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Promoting the Use of R in Mali

By Blog

The R Consortium recently caught up with Fousseynou Bah of the Bamako Data Science Group (also on Facebook) and talked about the budding R community in Mali. Online events allowed the group to broaden its horizons and invite international speakers to present at their events. They hope to host hybrid events in the future to make the most out of both online and physical event formats.

Fousseynou is an Economist currently working for the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission. He received his Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Economics from the Université Grenoble Alpes, France.


How did you get introduced to R?

I have studied economics, and it is a discipline where you use a lot of data at the graduate level. This is how I started using R back in the early 2000s. Almost 20 years later, I realized what a powerful language it has become. This motivated me to talk to some friends and inquire about having a group of data science enthusiasts come together to share knowledge and have discussions. My academic training mostly influenced me and led me to start this group. R is fascinating as it is free, open-source, and the best way to get people interested in programming and data science. It doesn’t cost a lot and ensures reproducibility. 

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

The R community in Mali is in the budding stage. I have to go out and find people who use R and understand what it is. The main purpose of our group is to introduce people to R and promote its use in Mali. We are trying to convince people to use R for business handling instead of proprietary programs, as it is an amazing tool and free of cost. They can train their staff and introduce it in their data lives as a working tool. It is mostly people from academia who are familiar with R and using it for their research. In Mali, industries have not embraced R as much as I would hope. A lot of work needs to be done to evangelize, educate, and promote R in Mali.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before the pandemic, we used to host physical events on Friday afternoons. Friday afternoons are when people are still in the mood for work but also relaxed because the weekend is close. We used to host our events at different locations. Mostly we used to go on the campus as it has some research centers. We could use the infrastructure to do our presentations and we used to meet in a room afterward for snacks.

With the pandemic, we have completely shifted our events online. It was interesting because we could connect with people from around the globe and have them attend and speak in our sessions. We connected with people living in Europe, the US, or North America and have them present. So online events allowed us to expand our horizons.

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

We have been switching between Google Meet and Zoom for our online events. We have also created a WhatsApp group to interact with our group members. This group is not just limited to the presentations, but we also exchange information regarding different opportunities, scholarships, and collaboration requests. People also use it to showcase a project they have done and ask for help with issues they encounter. 

Our group members do not use GitHub a lot. Whenever I present, I share the GitHub link and inform our group members that the slides, code, and data are available on GitHub. We do not upload our recorded sessions on YouTube. Instead, we share the link within our WhatsApp group due to privacy concerns. I hope in the future maybe we will also start a YouTube channel. 

These days, I am nostalgic for the physical events and our discussions over snacks afterward. I feel that this networking and human contact is really important for our group. It allows people to come together and find common ground. So after the pandemic settles, we would like to host hybrid events to reap the benefits of both physical and online events. It will allow us to keep our group open to international speakers while allowing us to promote data science locally. 

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

I hope that the R ecosystem becomes stronger in the years to come. Things are changing in data science now and there is a trend of making sure that people can collaborate. Allowing people to switch between different languages is also a great opportunity. I think it will make R become more visible and highlight the power it has. 

For our group, I think it is very important to make sure people realize the power of R and turn to it. We are also trying to educate people that they don’t need to be from a computer science or technical background to harness the power of R. They need domain expertise to find their way with R and use it. 

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

My favorite funded project is deposits: Deposit Research Data Anywhere.  It aims to facilitate the access of researchers to data. And that hits a cord with anyone striving to promote data science, for data is our most valuable raw material.

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

Due to my background in economics, my favorite active working group is R/Business.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We don’t have any events planned at the moment, but follow us on our socials to stay updated!


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!

2022 Government & Public Sector R Conference

By Blog, Events

We are proud sponsors of the 2022 Government & Public Sector R Conference hosted by Lander Analytics! This year’s conference will take place on December 1st & 2nd with workshops on November 30th! You can attend either in-person at Georgetown University or virtually online from anywhere in the world.

