieve that. We are thinking of mostly going back to in-person meetings and trying to encourage people to come to those. 

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 mainly been using Zoom for our online meetings. Our organizer, Ryan, also set up a GitHub repo for the group where we are trying to put all the information we are looking at during the meetings. Ryan also set up a space on RStudio Cloud for our group. I use RStudio Cloud myself also in my teaching and I think it’s great for sharing information with people who are not comfortable with GitHub. All they have to do is log in to RStudio Cloud and they can see the resources. 

RStudio Cloud and GitHub have been great in terms of sharing information. We don’t think Zoom is going anywhere soon, so we do intend to keep using it. 

In spring, instead of monthly meetings with presentations, we organized learning communities and coding collectives. So every month we have a time period between 3-5 pm on a Wednesday where one of the organizers would be physically available and also available on Zoom. Basically, just like a hangout with no scheduled activities. It was for people to just come to discuss a problem or to make connections. People could come and go during this period, as there was no fixed starting time. The coding collective was for the more experienced users where we would discuss more complicated issues. We targeted the learning communities toward new users. Users who are looking for resources, or dealing with some basic issues. 

We initially set these up to get in-person meetings going again. But it turned out to be more of just an online gathering and we got to talk to a bunch of interesting people because it was just like an open forum. So that was really great in the sense that it was really low pressure and people could come whenever they wanted to. I liked the idea and the format, but in the end, it mostly turned out to be an online sort of gathering. It gets a little complicated because people expect you to facilitate the meeting, but that really wasn’t the idea. The idea was really more for the people to come and hang out.

I like this idea but we still have some tweaking to do on that. End of fall, we will probably do a bunch of these gatherings, but in-person as it would be great for building that sense of community. 

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?

I would like to mention the format that we did in Spring. I found it very interesting, and we had some really great discussions. There was a discussion about portfolio prediction, which I found very interesting. I am in the process of trying to reach out to that person to invite them and give us a presentation.

Out of our official presentations, there was one about the ‘purrr’ package which I thought was great. It is one of those packages in which I tried dabbling a bit, but I couldn’t quite get it. So one of our members stepped up and did a presentation. I really enjoyed it and it was also very well attended.

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

We have seen a lot of focus on data science and tidyverse packages over the past couple of years. We have had a bunch of presentations on these topics. I think we are getting into the realm of Artificial Intelligence(AI) a lot. For us, this is also a bit of a local issue as the university is getting into AI. They are building an AI institute and hiring lots of faculty in AI. I have also seen in my teaching that a lot of topics these days are about machine learning and AI. So I definitely expect us to have some presentations about either packages that help with machine learning, or maybe discussions about ethics in AI and machine learning. 

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?

Personally, I feel that anyone who is trying to address societal issues through data journalism is doing a fantastic job. There was actually a great article in one of our local newspapers. It was about predictive policing and using questionable data to profile future offenders. It was terrible because they were profiling young kids who hadn’t done anything wrong. 

Locally here in Florida, there were questions about the reliability of actual COVID numbers and what was reported. Rebekah Jones, who worked with the Florida Department of Health and ended up being a whistle-blower. She created a dashboard to make that data available, and it was pretty courageous of her.

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

I am familiar with Google Earth Engine with R and R-Ladies. I really love the Google Earth Engine with R and I have heard some amazing things about it from one of my colleagues. I also plan to use it in the future.

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

R IDEA is an active working group that I am very interested in. I am also a part of R-Ladies. Being a lecturer, trying to be inclusive and taking extra steps to keep accessibility into account, thinking about how to work with people with disabilities, are all personal interests of mine. 

I also like the R Certification, because it’s really difficult to figure out people’s level of proficiency in R. I have been trying to get RStudio Certification for the last two or three years but last year they stopped doing the certification. So I have actually been looking around to figure out how I can get some certification to show that I am qualified to teach R.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We currently don’t have anything planned but stay up to date on our Twitter and Meetup.


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!

