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Namibia R Users Group: Fostering the Budding R Community in Namibia

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Tuli Amutenya of the Namibia R Users Group about the challenges of starting a group during the pandemic. She shared the struggle of keeping the audience engaged during online events and reaching out to people. The group aims to cater to the individual needs of the R community in Namibia and also form strong collaborative ties with other R User Groups in the region.

Tuli is a Data Analyst with a background in Data Science and Management. She co-founded the Namibia R Users Group earlier this year.


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

The R community in Namibia is fairly new. We just launched our group in April and have since hosted three events. So far the turnout has been quite encouraging and the gender balance is also good. Seeing an equal number of male and female participants in our sessions was heartwarming. At least 40 percent of the participants so far are totally beginners and have not used R at all. The rest of the percentage comprises graduate students. Our events have been online so far.

What are the challenges of hosting online events as a new group? How do you plan to overcome these challenges?

It is quite an immense challenge, especially in areas where people are not accustomed to using online platforms. Luckily for us, it has already been two years since we got into this situation. People are now more used to meeting and communicating through online platforms. 

The actual challenge now is to keep the audience engaged throughout the session. We have also been able to overcome this challenge and now the only challenge that remains is reaching out to the audience. We announce our events on Twitter, but most people are not on Twitter. People in Namibia are not much into social networks, so we have created a database of participants for the launch. We send out emails to this list and so far that has been effective. 

But yes, I don’t think meeting itself is a bigger challenge than reaching out to people through social media platforms.

What are the techniques you are using 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?  

So far we have been using Microsoft Teams for webinars. We also have a GitHub account where we put material from our online events and share the link with the participants. We have also been recording our sessions, but we have not uploaded them online. Since we just started out, we are discussing how to carry on and use other means of communication.

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 think I would like to mention our launch event. For our launch, we were sponsored by Kevin O’Brien through the Why R? Foundation for the Zoom Account to host the webinar. The keynote speaker was Dr. Heather Turner. So that was great.

Presentations from our launch event were quite interesting. We collaborated with Nairobi R Users Group and R Ladies Nairobi, who facilitated the event. They gave guest presentations to provide information about the R community and various possibilities for collaborations and engaging other communities. They also guided us about access to a lot of online materials and provided examples of package designing in R. 

So I think ‌those presentations were quite useful for the audience, especially those who are beginners. It was also very encouraging for us as a new community to know that there is a community out there we can reach out to for support and collaboration. 

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

All the projects are very practical and are affecting different areas of the community. For me personally, the ones related to spatial data analysis are quite interesting. For example, the Google Earth Engine with R is quite exciting, especially for those of us who love to use both the tools. It gives more people the opportunity to use free imagery and do heavy computing and data visualization in R.

How has your experience of organizing this group been? What are your plans for the coming year?  

It’s amazing and we can see that there’s quite a lot of interest in the community. Since we have just started hosting events, people are still coming out from both industry and academia. So it’s really encouraging to see this. 

We plan to set up a structured calendar to invite and collaborate with groups in the region. We have already collaborated with Nairobi R and R Ladies Nairobi for our launch. Now we have contact with R-Ladies Gaborone and Eswatini R User Group and there is a conversation about collaboration. We really want to branch out to the region and invite speakers or presentations from different community areas, especially in Africa. 

So as we are going, we are getting to know our audience and creating a more intimate community. We want to learn how we can best support one another and grow. We are really excited to be a part of the R community.  

When is your next event? Please give details!

So far, we plan to host the fourth tutorial session on Introduction to Data Visualization. It will be online and scheduled for the 20th of August.


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 the R Business Working Group – R is for actuaRies

By Blog

Originally posted in the RStudio R Community blog, written by Dr. Maria Prokofieva, professor, Victoria University Business School, Australia, and works with CPA Australia. Dr. Prokofieva is a member of the R / Business Working Group which is promoting the use of R in accounting, auditing, and actuarial work. More information on R Consortium Working Groups can be found here.

What is actuarial science?

Actuarial data science lies at the intersection of math and business studies, combining statistical knowledge and methods from insurance and finance areas. Compared to data scientists, actuaries focus more on finance and business knowledge, while still collecting and analyzing data.

The profession is in high demand, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is expected that actuary jobs will a enjoy 24% increase from 2020-30. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. Moreover, the median salary for an actuary is estimated to be over $100,000.

The focus of the field is on assessing the likelihood of future events, particularly in business settings (especially finance and insurance) to plan for outcomes and mitigate risks. With this in mind, probability analysis and statistics are applied to very many areas, such as predicting the number of children for a health insurance or the payout of the life insurance policy. Some common tasks for actuaries include calculating premium rates for mortality and morbidity products, assessing the likelihood of financial loss or return, business risk consulting, pension and retirement planning, and many more. Basically, actuaries perform any tasks that include risk modeling, be that in insurance, financial planning or energy and environment. 

Read the full article here

R Ladies Philly is Making a Difference with its Annual Datathon Focused on Local Issues

By Blog

Alice Walsh and Karla Fettich of the R Ladies Philly talked to the R Consortium about the thriving R Community in Philadelphia. The group has broadened its reach both locally and internationally during the pandemic. However, they have a deep commitment to the local community and remain focused on local issues. Every year, the group partners with local non-profit organizations to host a Datathon to promote learning while contributing to the local community. 

Alice Walsh is a founding organizer of the R Ladies Philly. She works at Pathos, an Oncology Therapeutics company, using data to position cancer drugs. Alice got her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work is at the intersection of bioinformatics, molecular biology, and data science.

Karla Fettich is a co-organizer of the R Ladies Philly. She works as a Senior Data Scientist at AmeriHealth Caritas, where she builds identification and stratification solutions for different populations in the healthcare industry, and coordinates larger data science efforts. Karla got her Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Temple University.


What is the R community like in Philadelphia?

Alice: The R community in Philadelphia is very vibrant, I would say. Even though it’s not known as a technology hub, Philadelphia is a city with a lot of data and tech happening. It’s not like the Bay Area or Silicon Valley, but there’s a very vibrant data science tech community in Philadelphia. 

We know other R-User groups and Data Science groups in Philadelphia, and we have collaborated with them. There’s the Data Philly Group and also the Philly R-User Group, which took a hiatus during the pandemic and is back now. There are also some Python groups. 

The Healthcare industry in Philadelphia is robust and several members of our group are working in healthcare. We also have several members who work in media because Comcast is a large local employer. Overall, the Philadelphia R community is characterized by a focus on specific industries. 