You don’t want to miss out on the fun! You’ll here from speakers, such as:

And many, many more!

Also, you can attend a the full-day interactive workshop on November 30th:

  • Introduction to Natural Language Processing for Public Policy Research with William E. J. Doane

Use code RSTATS20 to receive 20% off conference & workshop tickets!

To learn more about the speaker lineup, workshops, and agenda visit rstats.ai/gov. Also, follow @rstatsai on Twitter to stay up to date with all conference details. 

If your organization is interested in being a sponsor, please contact Lander Analytics at info@landeranalytics.com.

Preparing to Thrive by Collaborating with Local Universities

By Blog

Vivek Patil of the Inland Northwest R User Group (INRUG) talked to the R Consortium about the R Community located in Spokane, Washington, the diverse group of members of INRUG, and the different uses of R language that characterize this community amongst them all.

Vivek Patil is a Professor of Marketing at Gonzaga University, where he used to teach the SPSS to his students for marketing research in the School of Business. After learning about R and attending a course on Data Analysis from Coursera, he learned R to expand his knowledge and introduced R to his students in the Business School.


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

Vivek: In 2012-13, I was looking for something new to learn as I had earned tenure and settled in on the data analysis tools that I was using for my teaching and research. I had heard about the power of R and the fact that it was an open-source tool that would not cost my students anything motivated me to begin my adventure. At that time, I signed up for Jeff Leek’s, Data Analysis course through Coursera because it used R for its analysis. Although the course didn’t teach R, I forced myself to learn it and I just fell in love with it. 

Rather than writing R packages, my focus has been on utilizing existing packages to address different questions in my domains of interest. Similarly, I teach my students to use different packages to solve business problems. I have taught R in my marketing research class and I created two new courses based on it – Data Visualization and Business Analytics.

What is the R community like in Spokane Washington?

Vivek: It is a very small community. Krisztian Magori, a faculty of Biostatistics at Eastern Washington University, and I created the User Group in August, 2014. We contacted a few of our colleagues and had our first meeting on September 30, 2014. Slowly, we had larger numbers of people who began attending our meetings on a regular basis. 

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

Vivek: Our attendees and presenters have included faculty and students from many universities in Spokane, including Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, and Washington State University. Additionally, many Data Scientists and Computer Scientists from different companies representing sectors such as healthcare, finance, utilities, manufacturing, and computing and information technology services, have also attended and presented in our meetings.  

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

Vivek: COVID has taken a toll on how frequently the group has recently met. Before the pandemic, we had been meeting quite frequently; there was a time when we would meet in-person on a monthly basis at the Gonzaga University campus. I’m now hopeful that we can begin to meet in-person again and start meeting more often. 

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

Vivek: I have sent a call out to the group members to invite potential presenters to contact me. Initially, I was paying for the meetup pro account with my money and then we had support from Revolution Analytics and Microsoft. I appreciate the support the R Consortium is now providing to fund the Meetup account that has made communication with the community easier.  


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!

A Survey of Changes around the Tidyverse Package in R

By Blog, Events

Date: Friday, 28th October, 2022 • Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm (WAT)

Register Here: https://forms.gle/TGinG326AgHrfqej7

Join the Osun RUG, Nigeria at their event on A Survey of Changes around the Tidyverse Package in R with special guest, Chief Scientist at RStudio, Hadley Wickham. The core tidyverse includes the packages that you’re likely to use in everyday data analyses. As of tidyverse 1.3.0, the following packages are included in the core tidyverse:

The tidyverse also includes many other packages with more specialized usage. Attend this webinar for an in-depth discussion with the man who invented the tidyverse itself … Prof. Hadley Wickham.