The R Consortium Needs Your Help with satRdays

By Blog

The September Call for Proposals is now open, and the Infrastructure Steering Committee would like to encourage proposals from the R Community to upgrade the software infrastructure supporting the satRdays program. 

What we need is for someone to take the existing underlying software (the Hugo templates) and upgrade it so that it is easier for satRdays conference organizers to spin up websites of their events and have the websites and other artifacts generated by the individual events become part of the main satRdays site

At a minimum this will require using the existing materials to develop Blogdown or Quarto website conference templates and updating the documentation.

However, we would also like to encourage some creative thinking regarding additional features that would make the satRdays site even more useful to the R Community.

The Call for Proposals closes October 1, 2022.

Taking on Virtual Events with Regular Structured and Casual Meetups ☕️

By Blog

The R Consortium recently interviewed John Blischak and Tim Hoolihan with the Cleveland R UseR Group. The organizers share more about how the group managed to continue to grow with consistent structured and casual virtual events like their Virtual R Café.

John Blischak is a Freelance Scientific Software Developer in the Cleveland area. John has been co-organizer of the Cleveland R UseR Group for several years and has continued to do research and uses R regularly. In his free time, John enjoys spending time with family, reading, and learning foreign languages.

Tim Hoolihan is a Practice Lead at Data and Analytics at Centric Consulting. He has a traditional software background and uses R often for his work projects. In his free time, Tim enjoys spending time with family, playing video games, and practicing the guitar.


Why did you get interested in learning R?

John: For my undergraduate research project in molecular biology, I was paired with a graduate student to analyze gene expression microarrays. He used R and Bioconductor to perform the analysis. I knew if I wanted to continue to do this type of research, I needed to learn R myself. I needed it for my research; it has always been very practical.

Tim: I have a traditional software background. I don’t remember my first exposure to the R language, but I often use it for my work. 

What is the R community like in Cleveland/Independence, Ohio?

Tim: It is quite active! Our members come from all across Northeast Ohio. The UseR group is around 10 years old now, and has been consistently well attended.

John: We are continuing to grow. People of all skill levels have joined wanting to get involved. We haven’t had an in-person meeting since April 2021, however, our online events have been consistent. We’re always looking for new speakers, regardless of experience level. Newcomers are often hesitant to present, but a newcomer’s perspective is invaluable to others that have just started learning R. We are looking for a way to start transitioning back to in-person events in 2023.

Are there any industries in particular that are more active in the R community?

John: I think the 2 largest groups are academics and business folks. The academics come from the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western, and other local universities. The business analysts apply R to generate insights into finance, marketing, etc. Two larger local companies with R users are Progressive Insurance (also a sponsor of our group) and American Greetings.

Tim: We cover a broad range of practitioners including medical, insurance, manufacturing, academia, and other fields. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

John: It has had its pros and cons. By meeting virtually, we’ve been able to greatly expand our presenters and attendees far beyond the Cleveland area. But, of course, it’s hard to replace the in-person experience in virtual-only settings. Recording in-person events helped the switch to virtual and made it a lot easier. Even before covid, we would record and upload our talks to our Youtube channel, some videos receive over 800 views, which is good in our community. This also makes it easier for those who can’t attend to be kept up to speed with what is happening in the meetup. 

Tim: We have managed to continue to offer virtual meetups regularly. Being virtual meant we could reach out to speakers all over the world to talk to the group.

We did see some zoom fatigue, though. We wanted to offer something more interactive rather than the standard presentation and questions format. We came up with Virtual R Café, which gives members a chance to hang out with other R coders for a bit. It will be informal with no set topic. It is more interactive and casual for members to connect. Our next Virtual R Café will be on September 10th, 9 AM EDT. 

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?  

John: We got a pro zoom account! Tim also had the idea to start our Virtual R Café series, which is just a casual hangout on the second Saturday of the month. As opposed to meetups with a presentation, these events give members more time to get to know each other and share their experiences with R. 

Tim: We also use the meetup page and mailing list to share updates and announcements. There is also a GitHub organization to share items during presentations.

John demonstrating the OmicNavigator (https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/OmicNavigator/index.html). OmicNavigator is an R package for organizing, sharing, and exploring the results of genomics experiments.