Karla: Not only vibrant but it’s also a great, supportive, and fun community. We have been to a couple of Python events and they just really don’t have that vibe. In the R community, people are keen to learn. Users at all levels are happy to share their knowledge and learn from others. There’s always a lot of excitement and everyone’s just really eager to work together. So the R community in Philadelphia has been very collaborative. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Alice: Our pre-pandemic events were always in person and for many people, it was difficult to commute. Our events are now online, and we have been able to reach a lot more people. We also have an audience joining our events internationally, and it has been amazing to broaden our reach during the pandemic. It has also become easier to share our events because we record them and upload them on our YouTube channel. 

But now we are figuring out that some events are better online than in person. We don’t do a lot of speaking events and most of our events are interactive workshops. And I have actually found that it is very good to be delivered in an online format.

We have also realized that it is really difficult to do networking online. And that is also something which was an important part of our mission. Connecting people to mentors who are in the industry can help them with career moves and things like that. We have done online networking events, but I think that’s something we have to do in person. So from now on, we are trying to be very strategic about when we have an in-person event versus when we have an online event. We want to pick the format that best suits the content and makes us reach a maximum number of people. We are still figuring it out. 

Karla: I just wanted to add to the comment about how we can now reach an international or broader audience. It’s been great. Not necessarily globally, but also reaching the people who might not ‌commute to a physical location though they are around in the area. We have been able to reach more of those. But I think the challenge we have encountered is trying to stay true to our mission, which is to focus on the local community. So we love and appreciate having a global community join us. But it has made it ‌tricky to figure out how we can still keep the local essence of our chapter.

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?  

Alice: Maybe a good example of how we use different tools would be our collaborative community data project we have every year, which is Karla’s brainchild. We pair up with a local nonprofit to help them work with their data. Volunteers from our community work with them to show them what they can do with their data. The volunteers get training to work with an actual dataset, and the training partner gets to learn something useful to take forward. Maybe they hire data scientists or maybe they decide there’s more potential to use their data. 

So that project then involves a lot of collaboration. We use Zoom to do the actual kickoff meeting with the partner, and we use tools like Slido for organizing Q&A during live events. We use Google Docs for additional Q&A, usually to capture questions and answers asynchronously. People type in their questions and when the partner has time, they can go in and answer them. We also have a Slack workspace where teams can have their own channels. In the past, they would meet in a coffee shop and work on it together. Instead, now they meet up in the Slack channel or have a Zoom meeting to discuss what they are working on. 

I think that’s a good example of how we use a lot of different tools for one project. And then we aggregate all the code and results to GitHub. We always have a repo for each year’s projects and that way we can bring everything together in a final report.

I think the plan is that we will continue to have a mix of online and in-person events. Right now, I think it is a challenge for small groups like us, without a big budget, to host a hybrid event. That requires a media team because your speaker needs a microphone and someone needs to film. We would love to have a technology solution to make it happen.

For now, we will host in-person events when we feel it can be done better in person. We will also try to have a lot of programming workshops online, so that we can kind of have the best of both worlds. Recently, when we tried to move back to in-person events, many people asked us if we will be a hybrid event. But we don’t have the technical capability to do that at the moment. I think other people are figuring it out, so maybe we can learn from them, but it’s definitely a challenge. 

Karla: For the Datathons, we used to have the kickoff and conclusion meetings in person. People could come and present their findings and have the partners involved. It was also a good way to ask questions, get everybody involved, and network. These meetings have moved online, and it has been easy to record and save for people to refer back to. While everything else went really well online, I feel that the first and last meetings worked better in person.

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? 

Karla: I would like to mention this year’s Datathon which went from February to March. Our partner this year was a non-profit organization that helps elderly or disabled people in the community and connects them with the services they need. They hadn’t really explored their data, and they really wanted to know their impact on their community. 

So we split our team of volunteers into three different groups, each tackling a different aspect of the question. One group focused on the impact on the community and another group focused on data visualization and helping in putting it together for decision making. That’s something we know is really useful in the industry, but not everyone takes advantage of that. Another group focused on opportunities for further growth and comparisons between current impact and what else is out there. 

So it’s been a very insightful Datathon because each team dug really deep into the data. They presented the data in a way that was clear and would help the organization. The organization has really taken this report to heart, and they have been working on it. It helped them rethink how they relate to the data and what ‌data collection they should do going forward so that they can leverage data better in the future. I know their board is currently discussing the results as well, so they are planning on taking action based on the results. It has been a really fascinating Datathon, just like the ones in the past. Each Datathon uncovers something really interesting and leads to other projects afterward. 

Alice: The thing that I find really special about doing this work is that we always focus on issues that are important to our local community and local groups. So this year we were working with a local nonprofit that works with the local senior citizens and folks who need help. It is very meaningful, and that’s been our mission as well. So while we love having reached a broader audience now, we want to make sure that we can focus on what makes Philadelphia unique and try to tap into that.

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

Alice: We ‌see trends in the topics people are interested in. Most of our events in the past have been very educational. We usually have people do a workshop on a specific package or an intermediate or advanced R topic because that’s been very popular. So we have trends over time on what’s popular, and the ‌workshops people are interested in attending and presenting. 

For example, we are doing a book club this summer to talk about using tidymodels. The tidymodels framework is relatively new to R, and machine learning has always been a big topic that people enjoy. I think it’s mostly because it’s broadly relevant across all industries. I do oncology research, and there are applications there, but also in manufacturing, geospatial and other fields. So when new packages or developments come out related to these core topics, they will influence our programming. Over time, there are changes in the R landscape which bring changes in what we talk about. 

Karla: I think recently, machine learning and data visualization have been popular. I think geospatial stuff has also been very popular in the past. We are ‌actively listening to our community and seeing what they are interested in learning and doing, and try to accommodate that with workshops. We try to encourage people who are interested in that topic to lead a talk or a workshop, and they don’t have to be experts. They can either do it themselves or they can find experts to do that. We encourage people to speak up about what they are interested in and then we tailor our events. 

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?

Alice: I can’t think of something super specific by our members. In the past, some of our Datathon efforts have hit on local issues around which there has been journalism. For example, the opioid epidemic is very important in Philadelphia. Because we have been very hard hit by opioid use disorder, and there’s a project we did there. That was a couple of years ago now. 

Karla: From that Datathon, another project emerged. Because during that project, one thing we were focusing on was mapping treatment locations for opioid use disorder. They have actually taken that idea and worked towards putting up a website and it has been released recently. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

Our next event should be on our Meetup. We are doing a community-wide book club around tidymodels and that is coming up in August.


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!

