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Announcing the New R User Groups, Conferences, and Training Program

By Announcement, Blog

The R Consortium is pleased to announce the new 2022 R User Groups (RUGs), Conferences and Training program. This is an updated version of the RUGS program of previous years that aims to put more structure around the process of applying for support for R-themed conferences and training sessions.

The RUGS Program

The RUGS program supports R user groups and will operate in much the same way as the 2020 and 2021 RUGS programs. Because we are still all under the shadow of COVID-19, we expect user groups to hold on-line and/or in-person meetings. 

RUGS grants will have two parts: Meetup.com support and cash grants. All user groups applying for the program, except for R-Ladies groups, will be automatically enrolled in our RUGS meetup.com RUGS Pro account. If you receive a grant, we will pay the meetup.com fees for your program for the year. R-Ladies has its own Meetup.com Pro account so you need to apply directly to R-Ladies to participate. Also note that if you are already participating in our RUGS meetup.com program and you are not seeking a cash grant, you do not need to reapply.

If you are seeking a cash grant for your user group, please be explicit about how much money you are seeking and what you intend to do with the funds. Be conservative, we need to make our pool of grant money cover the entire globe. All RUGS including R-Ladies groups are eligible to apply for cash grants. 

Conference Grants

Formerly, the RUGs program was intended only for small conferences where all cash grants were limited to $1000. While $1000 is still the limit for small events, now there is a place on the enrollment form to seek funding for larger conferences. Of course, the more funds you are seeking the more justification you must provide about how your conference will benefit the R Community. Please do not apply for a conference grant until your conference website is up.

Training Sessions

Training sessions are a new category this year. Previously we treated training sessions as conferences. We realize conferences and training sessions are very different and that training sessions should be judged with their own set of criteria.

For details on requirements for each type of grant, visit the R User Groups, Conferences, and Training page on the R Consortium website and select “RUGs Program” under the Projects tab at the top of the R Consortium home page. Be sure to check the correct box on the application form.

The RUGS, Conferences and Training program for 2022 will be accepting requests for funding through the end of September 2022.

ISC Call for Proposals – Now Accepting Applications

By Announcement, Blog

The first 2022 call for proposals for R Consortium Infrastructure Steering (ISC) grants is now open and will be accepting proposals through May 1, 2022. This year, the R Consortium has restructured its grant programs to allow the ISC to focus on technical projects. If you are contemplating a technical project that you think will have a significant impact on a relatively large segment of the R Community, please apply for a grant at the link above where you will find guidance on the kinds of projects the ISC is looking for, instructions on how to apply, as well information on the grant process. 

Select “Funded Projects” from the “Projects” tab on the R Consortium home page. You will see a pull down box that points you to the previous projects funded by the ISC. Searching through these projects is not only a great way to review the history of ISC funding, but also a place to look for inspiration. 

A typical ISC grant ranges between $5,000 and $20,000 and is structured in such a way that intermediate milestones correspond to meaningful work. If you look through the history of what the ISC funded in the past, you will find several examples of important projects that received additional grants over time. The ISC occasionally awards larger grants, but if you are seeking a large grant your best strategy is still to structure your project in a way that delivers value by way of intermediate milestones.

Since our first ISC call for proposals in 2016, the R Consortium has awarded $1.4M in grants. Help us help you make the R ecosystem even more awesome by organizing the good work that you may already be doing in a way that could be accelerated with a grant.

Note, if you are seeking funding for an R User Group, a conference, or for delivering a training session please don’t apply for an ISC grant. Instead, apply for a grant at the R User Groups, Conferences, and Training page.

COVID-19 Data Hub Paper Published in Nature Scientific Data

By Blog

“A worldwide epidemiological database for COVID-19 at fine-grained spatial resolution” by COVID-19 Data Hub developer, Emanuele Guidotti was published in Scientific Data on the March 28, 2022, and is available to view online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-022-01245-1 (DOI  10.1038/s41597-022-01245-1).

The R Consortium is proud to be a sponsor of the COVID-19 Data Hub. We believe that the need for accessible, organized, official COVID-19 case data will persist for some time into the future, and that the COVID-19 Data Hub is a serious contribution to science and public health.