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? 

John: Our most unique “Cleveland R” talk was when we had Evan Tachovsky present on how he used R to create the maps in his book Maps of Cleveland (video). 

Tim: My favorite recent presentation was Max Kuhn on TidyModels https://www.meetup.com/cleveland-user-group/events/273725112/

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

John: The biggest trend I’ve not noticed is how R integrates with other tools in the data science ecosystem. For example, someone who has started using Python for data science is interested in what they can do with R. Or a business analyst that primarily uses a tool like Power BI or Tableau wants to start leveraging the power of R.

Tim: This is more of a long-term trend but the difference between tidyverse and non-tidyverse programming has become a recurring theme. On the integration side, there are more and more projects that seem to be combining R with other tools.

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?

John: I’m not aware of any data journalism in the Cleveland area, but from nearby in Columbus, I know that Lucia Walinchus at Eye on Ohio used R to analyze the data for her story How Much are you Overpaying in Property Tax? She shared her experience in her talk at SatRday Columbus 2020.

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

John:  I have lots of favorites! R-hub from Gábor Csárdi has become essential for me as a way to conveniently test my R packages on many different operating systems. I occasionally get the rare error on Solaris, and R-hub is my only option for fixing this. I also love the SatRdays project founded by Stephanie Locke. I co-organized SatRday Columbus 2020 and 2021 (both virtual of course). Lastly, I appreciate all the work that Jeroen Ooms has done recently to make it so easy to install R on Windows.

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

John: The one I am following most closely is the R7 project. All the current OOP frameworks have their tradeoffs, so I’m curious to try what they develop.

Tim: The Distributed Computing project is interesting in the age of so many cloud and distributing computing platforms. In addition, I think the R Certification project fills an important need.

When is your next event? Please give details!

John: We’re excited for our upcoming guest speakers in Sep and Oct:

  • Matt Dupree on Sep 28th: Metaprogramming in R
  • Meghan Harris on Oct  26th: Data validation with pointblank

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!

Financial Industry Supports Robust Vienna R Community

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Mario Amau, co-organizer of the Vienna<-R about the lively R community in Vienna. The group is committed to providing its members with valuable talks and networking opportunities. The group is looking forward to restarting their live events, now hybrid, in September!

Mario Amau is the Founder and CEO of Quantargo, which offers data science training and consulting with a strong focus on the R programming language. He has been involved with the Vienna <- R Group since 2015. Vienna <-R was first founded by co-organizer Walter Djuric in 2011.


What is the R community like in Vienna?

MA: The community in Vienna is big and diverse. There are three different data science community groups which include Vienna <- R, Vienna Deep Learning Meetup, and Vienna Data Science Group. The Vienna <- R Group often has members from all of these groups joining, and those in the financial industry participate more often in these meetups. 

Many of the people joining the group are professionals looking to network and learn from one another. We have had several successful meetups, including one with over 100 people attending! 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

MA: Prior to COVID, we had many in-person events at the University of Vienna and then we moved our venue to the University of Technology Vienna. Because of COVID, we have had a hard time getting people the same value they would when attending in-person events. We had virtual events on a monthly/semi-monthly basis, however, this had to be put to pause. We do see our members wanting to connect in person and are seeing more enthusiasm in people. We are hoping to bring back our events, aiming for September!   

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?  

MA: We have used Zoom for our virtual meetings. The only problem with that was getting the sessions out for members to be able to view if they did not attend. The process of recording and editing took quite a lot of effort. We then tried Youtube Live, which has actually been making the process a lot smoother since we get our sessions recorded and easily make them available for members to view afterward. Having the speaking sessions recorded and published are definitely valuable and worth the effort for future events!

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? 

MA: We had Hadley Wickham present on Pivoting data from long to wide while he was vacationing in Vienna. It was pretty cool to see members of the global community joining us in Vienna. He brought in great energy and had a very interesting style of presentation. Another interesting presentation was a statistics-based talk on the CRAN party package by Achim Zeileis.  