Interview with Ehouman Evans – Experience with R and Use with Agroforestry in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

By Blog

View the full interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yW5TRZslj8 

Ehouman Evans (Ph.D.), Agroforestry Project Manager at CIRAD, gives an interview to the R Consortium about his journey with R, his career, how he’s applied his R knowledge to Agroforestry, and more. The interview was conducted by Kevin O’Brien of the Why R? Foundation.

In this interview, Ehouman began by sharing about Yamoussoukro in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), its well-known surrounding cities, and what the R community is like there. Afterward, Ehouman discussed his work in Agroforestry and the impact it is having on locations in West Africa. He also connects his sustainable development goals with his work as a “plant scientist.” 

Following this, Ehmouman gave more background on his career path and transitioned to his journey with R and its usability in his work. He discussed more about the R community in Cotonou, surrounding countries, and his personal journey with learning and using R. Ehmouman also shared about the networking he has done with other R communities around the world. The interview finishes with Ehmouman sharing some of his favorite R packages and wraps up by giving his advice for those who are beginning their journey with R. 

Main Sections

0:00 Introduction

0:31 Sharing about Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

5:01 Plant Science, Numerical Ecology, and location

7:15 Sustainable development goals 

9:00 Sharing about Ehouman’s career path

14:40 Journey with R 

17:33 R in the community of Yamoussoukro

20:19 News about R Community in Yamoussoukro

22:26 Connections with other Francophone countries 

25:38 Ehouman gives advice 

28:05 International connectivity

29:33 Ehmouman’s favorite R package

30:46 Thank you!

More Resources

Main Site: https://www.r-consortium.org/ 

News: https://www.r-consortium.org/news 

Blog: https://www.r-consortium.org/news/blog 

Join: https://www.r-consortium.org/about/join 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rconsortium 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/r-consortium/

Campus useR Group Frankfurt Using Non-Traditional Techniques to Increase Information Sharing

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Till Straube of the Campus UseR Group, Frankfurt, Germany, about the group’s aim to provide an informal knowledge-sharing environment for Campus R users. The unique format of the group was difficult to achieve in online events, and they look forward to returning to in-person events. He explained that the group constantly strives to be inclusive of all R users coming from all backgrounds and levels of expertise. 

Till is a geographer and works at the Goethe University of Frankfurt in the Department of human geography. His research interests center on critical data science, digital infrastructures, and security technologies.


What is the R community like in Germany?

Before moving to Frankfurt, I was working in Bangkok, and we had very active user groups for software engineers. These were casual gatherings, where we got together and talked about different technologies. I was looking for similar groups in Frankfurt to connect on the same level. I found one user group and tried reaching out to them, but it had been inactive, and I didn’t get a response from them right away. So I decided to start a new user group for R in Frankfurt and started looking for allies. I found Janine Buchholz, who also worked on campus here, and we started this group together. 

After we had announced our first meeting, we heard ‌from the existing user group. A company had been organizing it, and they had a very different approach. At first, we considered combining the two groups, but our different focuses became apparent. So we decided it would be fitting to have a university-focused group. 

We started the Campus useR Group Frankfurt as a platform for everyone who works with R on campus to connect in a more casual way than the classic format of expert talks. We experimented a lot with different formats that were all designed to get people in the room talking about R in a way that was comfortable for everyone. In terms of topics, we found our niche in questions related to research, publishing, and teaching, but we also discussed working with R more generally from the beginning. 

There are also Data Science meetups here where they talk about R as well, but they tend to be rather business focused. My impression is that few academic users of R are committed enough to those conversations outside of the university. Also, the R-Ladies Frankfurt was founded around the same time. Some ‌members of our group are also part of that group, so there has been a lively exchange with that group. 

  Campus UseR Group Logo

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we had regular meetings in person once a month. It was around March 2020 when ‌we could no longer meet on campus. We switched to online meetings pretty much right away. 

At that time, it seems many people were looking for online meetings on the Meetup platform. Interestingly, there were suddenly people joining our meetups from all over the world, sometimes just listening in.

We held on to our casual and diverse formats, but the casual, information-sharing experience was missing. Even though we were successful in creating an online setting that remained easy-going and fun, it was a lot more work. It was just not the same as many of our formats from our in-person meetups didn’t work well for online meetups. The spirit of casually sharing ideas or coding together on a laptop couldn’t translate so well online.

At the end of last year, our co-founder Janine moved away for job reasons, and I was very busy finishing my Ph.D. and preparing the defense. So we haven’t had meetings for 4-5 months. But we are planning to return with in-person events at the university because that’s possible now. Probably with the new semester, we will start again.

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, videoconferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that cannot attend physical events in the future?  

We have been using Zoom for video conferencing, and it worked fine, more or less. We were also sharing data for doing exercises, but we had been doing that before the pandemic, so this was not a recent development for us. We don’t have a dedicated GitHub repository. Our preparation is much more casual, and the focus is on the meetings. We have a “no homework” policy so that anyone can join at the spur of the moment. 

As far as the idea of being more inclusive by offering online formats is concerned, we are focused on creating unique learning experiences that are only possible in person. The formats we had in mind for our group didn’t translate very well online. However, we do put in efforts to stay more inclusive in terms of language, for example. All our events are in English even if all the people preparing them are native German speakers. In addition, we always emphasize that our meetings are for R users of all backgrounds and at levels of expertise. So, I would rather focus on keeping our group inclusive in those ways than looking at online formats as a quick fix. 

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 have had some amazing talks from members of our group. As I said, we try to avoid the classic format of having an expert talk in presentation style because we have so much of that in the university already. We usually choose a topic and share our experiences. And no matter the topic, it usually turns out that one or in the group has had valuable experiences that everyone can learn from.

One meeting I remember fondly was called “Teach me Shiny,” where ‌I was introduced as the “non-expert” while the audience was the experts. I had heard of Shiny at the time, but I hadn’t used it. I would be in the lead sharing my screen, but the audience had to tell me what to do. In the end, I put together a simple Shiny app, and I think that was a very interesting format and a learning experience for everybody.

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

Publishing tools and workflows involving R have a huge potential in university. I am not sure if it will affect our organization, but I really hope more people continue to look into it. I do all the scripts for my lectures in Bookdown because it is so easy to share information and collaborate. R does not get enough recognition as a publishing platform. I don’t see many people using it for teaching materials, for example, using R Markdown for making slides, writing papers, etc. So that’s really where I save a lot of time in my text editor (not having to fidget with software). I can’t predict the future, but I hope more people at university realize this potential and start playing around with R in this way.  