— Joseph B. Rickert, Chair R Consortium Board of Directors

PAPER ABSTRACT 

This database provides the daily time-series of COVID-19 cases, deaths, recovered people, tests, vaccinations, and hospitalizations, for more than 230 countries, 760 regions, and 12,000 lower-level administrative divisions. The geographical entities are associated with identifiers to match with hydrometeorological, geospatial, and mobility data. The database includes policy measures at the national and, when available, sub-national levels. The data acquisition pipeline is open-source and fully automated. As most governments revise the data retrospectively, the database always updates the complete time-series to mirror the original source. Vintage data, immutable snapshots of the data taken each day, are provided to ensure research reproducibility. The latest data are updated on an hourly basis, and the vintage data are available since April 14, 2020. All the data are available in CSV files or SQLite format. By unifying the access to the data, this work makes it possible to study the pandemic on a global scale with high resolution, taking into account within-country variations, nonpharmaceutical interventions, and environmental and exogenous variables.

Sylhet R User Group in Bangladesh Hopes to Get Back on Track with Physical Events

By Blog

R Consortium talked to Bolaram Paul of the Sylhet R User Group about the challenges faced by the group because of the pandemic. As a group focused on physical events, they could not readily shift their events online. However, they are hopeful things will return to normal and they will organize physical meetups again. Bolaram also shared his vision of creating, as well as translating, R resources to the local language, to further facilitate the adoption of R in the country.

Bolaram is a Senior Web Developer who is passionate about open source technologies. He has been working with the open software communities and is also pursuing his Master’s degree in Computer Science. 

What is the R community like in Bangladesh?

The R community in Sylhet is still in its early stages, although there are many R users in academia and industry in Bangladesh. R is getting popular in banking, e-commerce, finance, and many more sectors and people are getting more interested.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

We used to organize offline events in educational institutions, so that we could interact physically. Because of the outbreak of the pandemic, the government banned public gatherings. As we were not familiar with online events, the pandemic really affected our ability to connect. However, now things are getting back to normal, and we are planning to organize online events as well.

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 of people that cannot attend physical events in the future? 

As we were used to offline programs, we didn’t use these technologies. But basically starting now, because of the COVID-19 situation, we are researching techniques to boost our communications and interactions. 

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 got a presentation from one lecturer at a local university. He discussed the diversity of R applications in various sectors and real-life use cases of R language. He made the talk really interesting by using images, and it captured my interest.

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

Because of the pandemic, the entire world is facing a crisis. I hope we’ll find the best solutions to fight this crisis. My expectation for the next few years is to create or translate more R resources into our local language. I believe it will make interactions easy, and we will get more contributions in the development of R packages and usage examples in different disciplines.

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?

As far as I know, not in our community. I noticed a few local NGOs using data to analyze oxygen plant/bed/health supplement stock in nearest hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak to help people. I believe data journalism is the future and journalists need to be data-savvy. We will try to organize a training session on data journalism.

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

My favorite is the RECON COVID-19 Challenge. It is a really helpful project for analytics resources in R, to support the response to COVID-19 worldwide.

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

R / Business. This ISC group works with the R programming environment and the R ecosystem in business research. This is very helpful for making optimal decisions based on data analysis and helps small startups make perfect decisions.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have not scheduled our next event yet. We are hoping to schedule it soon.

UPDATE: Successful R-based Test Package Submitted to FDA

By Blog

The R Consortium is happy to announce that the R Submissions Working Group successfully completed the follow-up to the original pilot 1 eCTD submission! All submission materials can be found at: https://github.com/RConsortium/submissions-pilot1-to-fda

The pilot 1 test submission was an example submission package following eCTD specifications which included a proprietary R package, R scripts for analysis, R-based analysis data reviewer guide (ADRG), and other required eCTD components.

The initial submission was submitted through the eCTD gateway on Nov 22, 2021. An FDA written response letter was received on Dec 3, 2021. The FDA response commented on two minor findings and included a number of suggestions for best practices. The updated submission package addressed all of these issues and was submitted on Feb 11, 2022. The final response letter from FDA was received on Mar 14, 2022, and can be found at: https://github.com/RConsortium/submissions-wg/blob/main/Documents/Summary_R_Pilot_Submission2.pdf .