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

MA: When people give talks, many use packages like Rmarkdown and tidyverse in their presentations, which come out very visually appealing. I have seen an increase in people asking about other systems like Python and Julia for reporting data. However, these questions don’t really lead anywhere and are more general discussions about the tools. 

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?

MA: I have actually been approached by journalists about using R for visualization, however, I personally am not as involved. I do have an ex-colleague of mine who does a lot of his data journalism efforts using R. The Austrian newspapers seem to not use R as much or at all. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

MA: We have not set an exact date, but we are planning on hosting our next hybrid event in September at the Talent Garden here in Vienna. Follow us on Twitter for more updates!


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 Local Community Produced the First Nation-wide R useR Group

By Blog

The R Consortium recently interviewed Szilard Pafka with the Real Data Science USA R Group (formerly known as the Los Angeles R User Group). The former Los Angeles R useR Group had been based in Los Angeles for more than 10 years, but after organizer Szilard moved to Texas, he kept the group going and even expanded!

Szilard caught up with the R Consortium, a year after transitioning from an organizer of a single meetup group to now a national Meetup with members all over the United States and the world!


What is the biggest difference between running an R User Group in Texas compared with California?

SP: The R Group – Real Data Science USA Meetup (formerly Los Angeles R User Group before moving to Texas in July 2021) is still a meetup group with only online events as of August 2022. Therefore, running it from Texas is in many ways similar to running it during the first year of the COVID pandemic in LA. Being virtual for a while has also reached a wider audience (meetup members) from other US states and even internationally. To serve this new community, the focus of the meetup group will be online events for the foreseeable future.   

What are the pros and cons of bringing local community events to a broader virtual audience? 

SP: The main pros are being able to reach a larger audience and also having access to a larger pool of speakers. Over the last 15+ years, I have built a large network of personal connections in the data science field, and more than half of them are from the R community. However, most of these great people are from outside the Los Angeles or Houston areas and therefore it was not as easy to have them committed to travel and come to speak at the meetup. 

With going virtual (actually not by design, but by the necessity imposed by Covid) the effective pool of speakers I can invite to talk at the meetup (and will also accept/come) has increased by a factor of 10. This is because the cost of “travel” to give a talk has decreased dramatically. This increased pool of speakers also leads to an ever-increased quality of talks (I have always preferred and focused on quality vs quantity, but now we can do even better). Some additional smaller pros of going virtual are also less work with setting up (e.g. no need to have a place hosting the event), though this R Group has always been lucky in having very generous and readily available hosts. Also, fewer people complaining about the lack of their favorite pizza flavor or free parking (just kidding 🙂). 

Being virtual has of course some cons as well. The biggest one is not being able to do a proper networking session after the talk(s). Having been able to interact with fellow R users over a pizza or some beer was one of the key components of the R user group and one of the most enjoyable and useful benefits. I have countless stories about friends who made new acquaintances during these networking sessions or who managed to get a new job this way.

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

SP: Our last event was a talk “A Decade of Using R” by Gergely Daroczi. The talk was just as impressive as the title sounds! Gergely is a well-known figure in the R community and has tremendous knowledge and experience with using R in real life. In this talk, Gergely shared with us several real-world projects he had worked on over many years at several companies, most of them along the line of using R in production. Numerous components of his work were not particularly specific to a given problem or company and therefore he was able to share them publicly as general R packages (most of them on CRAN) (e.g. his logging package). He also gave us a peek into using R along with other technologies in production back in the heydays when these tools were rougher on the edges. Overall, Gergely’s talk not only gives lots of insights into many aspects of using R in production, but it is also fun to watch. It is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ze-zf_-viE.

Check out the Real Data Science USA R Group Youtube Channel

What are your plans for the group for the coming year?

This year, I’ve been busy with other kinds of projects, but this coming year I’m committed to doing more for this R Group and organizing more events. I already have the next event in mind, and it is again along the lines of using R in real-world projects / in production, also with an industry leader speaker (for now a secret). In fact, the “Real Data Science” in the meetup group’s name shows the commitment to exactly those kinds of topics (knowledge most relevant to practitioners).