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 should be more in touch with what’s happening in data journalism, but unfortunately, I am not up to date at the moment. I know there are really interesting data journalism efforts that are connected to far-right violence in Germany, which I think is a really important topic. It’s something that lends itself to giving it more visibility through maps and data journalism. 

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

As a geographer, I am really interested in the spatial features of R. So I was really pleased to see Tidy Spatial networks’ efforts.  I have also used d3 before, and d3po is also one of the funded projects. Overall, I find projects with a focus on spatial data very interesting. Also, it’s great to see that R Ladies are getting funded support.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We are planning to return with an in-person meeting at the university. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the start of the new semester in October. I plan to celebrate this relaunch by announcing it beforehand and reaching out to everyone. With this event, we want to revive the format of casual meetups with everybody sharing ideas and doing some coding hands-on. I feel that it really fills an important gap in the R landscape


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!

Robin Donatello Talks About Growing an R Community at a State University

By Blog

Growing a user base for R at a university can be challenging at the best of times, especially when dealing with the silos that are present in the university system. Robin Donatello with the Chico R Users Group talks about how this issue became both easier and harder to deal with due to the pandemic.

Robin Donatello is an Associate Professor of Statistics and Data Science at California State University, Chico. Robin has also helped host the ASA Datafest, a data analysis competition in which undergraduate students from various majors get to work in teams on large, complex, and real-world data. 💡


What is the R community like at CSU Chico?

RD: It is struggling to have cohesion right now. For the most part, I have been a one-person show, but recent hires in Statistics have brought some new energy to the University and additional interests in building a data scientist community. We have about 20 faculty that use R in about 40 classes. We have about 100 or so students each semester being exposed to the language, but for the most part, everyone is doing their own thing.

I currently have a USDA HSI Education grant where I was able to fund 3 other faculty to become Certified Carpentry instructors. The goal is to increase the pool of faculty who want to teach these skills outside of the traditional class so that we can feel like we have a community.  A lot of faculty are still burnt out right now and aren’t interested in taking on any additional work. As a teaching institution, our primary responsibility is in-class teaching and support. I’m hoping that soon we’ll get something other than an ASA Datafest. We are actively working on a new Masters program in Data Science and Analytics expected to roll out in Fall 23. We envision teaching both in R and Python, and I look forward to exploring how the two languages complement each other.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

RD: One of the things that we had going pretty well before the pandemic was a thing called Community Coding. This was started based on the idea behind UC Davis “Meet and Analyze Data”. Faculty, Staff, and Students can come and do work, and people would be there to help. The hard part was scheduling a room. Trying to have a centralized room on campus and then trying to have a faculty or student be there at that time. We had 10-15 students, each student about two times a week come in for direct help, they knew someone would be there since it would be like drop-in tutoring. When we switched to online in 2020, they all were gone. No one showed up. From 2021-22 it has gotten a little better. It’s still sparse, but people are getting used to virtual now. Getting help on zoom is less of a barrier now than it used to be. I am seeing more non-traditional students and students not in my class drop in and ask questions. The virtual nature has allowed us to expand the help across campus because faculty are more open to doing zoom hours than to going across campus and sitting in a room. We were able to offer 14 hours/week of help in Spring 21, but the support was still very underutilized. Holding Community Coding virtually also allows us to meet people in the larger R community, not just at our institution.

We also had to cancel our ASA DataFest in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid, which is typically a good networking and community-building event. 

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?  

RD: We will do this in the future. We have a lot of students that are working as well, so we will keep on these online. We have graduate students who can’t attend during the day, we have professional students and others who just can’t participate during the day for some reason or another. There will always be some online component, at least for the Community Coding events. The Carpentry workshops are often offered in a hybrid format, allowing for both online and in-person audiences.

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? 

RD: We haven’t had a presentation recently. We are discussing ways to bring back regular meetups that can re-engage our community.

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

RD: The only thing that I can think of is the growth of the tidyverse has made teaching students in the applied sciences easier. It helps, but sometimes knowing the base is more helpful for the advanced stuff. The basic student, however, will probably only use it in their analysis and some classes in general, but will not become an advanced R user. It has made my life as a teacher more accessible and I’d like to see it continue.

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?

RD: There is an adjunct professor who is a certified R Studio and R Carpentry instructor who is doing a data journalism class. It started a few years ago with an older professor. When that professor left, it stopped being taught. When the current professor came back, he took up the class. However, he’s an adjunct so he may or may not stay. It was offered for the first time this semester with no advertisement, so the enrollment was low. That’s a constant battle for us is advertising and getting the word out about these things. If they could get this class into a major, like journalism or data science. I will add it as an elective to data science and as a class in the data analytics minor.

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

RD: Data Carpentry because building capacity at the faculty level is the only way that we will build a community and get it out to more students.

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

RD: I wasn’t aware of the groups ahead of time, mostly due to my schedule. If I did, it would be a community of diversity and inclusion, mostly because we are a Hispanic-serving institution. Over 40% of our students identify as Hispanic in origin and the faculty at Chico does not reflect the same diversity. The main aim of my current grant is to empower traditionally underserved populations to engage in research and data analysis using R and to support their growth in scientific fields.

Four projects are R Consortium Top-Level Projects. If you could add another project to this list for guaranteed funding for 3 years and a voting seat on the ISC, which project would you add?

The current four projects are:

RD: I would like to see a service similar to Data Camp created. That was an amazing tool that I will no longer use due to their corporate behavior. That platform was so helpful for teaching students. If someone were to make something similar to that which was community-driven and not profit-driven that would be amazing. That would be super helpful for instructors. Even enhancing the LearnR and grade this package to have more tools and easier to install and use for new learners. A group that is designed to help teachers to teach R easier is what I would like to see.

When is your next event? Please give details!

ASA DataFest in Spring 2022 returned as a success. We had 28 students from two universities attend, which is not too much lower than our pre-pandemic number of 35. A common theme student stated is that they wished they had more experience with R before going into the weekend. This can be an opportunity for us to do more pre-event activities and meetups in Spring 23. 

Our next Data Carpentry workshop will be in August and again in January. We are trying to offer about 2 each year, but the participation has been still pretty low compared to pre-Covid. 


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 Santa Rosa Leading with Other R Communities in Latin America to Create More Accessibility

By Blog

R consortium talks to Yanina Bellini Saibene about how the pandemic has affected the R-Ladies Santa Rosa. Rather than being reactive to the events of the pandemic, she started a group called MetaDocencia with others to help educators get the resources to help students who are affected the most by the pandemic by using the same educational methods taught by the RStudio Certification and The Carpentries.