Speaker: Prof. Hadley Wickham

Hadley is Chief Scientist at RStudio, winner of the 2019 COPSS award, and a member of the R Foundation. He builds tools (both computational and cognitive) to make data science easier, faster, and more fun. His work includes packages for data science (like the tidyverse, which includes ggplot2, dplyr, and tidyr)and principled software development (e.g. roxygen2, testthat, and pkgdown). He is also a writer, educator, and speaker promoting the use of R for data science. Learn more on his website: http://hadley.nz


Organizers: Osun RUG, Nigeria (www.rug.org.ng)

Hosting Malaysia’s Largest Annual R Conference

By Blog

Poo Kuan Hoong of the Malaysia R User Group (Also on Facebook) recently talked to the R-Consortium. He discussed the group’s rather smooth transition to regular online events. The group has also shifted its annual R Conference online, with speakers from around the globe.

Kuan Hoong works as a lead Data Scientist at BAT. He has a Ph.D. in Distributed Computing from the Nagoya Institute of Technology and has also previously worked in academia. He founded the Malaysia R User Group in 2015.


How did you get introduced to R?

Back in the day, I used to work as an academic at Multimedia University. At that time, there was a lot of interest in Data Science and Big Data at the university, and R was one of the popular languages. I founded the Malaysia R User Group to get the community to do some knowledge sharing. From there, I have been organizing a lot of knowledge-sharing events and talks. 

I am very passionate about communities and I have also founded another community called the TensorFlow and Deep Learning User Group. So there are two communities I run and manage. 

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

Seven years ago, the Malaysian Government took the initiative to train people in big data analytics. They encouraged people to take a Coursera course and one of the courses offered by the Malaysian government was the Data Science course by John Hopkins

The instructors used R programming language to teach that course. From that time, there was a lot of interest in R and a number of people picked R as a starting language for Data Science. Of course, now many people are also using Python. When I founded the R community, there was a lot of interest in R. R is actually a language that is easily picked by people with non-technical backgrounds, especially people from statistical and math backgrounds.

Industries that use R in Malaysia are mainly finance-related. A famous company that uses R in Malaysia is called MoneyLion. It is an American company and its entire data analytics team is based in Malaysia. The primary language used by the company is R. Besides that, there are a lot of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that use R for simple analytics. A lot of people are now adopting Python because it can be used in Machine learning, Deep Learning, and other AI stuff. I think we should use both languages as both have their own strengths and I encourage people to learn both.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we used to have monthly events where I used to organize a physical meetup with the help of some enterprise like Microsoft or the Malaysian government in providing us with public space. Ever since COVID, all our events have shifted online. Normally we have one or two-hour workshops or talks. We have also started a new full-day event and we call it R confeRence. We are also hosting this conference online since COVID. I think shifting events online is not that bad. The upside of online events is that we can have international speakers for our events without having to arrange for them to fly in. So it saves a lot of logistic arrangements and costs on our end. It is also much easier to get people to attend online events. They can attend events from the ease of their homes and it is also much safer during the pandemic. It is also easier to organize events. Definitely, COVID has changed the way people connect. Nowadays people are more eager to go back to physical events as they want to connect and network.

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

For our group, we use two main social media platforms: Facebook and Meetup. We also have a discord for our members to discuss any R-related problems or challenges they face. For online events, we mainly use Zoom. Most of our events are recorded, and we upload the recordings on our Facebook page. We also use Google Colab for our hands-on workshops, which allows participants to program without having to install R Studio. Many people aren’t aware that they can also use Google Colab for R. We are also exploring R Studio Cloud and trying to educate our members about these cloud-based platforms. We upload all the code from our events on GitHub. We don’t have a GitHub account for our group, so I just use my personal GitHub to share all the codes. 

For our conference, UCT Malaysia partially sponsored the event, so we actually use WebEx. The Cisco WebEx also has a conference tool. 

Our members are quite eager to go back to physical events. But there is a challenge to actually find a venue that is large enough to host a socially distant event. It is also difficult to convince people to attend events wearing a mask and taking proper safety precautions. 