When is your next event? Please give details!

I can’t give the specifics yet, but follow me on LinkedIn and/or Twitter (@SzilardPafka) and you will find out first hand.


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-Ladies Taipei Hopes to Host Hybrid Events in the Future

By Blog

Kristen Chan of R-Ladies Taipei talked to R-Consortium about the unique pandemic situation in Taiwan. Originally, Taiwan was able to keep the pandemic under control, so the group was able to continue to host regular in-person events. The rise in COVID-19 cases in recent months in 2022 has forced the group to switch to online events. The group hopes to host hybrid events in the future, as online events have helped more people to attend their events with ease.

Kristen is a Data Scientist and co-organizer of the R-Ladies Taipei. She finished her Bachelor’s and Masters in Statistics and is currently working as an Azure Technical Trainer at Microsoft.


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

We have two R communities here in Taiwan: R-Ladies Taipei, which I host, and the Taiwan R User Group. For the Taiwan R User Group, we meet every Monday and the R Ladies Taipei meetups are on the last Monday of every month. In our group, we not only talk about R but also about Machine Learning and Data Analysis. We are open to any topics that someone wants to discuss.

R is very popular in Taiwan and almost all industries use R like Telecom or Journalism. Many people also use Python and some people use a combination of these languages. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

From the beginning of the pandemic, the situation in Taiwan was under control. It was a unique situation in the world as we could meet normally and all our events were in person. Unfortunately, in recent months, the situation has gotten worse and we are just switching to online events. We prefer meeting in person because the events are a lot more interactive that way. For now, we will have to rely on Zoom, Teams, or Google Meet for our meetings. But once things get better, we would like to go back to in-person events.

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 only recently started using some new techniques like meeting tools, sharing tools, and discussion forums for our group. For discussions, we are using our Facebook group and for video conferencing, we are using Microsoft Teams. We have a GitHub repository for our group, but we only use it when we have a big event. Usually, speakers share data in their own GitHub repositories. We do not have a dedicated YouTube channel as we do not record all the talks. Whenever a speaker is comfortable, we record and upload that talk on one of the organizer’s YouTube channels.

I think that even after the pandemic has settled, we will still use video conferencing as it makes it very convenient for everyone to attend events. Even though Taiwan is a very small place, having online events has helped us significantly increase our reach. We would like to host Hybrid events in the future with some people attending in person and some people joining us online.

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?

We had a SatRday event last year, and we invited Yihui Xie from R Studio to give a talk. It was really great having someone from R Studio speak to the Taiwan R community. I really hope that we get the opportunity to host more speakers from the R Studio for our events. I would like to take this opportunity to invite speakers from around the globe to join us and help beginners in our group grow.

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

I think there are many people who are using other programming languages. At R Ladies Taipei, we are committed to promoting R, and we will continue to highlight the benefits of using R through our events.

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

I think it is Setting up an R-Girls-Schools Network because at R Ladies Taipei we want more girls to code confidently.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have scheduled our next event for August 29th, which is titled “Natural Image synthesis with privacy protection”. 


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!

From Novice to Industry Professionals, the East Bay R Enthusiasts Welcomes Everyone

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Allan Miller with the East Bay R Language Enthusiasts Group about the group’s history and success in environmental and health industries. The group aims to reach new R users and remains committed to creating a welcoming learning environment. 

Allan has been a member since the group was first formed in 2008. He has been teaching in the Data Science Certificate program at UC Berkeley Extension since 2009. Allan has also been teaching R for 13 years and enjoys teaching students from all over the world. When he is not teaching, Allan is an avid road cyclist.


What is the R community like in the East Bay?

The East Bay R Enthusiasts group was started by Jim Porzak in 2008. It grew out of the D-Lab, a data support center for graduate students doing quantitative research at UC Berkeley. At that time there was an established R users group, the Bay Area useR, which often met in the South Bay.  We soon realized the East Bay community was large enough and that getting to meetings in the South Bay was a drawback for R users in the East Bay and San Francisco that we could start our own user group centered in the East Bay. 