Yanina is the new rOpenSci Community Manager and will develop a new project to empower community leaders from historically excluded groups. They will participate, benefit from, and become leaders in the R, research software engineering, open source and open science communities.


What is the R community like in Santa Rosa?

YBS: We are in Argentina, in the middle of the country. We are the capital city of the state of La Pampa, but we are still a small one. The R community here is pretty academic because most people who use R are either researchers or instructors. I am a researcher at the National Institute of Agriculture Technology (on leave). The National University of La Pampa is the state university here as well, along with other research institutes from CONICET. Most of our group members come from these places, but we do have some that are government workers that work with statistics and data as well.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

YBS: Covid hit here in a strong way. We had a lockdown for most of the year. We are now going back to some activities in-person because we have a high vaccine rate. In our state, we are now vaccinating those three years and older. We still have masks, social distancing, and restrictions in place. Because of those restrictions, we are not doing in-person meetings. We won’t go back until that is safe for everyone and people feel safe enough to go back. Doing meetings online allows us to be in touch with other chapters, especially R-Ladies, and organize events together. We have international “visitors” and presenters. It’s easier because all you need is the internet. This aspect of the pandemic has allowed us to have a large range of people who come to our community. Our chapter became more accessible to more people.

One of the international meetups hosted by R-Ladies Santa Rosa during 2020

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?  

YBS: We’re going to keep doing online events even after the pandemic. Because we are rural, I am used to being on the outside of everything. We’re going to keep on the online events, and we’re going to keep inviting people from other parts of the country or the world. We are also going to try and keep collaborating with other R-Ladies chapters, RUGs in Latin America, and the world to do other events together. For example, the R-Ladies chapters in Ecuador and Colombia did an amazing reading club. They did it among several chapters because they didn’t have to travel and could share the burden of hosting. These virtual settings have a lot of advantages and are more accessible because more people can be part of them. In addition, most of the meetings are recorded and are available for viewing at another time if you can’t attend, although it is not the same, you do not miss everything.

Joint meetup with R-Ladies Resistencia-Corrientes and MetaDocencia in April 2022 – Interactive Tutorials with {learnr}

We use meetup for organizing meetings, and we use the R Ladies Calendly and Zoom account for the events. We also use Jitsi and Google Meet when we have a scheduling conflict with other R Ladies chapters. Zoom is the most stable of the accounts and gives us the best audio and video quality.  The recordings are published on the R-Ladies YouTube channel.  We have playlists in five languages. For connection between members we also have the R-Ladies Slack Community and for Argentina, we have the R-Ladies Buenos Aires Slack that functions as a Slack of our country. In this last space, we present everything in Spanish. 

Virtual Meeting with R-Ladies organizer from Argentina

RC: 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? 

YBS: The best event that we had in 2021 was a pre-useR! meetup. Several R-Ladies chapters meet up and do an introduction of what useR! is for those attending for the first time. We get these chapters together and talk about their experience as an organizer, talkers, presenters, or attendees. We wanted to have more people from across the globe be part of the conference. It was amazing to see how the R-Ladies chapters could get together to improve their careers, have a larger contact network, share our experiences, have a safe space to learn and make mistakes, and share knowledge. Not only about R but other parts of a work atmosphere or dealing with work/life balance.

useR! 2021 and R-Ladies discussion

For 2022 I will highlight a “visit” R-Ladies Santa Rosa did to R-Ladies Johannesburg to deliver a tutorial about Learnr (in English) and a collaboration with R-Ladies Mendoza explaining how to convert an R script into an rmarkdown report with a focus on reproducibility (in Spanish).

Flier for the meetup “Good, nice and cheap: reproducible reports with rmarkdown” by R-Ladies Mendoza in collaboration with R-Ladies Santa Rosa and MetaDocencia

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

YBS: As a community in Latin America, we do a lot of effort to have our events and materials in our native languages (Spanish and Portuguese) and to give space to regional talent. For example, we translated books like R For Data Science and Teaching Tech Together by Greg Wilson.

Translation Team of R4DS with one of the authors 

I’m part of rOpenSci now, and we will work on expanding documentation beyond the English language. One of the most successful efforts of rOpenSci is our Software Peer Review System. In 2021, we successfully piloted Spanish-language software peer review in which the submission itself, and all reviews and editorial responses were in Spanish. While Spanish-language review is now available, our documentation is still only available in English. We will translate our Dev Guide “rOpenSci Packages: Development, Maintenance, and Peer Review” and associate components of the peer-review system (e.g., submission forms, bug report templates), as well as produce guidance for authors on including non-English documentation in their software packages.

We will also develop embedded community champions from historically excluded groups and peer mentorship groups in collaboration with the CSCCE, with the aim of increasing the diversity of contributors across all channels and levels of participation in rOpenSci by supporting two cohorts. 

Each cohort will receive training on (1) how to plan and facilitate engaging and inclusive workshops to support participants’ success, (2) channels through which new members can engage in and contribute to rOpenSci and R projects, and (3) technical skills in software development and review. After training, champions will organize peer groups in communities in which they are embedded. They will promote participation in peer review and contribution to rOpenSci open source software, infrastructure, and documentation and gather feedback on where rOpenSci’s current programming might be improved to meet the needs of all who wish to participate. The tenure and responsibilities of each cohort will have clear start and end dates and champions will receive an honorarium.

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?

YBS: We don’t have any journalists in the R-Ladies Santa Rosa chapter but some people that do science communication. My sister is a journalist. Sometimes we do data stuff together, but not as part of the Santa Rosa’s chapter. I like when the media uses data and science to report stories and explain things. We need more of that. What I enjoyed this year is the keynote on communication at useR! 2021. Both speakers were awesome. One of the speakers talked about climate change and how to communicate about the topic. Like with vaccines, we have some similarities in how people behave with climate change. They referenced research on how we act the way we do on these subjects and how we can communicate in a more efficient way. The other person talked about how the R and Data Analysts work with journalists, and how we should use data to tell stories. These communities can work together to improve the skills of the journalist to allow them to better explain and include data in their work. This talk is a must-see for anyone who is interested in how to do science and wants to reach people.

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

YBS: R-Ladies, of course! I am part of the global team and I love this community that helped me a lot. It has grown fast in Latin America. We have the same number of chapters as the United States and Canada. We have the second-highest number of members, with 28,000 members. R-Ladies has allowed us to be part of international conferences such as useR!, co-found and organized our own conference, called LatinR, because we know each other from R-Ladies, and increased our contact network to improve our careers. We could also apply for grants to user groups, and I have been able to get that grant two times for Santa Rosa which has helped us to hold events, especially when in-person.  The process of the grants needs to be improved to remove or reduce the burden of work involved for RUGs organizers in receiving international money in some countries.