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 would be our annual event. We get some really impressive speakers from big companies like Microsoft and even from the R Studio. 

A more recent presentation I would like to mention is a hands-on workshop on tidyverse using Google Colab. 

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

A good trend I see is that the R Studio now supports Python. Many people have this misconception that R is an old language and R Studio is only for R. So I think R Studio supporting Python allows people to use both programming languages in a single platform. By combining the strength and weaknesses of these languages, they can do their work more efficiently. 

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?

A lot of our members have used data to analyze the COVID trends. There is also a big project called the CovidNow to which our members contributed. It was an open-source project where people contribute analytics using R on the COVID data. 

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

I think an interesting project is the RECON COVID-19 challenge to make the R community improve its COVID-19 resources. I think it is a very relevant project during the pandemic and I find it interesting. That could be something interesting to us. Another interesting project is the Tidy spatial networks in R.

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

I think there’s definitely interest in the R/Business. Because a lot of time people want to know how we can apply R programming language in business and if it’s actually relevant to us. They want to know how they can leverage R for some simple analytics and if that can bring some ROI for the company.  

When is your next event? Please give details!

Our next event is the annual R Conference, scheduled for the 26th-27th of November. It is going to be a two-day event and we have just published the call for speakers. You can find more information on our website: www.r-conference.com 


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!

Bringing Back an R useR Group to Edmonton!

By Blog

The R Consortium recently spoke with Dr. Péter Sólymos, organizer of Edmonton R User Group-Yegrug, Edmonton, Canada, about how his interest in learning R came up, how he currently uses it in his work, and the trends in the language over the next few years. But above all, Péter tells us about the challenges and progress involved in bringing the R community back to Edmonton last year.

Dr. Péter Sólymos is a Senior Data Scientist with a background in biology, environmental science, and computer programming. His work with the creation of end-to-end data analytics, statistics, and ML is focused on streamlining and improving decision-making. He currently facilitates evidence-based decision-making in the public services sector.


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

PS: I am a biologist by training, but early on I started doing a lot of computer work related to statistical analysis. Despite the computer work I was doing, I started learning R a little late. What really got me completely into programming with R was that I was teaching at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest a while back. The Statistics department lost the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) license we were using at the time due to a funding issue, so we had to rewrite the curriculum and decided to go fully open source. We started using R, and the students were very interested in this. For a while, I felt like I was falling behind and needed to catch up. That is how I officially started learning R and I have definitely progressed, to the point where I can now teach it to other people. Since then I have been involved in all sorts of R-related things and the R community.

Previously, there was a user group in 2012 that students started to organize in the area for R, but it ended after two years, and just last year we decided it would be a good idea to bring the group back! It is amazing how useful the R language is. In my work, I use it for estimating all kinds of things, like vegetation- and weather-related power outage risk. I continue to use R in a lot of different ways, from machine learning to statistics and data processing.

What is the R community like in Edmonton? 

PS: Here in Edmonton, students are very interested in R; there is a strong community of developers for Python and JavaScript as well. The computer science department here at the University of Alberta has a very strong background in the subject, particularly Python. But faculty and students from other departments, like biology and statistics, tend to use R.

Alberta has a very strong environmental industry presence, where R has also gained popularity over the past few years.

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

PS: The Edmonton R User Group-Yegrug has been hosting events every month now for the past year. Fortunately, the number of attendees at these meetups has increased since the beginning. We also joined events with the CalgaryR group earlier this year, I did a presentation on “Hosting Data Apps” (https://hosting.analythium.io/ ), a website mostly about Shiny app hosting where I discussed my experience with Shiny. We were only a few members, some of my personal acquaintances included, later we started promoting events through Twitter and Linkedin and we started to make a little more noise. People started to get interested in attending, and we have had more than 30 people attending several virtual events. Since the group started, I have noticed that most of the people interested and those who are easier to reach are those in academia, but we still hope to reach more and more in other industries! 