Throughout the submission process, we successfully submitted R scripts with its natural file extension (.r) through the eCTD gateway. A proprietary R package was also submitted through the eCTD gateway. Following the submitted ADRG, the FDA staff successfully installed the proprietary and open source R packages, reran the submitted R scripts, and reproduced the analysis results. In addition, the FDA staff performed independent programming in R to evaluate the results.

To our knowledge, this was the first publicly-available regulatory submission package using open source language; this successful pilot sets an important milestone to streamline future open-source language-based submissions. 

As a next step, the R Consortium R Submission Working Group aims at initiating an R submission pilot 2 to experiment with Shiny app code submission through the eCTD gateway. In addition, the working group is also exploring R based pilot submissions to other health authority agencies globally. 

The initial announcement of the R Consortium R Submission pilot 1 can be found at: https://www.r-consortium.org/blog/2021/12/08/successful-r-based-test-package-submitted-to-fda

Eswatini R Users Group Forging Ahead Despite Pandemic Hurdles

By Blog

R Consortium recently caught up with Emmanuel Olamijuwon and Nontsikelelo Shongwe, organizers of the Eswatini R Users Group (Twitter: EswatiniUseR). They discussed how the R user base is growing in Eswatini and how the pandemic has affected them. (Eswatini is located in southeastern Africa, surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.) Although the COVID pandemic really affected their community, the group is gearing up to restore the former status quo before the pandemic hit.

What is the R community like in Eswatini?

The R community in Eswatini is expanding significantly, and we are optimistic it will continue doing so. Apart from tertiary students and the corporate world, there have been calls for adoption and use of Free and Open-Source Software in teaching and learning in Eswatini’s secondary and high school. This is perhaps the reason behind the growth of the R community in the country.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

The COVID pandemic has greatly affected us. We haven’t been able to meet physically because of the restrictions that came with the pandemic. Having virtual meetings has also been impossible due to limited internet connectivity — not everyone has internet access because of the cost — and for those with internet access, the speed is slow. 

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? 

The Internet has always been a challenge that’s why we haven’t been able to use any online platforms, such as GitHub or Zoom. We have only used WhatsApp, but only for the organizers so we could share important communications.

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

We had Heather Turner do a presentation on diversity and inclusion in R. It was exciting to see what R-Ladies community groups are doing and how we fit in as a community.

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

I am not sure if this is a trend, but I would love to see R incorporated with Python. Not necessarily to see which language is better but in order to get maximum results from the two. 

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?

Currently not really any. However, we heard in the local newspaper of an initiative UN Eswatini was running to educate journalists in the country about data journalism. That’s the only data journalism project we have heard about.

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

Emmanuel: I love the Setting up an R-Girls Schools Network project. It is my favorite probably because I joined the R community through R-Ladies South Africa. I had gone to one of their meetings and one of the organizers advised me to start an R-User group so I started. I love its goal which is to increase representation and participation of girls in R. This happens to be one of the things I would love to see as well.

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

Nontsikelelo: My favorite is R/Pharma. It is my favorite because it focuses on easening decision-making environments and health technology assessment for Health Analysts through utilizing R. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We are still in talks with other organizers when we can have our next meeting.

Hiring a New Community Manager for rOpenSci

By Blog

From the rOpenSci Project

The rOpenSci project, a developer collective that develops tools and fosters community to enable open science with R, is hiring a new community manager. rOpenSci is an avenue recruiting new talent into the R ecosystem and a hotbed of experimentation of approaches to package design and infrastructure for R.  Our work is only as strong as our community, though, and the community manager plays the central role in bringing in new members, fostering collaborations, and maintaining the welcoming and positive experience that keeps that community strong. Thanks to an award from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, this position will help lead a new program to recruit and support open-source leaders from historically underrepresented communities, working with affinity groups like Minorities in R, LatinR, AfricaR, R community, and R-Ladies.


The job is fully remote and has no geographic restrictions. A full job description and application form can be found at https://ropensci.org/careers/community-manager-2022 

Risk Assessment Shiny App – Update from R Validation Hub

By Blog

Recent update by Marly Cormar on the Risk Assessment Shiny App. Marly is an executive committee member of the R Validation Hub where she advocates for the use of R within a biopharmaceutical regulatory setting, and Senior Data Scientist at Biogen.