LatinR <- Latin American Conference About the Use of R in R&D

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

YBS: I like the idea of R Certification because we have the R Studio certification, which certifies Shiny and Tidyverse only and is on hold. 

Four projects are R Consortium Top-Level Projects. If you could add another project to this list for guaranteed funding for 3 years and a voting seat on the ISC, which project would you add?

The current four projects are:

YBS: I think adding one about accessibility and another to focus on translation would be good. For translation, Spanish and French would be good languages to start, as you could cover some parts of South America, Africa, and Asia with those two. I would also mention Portuguese because it is very important for Latin America. I would have a group working on generating communication, guides, books, and instruction for R. I would also translate at least the error messages in a wider group of languages. Language is a huge barrier, as not everyone has the money and the time to learn a new language. Especially in the academic world, English is the main language. But, you won’t always be in academia. If I have to give a priority, I would choose the accessibility project, led by people of the community with different disabilities and experts on the topic, that get paid for their work. And always, always I would maintain R-Ladies (but I’m completely biased on this).

When is your next event? Please give details!

YBS: We did two events this year, and we plan to do at least one more in the second half of the year. It will be online and probably in collaboration with another chapter or conference. We are going to do something for people who want to move from using spreadsheets to using R and also related to building R packages.


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!

Indy UseR Growing as New Businesses like Insurance and Pharmaceuticals Move into Indianapolis

By Blog

Shankar Vaidyaraman and Derrick Kearney sit down with R Consortium to talk about how the Indy UseR Group coped with the pandemic. They started moving towards online events early, how they work with a diverse group of coders and their interest in attracting non-coders to the language.

Derrick Kearney
Shankar Vaidyaraman

What is the R community like in Indianapolis?

DK: I’m outside of Indianapolis and I’m newer to the group than Shankar is. I would say that the R Community is growing because there is an increasing number of businesses setting up offices in Indianapolis. I remember before the pandemic we were at a meeting and two new people from an insurance company, and they said that they just got transferred to Indianapolis and wanted to learn R. It was super interesting to see that new businesses were moving in and their workers wanted to learn R. That’s how the R community was growing in Indianapolis.

There are a lot of Pharmaceutical companies in the area as well.  We have asked them to share their experience with R and talk about different R packages. We have tried to cater to all of Indiana. We might even be the only R Group in the state! We are currently also reaching out to more users for in-person and virtual events. 

SV: I agree with Derrick. A lot of people in the Indianapolis area are learning R for their work. The group has been around since 2015 or 2016. It’s gone through its ups and downs. Given the size of Indianapolis, we have had quite a few R users.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

SV: We didn’t have a lot of members attend the meetings before the pandemic. We had several meetings talking about what we could do about it. We started doing it online before the pandemic. We knew that we had some people coming from Bloomington (UI) or Lafayette (Purdue). We started having Zoom calls so that people from the greater Indiana area could attend.

DK: Before the pandemic, I didn’t appreciate it as much as now the Zoom meetup. We had a speaker attend from Purdue, pre-pandemic, give her talk on Zoom. The speaker wasn’t going to be able to attend and present beforehand. Having that available has been a help. Over time, Zoom fatigue has started taking over. When I first started attending, I thought this would work well because I would have better time management. But over the last half year fatigue has set in. Maybe I need the time to drive over to the place to calm down.

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, or 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?  

DK: Meetup and Zoom are the main two technologies. Shankar has been keeping a GitHub repository where you upload presentations and resources. That has been helpful, allowing those who couldn’t make the initial event to have access to the information and videos. We also have a YouTube channel where we try to post our videos. That has helped with engaging the community who couldn’t attend the event.

SV: I think that we will try to do it since it’s a decent opportunity for those outside of Indianapolis to join in.

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? 

DK: One that was interesting to me was our last presentation about the Arrow project. I had heard about the project a lot, but I wasn’t following in-depth about what it was. I was able to hear about the project, what it was, what it wasn’t going to cover, and how people could help out with the project. Ian Cook gave that presentation.

SV:  I like the one from RStudio Rich Iannone about tables. I liked it because I wanted to do nice tables in R. I always wanted to do that but never was able to. Seeing the talk let me go through the process and make them. The package he used was GT.

DK: I liked that presentation because he had a lot of examples. Visual help because you want to see what the table looks like. Oh, you want to change it to this other thing? Here’s how you change the code.

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

SV: Primarily because the users that we have are from different backgrounds (environmental, data science, agriculture) it’s hard to see the trend that would cover all these topics. Also, in the last year, I haven’t kept up with R developments (Shiny and R in Production). Maybe R has graduated into a bigger thing with more people or companies (like RStudio). People are now thinking about it more as a main program than as an exploratory program.

I know that R is trying to move into TensorFlow problems, and R has a package in tensor. I am interested in whether or not R will start moving towards more machine learning, especially when you can call Python from R now.

DK: I’m usually trying to communicate something to people, I need to show people something and I need it to look professional. I found doing that in R was easy. Even taking notes or writing up a letter of recommendation. I thought to myself “maybe there is an R markdown template for this.” There was and I was able to create a good workflow for writing my letter. 

I have noticed a bigger focus on data science, and it seems to be starting to take shape, rather than it being a buzzword that encompasses many things. For data science, people would have to be familiar with moving data, collecting data, and storing it. There are people that can specialize in things like building models, and others. This can potentially make people happier in their data science journey. It is also noticeable in the Meetup groups, everyone comes in with the R tools they know and use, this creates something that can be teachable and promotes collaboration. 

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?

DK: When it comes to data journalism the most common thing that comes to mind is Andrew Ba Tran, from the Washington Post, at the RStudio Global conference. It was memorable in that I remember it, but right now the topic escapes me. I was able to talk to him afterward.SV: There was one at the RStudio conference on how they use R for the ACLU.

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

DK: I don’t have a favorite because I’m not involved or knowledgeable about them in general. Those that look interesting are the Rust Extender because I like computer languages. I think it’s interesting to see the connections between Rust and R. The R for engineering applications is also interesting. When people think about R they think about statistics or modeling. When they think about engineering they don’t think about R, they usually think about MATLAB as the primary language. I think it’s interesting to have this push to use R. Also setting up the R girls network looked interesting.

SV:  That is a good point about the R for engineering because of my background in chemical engineering. I feel that MATLAB, then Python, are the primary languages. I tend to use R for more things now and still have a place there.