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

PS: At the beginning, due to COVID, we had to change the way we did things including virtual events only, but afterward it was an advantage because, through our online work, we were able to reach more people. The technique that we use that has worked mainly because most people are familiar with it, and it serves our purposes is Zoom. After our Meetups, we post information and resources through the group’s GitHub. We also use platforms like Meetup for all the tools it has, such as discussion forums, sending updates to attendees, and reaching these people easier by posting events in advance. We are trying to organize our first in-person event in November, we will be using several of these technologies moving forward to continue to reach more members as well as the local community in Edmonton. 

Collages by Péter Sólymos

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

PS: The trends I see for the next year in the R language are the changes and focus on multilingual tools, leading to more interaction between them, and making it even easier to add stunning visualizations.

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

PS: I attended the UseR! 2022 Conference, which was really amazing, it was a huge online event. I also gave a presentation on Best practices for Shiny apps with Docker. Another event I really liked was the rstudio::conf(2022), this one was in person, and for me, it was amazing that we are restarting these types of events. For rstudio::conf, they broadcasted the live event which made it easier as I was able to attend the events live from my home.

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

PS: I definitely think R-Ladies is a great one. I am not very sure if there is an active R-Ladies chapter here in Edmonton, but I know other similar groups like Women in Engineering (https://womeninengg.ca/), and I am glad that these kinds of activities take place.

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

PS: Our next event is on October 27th on Binary packages on Ubuntu with r2u by Dirk Eddelbuettel. We also plan a meetup event every last Thursday of the month, you can check out our Meetup for updates!

As for our plans for next year, we are very excited. Some colleagues have already expressed interest in speaking at either our usual meetups or at a larger-scale event next year.


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!

New Repositories Working Group

By Blog, News


The R Validation Hub is happy to announce the Regulatory R Repository Working Group, which will be tasked with designing and prototyping the tools to support a cross-pharma, collaborative repository of regulated use case suitable R packages – You can imagine the end result as being a CRAN-like service for systematically vetting packages for regulated use and providing access to high-quality packages. For this, we are looking for new contributors and expertise.

Other Opportunities to Get Involved!

The Hub has two further active technology work streams:

Each of these has been running for a while now but underwent a change in leadership over the summer following the industry departures of Marly Gotti and Yilong Zhang to Apple and Meta respectively.  I’m pleased to say that Eric Milliman (riskmetric) and Aaron Clark (Risk Assessment app) have now picked up the baton(s) and are working together on a joint roadmap to take us forward. 

If you’d like to know more, we’ve just published a new page on the website describing each of our work streams.  Please check it out and, if you have something to contribute, get in touch through the website.

Case Studies

We’re still happy to receive case studies following the three sessions earlier in the year (available to watch here).  These can be oral presentations, or if you would like to write up your case study then we welcome additions to the GitHub repository. Again, please reach out if you would like to know more.

Acing Virtual Events with Networking Sessions and Collaboration

By Blog

The R Consortium recently caught up with Alyssa Columbus of R-Ladies Irvine (also on MeetUp and Twitter) to discuss the group’s progress during the pandemic. Alyssa discussed the group’s efforts to remain active and provide networking opportunities for its members. The group has also formed strong collaborative ties with other R user groups in Southern California.

Alyssa is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University as a Vivien Thomas Scholar. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master’s degree in Applied and Computational Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University. She founded R-Ladies Irvine in 2018.