The Risk Assessment App is an interactive web application serving as a front end application for the riskmetric R package. riskmetric is a framework to quantify risk by assessing a number of metrics meant to evaluate development best practices, code documentation, community engagement, and development sustainability. The app and riskmetric aim to provide some context for validation within regulated industries.

Update details:

Murcia R Users Group (UMUR) in Spain Didn’t Let the Pandemic Break its Momentum

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked with Aurora González Vidal of UMUR Asociación de Usuarios de R Murcia (Also on Twitter). She covered the historic involvement of Murcia in the evolution of R in Spain and the progressive nature of the R community in Spain. Although the original community spirit of the group has suffered during the pandemic, shifting events online has also significantly increased the reach of the group. With two future events already planned, the group has held on to its pace and is also hopeful to host hybrid events in the future.

Aurora has been the president of the R Murcia Users Organization since it was established in 2017. She is also a postdoctoral researcher in the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence at the Faculty of Computer Science, University of Murcia. In her free time, she enjoys playing sports, including climbing and krav magá (self-defense). She is also an avid reader and loves playing the saxophone.

What is the R community like in Spain?

I consider that the R community in Spain is very active, and it consists of multidisciplinary researchers and people in business. Some of my colleagues also work for banks and engineering companies and they are introducing R in their work environment. Adoption of R in industry is still in its early stages and mostly as a personal effort from the employees.

I was told that in 2009, before I started at the university, there were some individual R users spread through Spain that belonged to Linux mailing lists and statistical forums. They gathered here in Murcia for the first time to share knowledge and experience at a national R conference. It was special because here in Spain, bigger events happen in Madrid and Barcelona. Since then, there is an annual conference that grows more every year. 10 years later, in 2019, we celebrated the Xth conference again in Murcia and there were 144 attendees, 32 talks, workshops, posters, a prize, and 2 invited speakers that are prominent references in the R-world: François Husson, who was there in person, and Julia Silge, who gave her talk remotely from Utah. I think in Spain we are very passionate about R and the ecosystem around it because it relates to progress and sharing. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Our original community has suffered a lot because the main activities that we performed, the bi-monthly workshops, had a powerful component of being present. Seeing each other’s faces and getting to know the people, getting to share ideas by having a coffee together after the workshop, was an important part of our spirit. So the original idea of the workshop has suffered. 

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 of people that cannot attend physical events in the future?  

We are using Zoom, and some of our speakers have decided to publish their code on GitHub. It’s something we promote, but not something we ask for. Normally, how it works is that we work a lot through mailing lists. So when someone wants to become a member, they fill out a questionnaire, and we communicate through email. If there is any discussion, it goes through email. We normally provide a doodle to select days for workshops so that every member can vote. In other words, apart from video conferencing, there is nothing new in particular that has happened during the pandemic.

Since we started offering the workshops online because of the pandemic, we have enlarged our community. We engage people not only from our region but also people from other local groups in Spain, and even in Latin America. We also started a YouTube channel that gives our content a projection. It’s great because we get to analyze the interests of the audience from the views on your YouTube channel. For those things I am happy, and the idea is to continue with a hybrid setup in the future, once it is safe to gather again. 

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? 

Our most recent workshop was very interesting. Jose Vicente Yago, a colleague of mine, who is a data analyst in the Computer Sciences Faculty of the University of Murcia, gave it. It was about creating R packages and deploying them as APIs for machine learning applications. I think this is especially interesting because once we create a function, a set of functions, or even a package, there is the possibility of exposing them to any platform or to any client that does not want to be aware of how R works. It was great, and it is currently available on our channel and also the code is on GitHub. This is not something we ask for because every talk is different, but we encourage the speakers to publish their content, and we support them.

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

I see that people at the organization are very interested in R for education, R for ecology, and artificial intelligence. A more transversal interest is always developing Shiny apps. Our vice-president already gave a workshop about flexdashboards, and we are thinking of offering a talk about shiny extension packages for theming, UI components, visualizations, etc.

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?

There is a local R organization, named R-Quixote, from Toledo with which we collaborate frequently. Through them, the editor of the digital journal “The Data Science Magazine” contacted us to help in a section that is an R course. Some members of UMUR, the organization, especially the ones on the directive board, have collaborated previously, providing R courses to Ph.D. students, professors at the university, and other professionals. I will try to get many members involved in this project. 