There are four projects that are R Consortium Top Level Projects. If you could add another project to this list for guaranteed funding for 3 years and a voting seat on the ISC, which project would you add?

The current four projects are:

SV: For people who are programmers who want to try R it’s easy. For those who have never done programming, it’s harder. Can we set up something that is more deliberate to engage those who have an interest in R but do not have the programming background? How do we get them onboard? They have the analytical background but not the coding part. Going from excel to R for instance. Some are so good at excel and can do a lot. But some things in R would take a lot of hoop-jumping in excel. Monte Carlo simulations for instance. I have no idea how to do this, but I think that this would be a good idea.

DK: When I get a good idea I tend to direct them toward the RCDI group.

When is your next event? Please give details!

DK: Next event will be on August 16th. We are trying to get in contact with a makerspace to host in-person events, and topics. We are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things!

More information here: https://www.meetup.com/indy-user-group/events/287115976/


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 Cuernavaca Partners with Biotechnology Institute to Quickly Expand Reach in 2022

By Blog

Nothing is harder than starting right as the pandemic hits. Today, R Consortium talks to Joselyn Chávez of R Ladies Cuernavaca about what it was like to establish a chapter right a pandemic hits, and how they haven’t just survived, but thrived and built community throughout Mexico.

Group picture for the team at CCG
Joselyn Chávez

What is the R community like in Cuernavaca?

JC: The R community is relatively new here, but it is enthusiastic. Before 2018, users in Cuernavaca were split and isolated. Mostly they were students taking graduate courses or workshops but not in a community or involved in international R. 

In 2018, the community of software developers for bioinformatics held a workshop. It’s from these that we started our R Ladies chapter. The community started growing up, and we invited people to join the R community in general. We saw an opportunity to start and expand our chapter because in Cuernavaca we have several campuses from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, and The University of the State of Morelos. We saw an opportunity to recruit these people, and the students of the university were the first target. We also have professional attendees, researchers, and diverse teachers. There are a lot of students in the biological area with a great interest in basic R usage, analysis of biological data, and applying statistics as well.

This year (2022), we partnered with the Biotechnology Institute in Cuernavaca, to which a lot of members have ties. In this program, participants meet once per month from January to December covering various topics. There are around 60 people that attend these workshops and at the end of the program, graduate students from the Institute receive a certificate of completion. 

We also welcomed two new members to the team, Aurora Labastida Martínez and Ernestina Godoy Lozano. This has been great because the group gets to share the work and collaborate with one another more.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

JC: When the lockdown started in March of 2020, we had just started R Ladies. We ended up postponing the third meetup we had scheduled. We spent the next 4 months thinking about what we should do. Should we wait for the end of the pandemic or start looking for new possibilities? Seeing how other chapters were doing virtual, we started to have meetups on Zoom. We started recording meetings, made a YouTube channel, and made the recordings available. Initially, we were afraid of how the community would respond. We were lucky because the community was very responsive and we saw people from other cities in Mexico, as well as other countries. Mostly from Latin America, but some from Spain and other countries. Currently, we hold our monthly meetings in a hybrid format but most of the attendees still participate virtually.

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?  

JC: We have a Slack channel, we do have some interaction with members there, but Slack isn’t that popular in Mexico. We have some problems getting people to connect in that space. They interact mostly via Twitter, Facebook, and Meetup. We also have a GitHub repo and a Youtube channel where people can access all our materials including talks and demonstrations on R tools.

Online information: R Ladies Cuernavaca repository on GitHub and Youtube channel

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? 

JC: Our community is interested in statistics, plot generation, and data management. Some of the most successful talks have been given by Aurora Labastida, one of our team members who has a lot of experience in biological data management and statistics. She also has a talent for teaching. For one of her talks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT0SJ-9ZIlc ), the people were very excited. The meeting was planned for 2 hours, but in the end, we extended it for 3 hours. Attendees continued asking questions and doing the example work. They were very happy. We had an attendee from Spain who stayed for the entire time. It ended up being 3 am in Spain at the end, but he refused to leave, even though the recording was available after. That was a very successful meetup.

Dashboard (Spanish)
Dashboard (English)

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

JC: We try to offer trendy topics like tidyverse and this year we planned a syllabus for all the meetings of the year, covering from R for beginners, to statistics and plotting. We are focusing on basic topics because a lot of members find in R-Ladies Cuernavaca meetups the opportunity to first approach the R language. 

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?

JC: Since our community is relatively new, they have not done much journalism in the community. In the past year, in the general R community, we started doing the 30 days of graphics. In Latin America, we had data on the Wednesday project. I think all of these have the main goal of growing data management, plotting, and analysis.

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

JC: From the 2021 funded projects, my favorite is Setting up an R-Girls-Schools Network because it has similarities with the general philosophy of the R Ladies project. I believe that opportunities created by this project can be life-changing for so many girls from different backgrounds. Speaking from my experience, being a part of this community has opened a lot of doors. I was able to get a scholarship to attend an RStudio scholarship that I got while a member of R Ladies. I met a lot of organizers around the world, not just in Latin America, but in other countries. After the conference, I started collaborating with them. I gave some talks for R Ladies Baltimore. I have an invitation for R Ladies Tunis. I also started a collaboration with other RLadies from Latin America. We have a survey where we look at R users in Latin America to know the challenges they face and how we can help. Also, I  took part in the UseR 2021 conference organizers team that represented a huge opportunity to collaborate and connect with others.

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

JC: I am biased by my professional interest and experience with the Community of Software Developers CDSB. I think the R repositories group (https://github.com/RConsortium/r-repositories-wg) plays an important role, since there is a lack of resources that encourage people to transition from R users to developers. 

There are four projects that are R Consortium Top Level Projects. If you could add another project to this list for guaranteed funding for 3 years and a voting seat on the ISC, which project would you add?

The current four projects are:

JC: I think one that affects a large part of the R community. I am biased because I am a part of the Latin American community, which has space to grow up. I have taken some courses from an Argentinian initiative called Metadocencia. They started offering courses given by trained teachers that are carpentry trained. I took a course with them, and it was amazing! I was teaching a course at the beginning of the pandemic, and after taking the class with carpentry instructors, I was able to incorporate some of the aspects that they suggested. I think I became a better teacher. It is different learning how to code and teaching code. I think a training program for R would have a huge chance to have more workshops, recruit more people, recruit more instructors, and spread the language. Also, since I am part of the R-Ladies, this program gets my vote. It has been a great resource to receive support and collaborate with other R users in the community. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

JC: We are preparing the next monthly meetup on July 14th that will cover an introduction to tidyverse packages (https://github.com/RLadiesCuerna/meetup_julio_2022). 