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

The R community in Irvine can be described in two words: dynamic and collaborative. I founded R-Ladies Irvine as a chapter of R-Ladies Global, and it was the first of its kind in Orange County, California in 2018. We have grown to around 630 members in less than five years, and our group works in collaboration with other R user groups in the Southern California area, including the SoCal R User Group, R-Ladies San Diego, and the Santa Barbara R Users group. You can find more information about this network of R user groups at the Southern California R Users website. Also, our group has collaborated with other groups outside of the R community, including Seattle Women in Machine Learning and Data Science, the Orange County/Long Beach Chapter of the American Statistical Association, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Orange County section. Ever since I founded R-Ladies Irvine, I have noticed that R has become more prevalent in multiple industries in Irvine. I know colleagues who work in the retail, marketing, and pharmaceutical industries in Irvine who all use R in their work. I have also used R while employed in the financial services industry in the area. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

We haven’t held any in-person events since January 2020. However, we have regularly held virtual events. We’ve worked very hard during the pandemic to support all of our members in their careers by sharing employment opportunities and offering networking sessions and programming tutorials. Some of our members even found jobs and got hired during the pandemic through connections that they made through our networking sessions. 

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, and online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people who are unable to attend physical events in the future?  

We had to change almost every logistical strategy that we had previously used to coordinate our meetings. We quickly pivoted to using Zoom and heavily relied on its breakout room feature for our networking activities. We found that breakout rooms provide a convenient way to place people into groups for more spontaneous conversations. We also have a GitHub repository for our group. 

In addition, having a YouTube channel for all recordings of our presentations wasn’t something that was on our radar before, but during the pandemic, we have been able to record our online presentations via Zoom and upload them to our YouTube channel for the entire world to benefit from. As the pandemic has continued, we’ve realized that holding our events online not only helps us keep our members safe but also allows us to record the content of our meetings for posterity and distribution to anyone who wants to attend our events but can’t for any reason. Another interesting effect we have seen through holding meetings online is that we have been able to help women outside of Irvine and the general Southern California area with their R knowledge. We have had members come to our meetings from not only places across the United States but also countries around the world. Going forward, I think it would be beneficial to keep our meetings mostly, if not entirely, online for greater inclusivity and to be able to teach and provide R resources to as many women as possible.

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

A recent presentation that we hosted in October 2021 was ”Teaching and learning Bayesian Statistics  (with bayesrules)” It was a joint meeting between our group and the SoCal RUG, and our speaker was Mine Dogucu

Her talk here was incredible. She discussed the current popularity of Bayesian Statistics in data science, gave an introductory course in Bayesian Statistics, and shared tools for teaching and learning Bayesian Statistics with the bayesrules package. She also introduced the open-access book, ”Bayes rules! An introduction to Bayesian modeling with R”, which she had recently published at that time. It was fascinating to hear about Bayesian Statistics and her experience writing her book with her collaborators. 

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

I have seen a sharp increase in the popularity of Quarto. I think that the popularity of Quarto will increase more in the upcoming year, and our group will have a parallel trend. I believe many of our documents written in R Markdown will transition to Quarto, and we will start writing our new tutorial and reference documents in Quarto as well. 

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

My favorite is the R-Ladies project that was funded in 2020, which was titled, ”Consolidating R-Ladies Global Organizational Guidance and Wisdom”. It aimed to make an open source online book that combined all of the existing R-Ladies documentation and guidance into one easy-to-find and easy-to-use resource. This project received $4000 in funding, which is remarkable. 

This is my favorite project because it not only supports R-Ladies’ mission, but it also keeps it current and provides information to help future chapter volunteers get involved in the organization. I have personally used this book and found it very helpful for trying different meeting strategies (e.g.,  icebreakers and networking ideas). 

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

It’s tough to choose a favorite among the active working groups since they are all working on pretty exciting projects. I’d have to say my favorite is the R7 package, or the Object-Oriented Programming Working Group. Since it aims to build a new OOP language system (i.e., R7 package) that would succeed S3 and S4, I think it has tremendous potential to improve R and by extension, R’s vast package ecosystem in the long term. I also admire the level of collaboration in this working group and how it has members from the R development core team, RStudio/Posit, and the R-Ladies community.  

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

We currently don’t have any events planned, but stay updated via our Meetup and Twitter account!


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!

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!