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

Personally, from my research and academic view, I would say that the Google Earth Engine with R is amazing. In smart agriculture, satellite images are really useful for detecting problems with crops. 

And then also from a social point of view, the R Girls Schools network sounds amazing too. I think this is something we can also do as a local group. We could try to go to schools, teach what is coding and empower girls from school to choose Data Analysis and Computer Science as careers. So these two things would be my favorites from the funded projects. 

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

I think R Certification is very useful because at this point we use online courses, we try on our own but there is a lack of institutions or certification that can provide proof of proficiency in R. So that would be useful.

And also the Distributive Computing working group. Because many times there is this belief that we can only work sequentially in R. Of course parallel computing is possible but people aren’t aware, so these efforts are interesting and useful. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have already planned the following two talks. The first one will be about CARET from a predictive point of view and with a focus on biotechnology. There is a lot of expectation with that one. The second one will be a presentation of a package named mapSpain() that is in CRAN. The author himself will show how the package can create maps of the different administrative levels of Spain with R. 

How Abidjan R User Group Is Leveraging Online Meetups To Go Beyond Borders

By Blog

Anicet Ebou is a PhD student in Bioinformatics at the Institut National Polytechnique Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY de Yamoussoukro (INP-HB), Ivory Coast. He works as a bioinformatician to design tools and methods for molecular and agricultural data, and he is one of the lead organizers of Abidjan R user group.

Anicet talks to the R-consortium on the status of their community group especially during this post COVID era. He also shares the trends in the R language which he feels will affect the global R user community.

What is the R community like in the Ivory Coast?

Our community is medium-sized in terms of number of members. We have around 500 active members. The community is composed of people who are very interested in the R language. We have people from academia, students, professions in the field of data science, networks and IT.

Majority of the members come from academia. We have PhD students, researchers, university lecturers etc. Our members have done interesting projects in R which we keep in our Google Drive folder.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

When COVID hit our country, it was not easy for us because we had to find a new way to meet and continue with our programs. After realizing that the pandemic was not going away anytime soon, we switched to online.

All the meetings we had in 2020 were online, and we would have at least one physical meeting a month. In 2021 it was more difficult to have in-person meetings despite that the COVID situation was calm and the restrictions were lessened.

Our community members now prefer online meetings to physical ones. In 2020, we used to book a small room at one of the universities and invite only a few people to attend while the rest were streaming at home. I think this is what has made our members more inclined to online meetings than physical meetings. Whenever we call for a physical meeting, they always ask for an option to stream online.

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?  

What we have learned from 2020 through 2021 is that people are now used to having everything online. This has prompted us to switch to video conferencing for all our meetups. I think one of the mistakes we made in 2020 was that we were not quick to discern that our community was turning virtual.

We tried organizing in-person meetings in 2021, but the community was not reactive. We have learnt that it’s better to have on-site meetings only for bigger meetings like conferences, hands-on training, and leaving the rest for online. Online meetings are what people now prefer.

Apart from video conferencing, we have a Telegram channel where people ask questions and help one another. I believe these techniques are going to be more effective for us as a community because people are able to connect from anywhere.

Our online meetings always draw people from outside Abidjan and also from outside the country such as Senegal and Mali. Transitioning to online has eliminated geographical barriers. 

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

We had Abraham Bio do a presentation on the use of Shiny to create web apps. It was interesting because it gave the participants an opportunity to see what R is capable of doing.

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

What I have seen is that people are more interested with the use of spatial analysis in R, like how to draw maps, and view spatial data. People are also interested in linking R with Shiny to create web applications, and also how to transform data in R. These are the three major areas we are planning to address as a community this year. 

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 haven’t seen any data journalism from any of our members, but it seems to be a trending topic in the data science space. We are thinking of having a meeting in line with that this year to motivate people who would want to go into this field.

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

My  favorite is the Extendr – Rust extension for R because Rust is a new language and is memory safe. I feel it is a good language to get into R. I work with Rusty on a regular basis that’s why I love this project.

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

I really like the Distributed Computing in R working group because my day-to-day job involves working with algorithms and how to optimize them. This area interests me because everything we use in R involves data structures and making sure the design is perfect.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have our next event in February. The executive team will be meeting soon to decide on the agenda and the date.