Some of the founders of our chapters run summer workshops as well as part of the International Workshops of Bioinformatics (https://www.nnb.unam.mx/EBM2022/ ). Verónica Jiménez Jacinto and Leticia Vega Alvarado lead the Basic R course (Intro to R and RStudio), while I lead advanced workshops as part of the CDSB community (Advanced analysis of metagenomes https://comunidadbioinfo.github.io/post/cdsb-2022-workshops/#.YsN8Uy1h2wA )

In 2020, Ana Beatriz Villaseñor Altamirano from R-Ladies Queretaro and myself created R Ladies MX, which is a virtual annual meeting of all R Ladies chapters in Mexico. This year’s event will be organized primarily by members of the R Ladies Puebla chapter. We will have this meeting in September 2022. This idea was inspired by the Latin American community. We chose September because independence day is on September 16th. Last year we launched it for the second time and had a lot of attendees. We took advantage of the internet so we could all get together. We have 12 chapters and we all came together to meet and collaborate, there were over 300 spaces available. We had presentations from members to show how they use R in work or research. We are planning to do this meetup annually and have invited all the chapters in Mexico to join in. We are always welcoming more members to join!


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!

Virtual Events Opened New Horizons for R-Ladies Dallas

By Blog

R-Consortium talked to Dr. Sydeaka Watson of the Dallas, Texas chapter of R-Ladies Global about turning the challenges of the pandemic into opportunities for the group. She shared the initial struggle of finding an appropriate platform for the online events. R-Ladies Dallas overcame this temporary setback and hosted virtual events with both an international audience and speakers.

Dr. Sydeaka Watson

Sydeaka is a Data Scientist currently working remotely for Eli Lilly and Company (a pharmaceutical company) in Indiana. Her educational background is in mathematics and statistics. Before transitioning to Data Science in 2016, Sydeaka worked as a biostatistician for several years.

What is the R community like in Dallas?

We have two different R User Groups in Dallas. I organize the R-Ladies Dallas group, and then there’s also the Dallas R Users Group. When the Dallas R Users Group temporarily went on hiatus, several guys from the Dallas R Users Group joined R-Ladies so they could maintain their connection to the local R community. 

During COVID, the two R groups hosted a joint event leveraging Zoom, thus allowing the members in both groups to learn from each other. I also cross-posted events in both groups so that we could attend group events together. 

Most of the R users in our communities are from the industry sector. Some of them have been working in industry for a long time, and others have just started working in industry. Many of these people have heard a lot about R. They want to leverage the power of R for their personal and professional work projects.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we hosted monthly in-person events at various venues. We primarily hosted events at Improving, a local tech business that makes its space available to Dallas tech meetups that need a place to meet. Multiple meetups hosted their events at this place pretty much every night of the week. Improving also provided audio-visual support as well as free beverages and pizza. Hosting events in this space provided us with the opportunity to socialize with the other tech meetups in Dallas. At the time, R-Ladies was one of the smaller meetups, with up to 10 attendees per session. Most of our members were women or non-binary, but we would have a few men attending now and again. 

During COVID, when we hosted our monthly virtual events, I tweeted our event invitations on Twitter. People from across the U.S.A. and all over the world started joining our events. It was amazing! We also had speakers from other states and around the world. We went from up to 10 attendees per session to maybe 20-50 attendees per session. So I would say we significantly increased the size of our audience during the pandemic.

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?  

At first, we were using free Zoom, Skype, and Jitsi accounts for our virtual meetups, as we didn’t have a budget for video conferencing platforms. Later, Improving gave us access to a Microsoft Teams Pro account, and eventually R-Ladies Global provided access to a Zoom Pro account. These allowed us to better connect with our members. It was difficult at the start because we had to take time to get familiar with these platforms. However, eventually, we figured out how to leverage these platforms so we could stay connected and make it work. We continued to share content and conversation over Slack and GitHub as we had been doing before the pandemic. However, during COVID, we started posting recordings of our events on the RabbitHole AI YouTube account.  

I have been thinking about whether we should continue using these technologies in the future. We received such a brilliant response from other parts of the world to our virtual events. When we had speakers joining from other cities in the US, they brought their audiences with them. Our remote speakers promoted their talks by sharing them on their Twitter accounts so that their Twitter followers also signed up and joined our events. That was a nice side effect. It was so nice to find that we weren’t restricted to having speakers who weren’t physically present in Dallas. I think there’s an opportunity for us to leverage what we learned during COVID for sure. 

I just have to learn what’s the best way to do that because honestly, that can be a bit of a challenge. In a hybrid event, how do I pay attention to the room and also make sure that the online audience is also engaged? There are a few considerations that we need to think about, but I think we should definitely explore that idea.

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 and our most popular event was Data Science Portfolios 101 with Dr. Rachael Tatman. She was a dynamic speaker, had a strong following, and brought her audience with her. She connected with all attendees at all levels. As a long-time statistics and data science professional, I walked away with several tips that I felt were helpful in my career stage. It was the most popular event we have hosted, and the response was overwhelming.

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

Given the high competition for data science talent these days, I think we’ll see shifts from “how to get a DS job” talks to “how to stay competitive and maintain my leverage” talks.

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?

We had a couple of talks related to Data Journalism. There was a talk titled Digital Story Telling by Amber Thomas. She discussed the journalism efforts involved in transforming a simple idea into a data-driven, visual essay. Another interesting talk was “Flexible reproducibility in data workflows “ with Brooke Watson Madubuonwu. She works for the ACLU and talked about some projects she was involved in and her challenges with accessing and cleaning data from various sources. Brooke shared how she used those methods to get some superb insights that helped in their social justice efforts. She was one of the finest speakers we had. In pre-COVID times I would have never been able to get this caliber of the speaker. I would have never had a chance to know her or invite her to speak in our meetup.

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

My favorite project is “deposits: Deposit Research Data Anywhere.” As a researcher, I understand the need to make datasets available to the general scientific community. I really appreciate this effort to create this data repository that people can access and contribute to and would like to learn more about.

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

This is the first time I’m hearing about these working groups. However, I applaud the mission of R IDEA, particularly regarding its emphasis on diversity and inclusion. That aligns well with the R-Ladies mission. This is a group that I would really like to learn more about.

RC: When is your next event? Please give details!

We are working with the Improving venue to book the space and transition back to the in-person meetup format. For details about future events, visit https://www.meetup.com/rladies-dallas/events  


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!