There is a general tendency in user groups to drift towards the most technical level which can be rather intimidating for new users.  The East Bay R Enthusiasts has always focused on new R users. We have aimed to create an environment that is comfortable for new learners but also meaningful for experienced R users. Today, we have a very large R community here in the East Bay with almost 2,000 members in our Meetup. 

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in the East Bay?

We have people from all backgrounds, but many who attend our meetings are working professionals from Berkeley and the East Bay.

They have many attendees who work in the environmental and healthcare industries, for example, lots of employees from Kaiser, whose regional office is located in Oakland.  We also still get graduate and undergraduate students from UC Berkeley. 

First meeting at Tolman Hall on Campus (University of California, Berkeley 2012)

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Prior to Covid-19, we held monthly meetups.  Like many other groups, we haven’t met in person in almost two and a half years, since the start of the pandemic! We tried starting up a year ago but noticed there was a lot of Zoom fatigue. We are hoping to get back into action this year. 

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 used Zoom, it is great for getting speakers from outside of the Bay Area. Usually, our talks include a presentation by an invited speaker followed by a question and answer session and announcements. 

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

Over the years, we have seen a bigger than ever R community. Data science has become multilingual with python and Julia being used and is showing more integration with these programming languages and environments. But our meetups are still focused on R.

Some members used RMarkdown to make really nice presentations that are visually appealing. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We will meet again this Fall.  Be sure to sign up to our Meetup list to receive notifications for future meetings! 


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!

Community Call to Action for ISC Grant Proposal Ideas

By Announcement, Blog

Every year, The R Consortium Infrastructure Steering Committee (ISC) conducts two cycles of calling for proposals and awarding grants for projects that will enhance the technical infrastructure of the R ecosystem in a way that will benefit a significant portion of the R Community. The second 2022 ISC “Call for Proposals” will open on September 1st. 

With this post, the ISC would like to solicit ideas from the greater R Community about areas where it is important to extend R’s capabilities, or perhaps to identify new frontiers for R. Are there applications in the Arts, Business, Climate Science, Engineering, Epidemiology, Finance, Geology, the Humanities, Insurance, Mathematics, Medicine, Music, Numerical Analysis, Sociology, Virology, Zoology or any other field that would enhance R in a way that would be meaningful to a significant portion of the R Community or significantly grow the R Community?

If you are a software developer we certainly want your ideas, and we hope that you will respond to the Call for Proposals when it opens. However, if you are not yourself able to undertake a software development project, but feel strongly that R needs to reach into your area of expertise, we want your ideas too!

The R Consortium and the ISC would like to help the R Community to set out a vision for the long-run growth of R. If together we could reach a consensus on areas where building out R’s capabilities would make a difference, we may be able to match ideas with skills and over time fund a significant amount of meaningful work.

Please help us by opening issues for your ideas in the https://github.com/RConsortium/isc-suggestions GitHub repository.

Online Event – Design and Analysis of Experiments with R Syntax

By Blog, Events

The Osun R Users group in Nigeria will be hosting a two-hour Zoom class webinar on Design and Analysis of Experiments with R Syntax! 

Register Today!

Dr. Ayubu Anapapa Okango with the Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Science at the Murang’a University of Technology, in Murang’a, Nigeria, and Timothy A. Ogunleye, lecturer with the Department of Statistics at Osun State University, in Osogbo, Nigeria, will be hosting and facilitating the webinar.

In this seminar, the speakers will cover 

  1. One-Way ANOVA (Completely Randomized Design – CRD)
  2. Two-Way ANOVA Randomized Complete Block Designs without interactions
  3. Randomized Complete Block Designs with interactions – Factorial Experiment
  4. Post-Hoc Analysis of all these scenarios 

This webinar is aimed to help those studying R to better understand the design and analysis of experiments using R syntax as well as using R to better respond to a variety of problems that can arise.

Join Dr. Ayubu Anapapa Okango and Timothy A. Ogunleye on Aug 29, 2022 from 11am-1pm (WAT) / 1pm-3pm (EAT). Register now!