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. The wealth of knowledge in the community and the drive to learn and improve is inspiring. We had a chance to talk with Jiun Siew, Data Scientist and organizer of R User Group Melbourne, to find out more about the R community in Melbourne, how they’re holding up during the pandemic, trends in R, and what the future holds.
If you are interested in applying to the RUGS program for your organization, see the How do I Join? section at the end of this article.
RC: What is the R community like in Melbourne?
Melbourne has a vibrant community, with a mixture of students, professionals, and industries involved. Our R Meetup has almost 3,000 members who are interested in R and Data Science. We do get a little support in organizing from some of the companies in the area.
RC: How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?
Melbourne had a very strict lockdown happen. We had a 5km travel radius where we were allowed to travel, restrictions on going to grocery stores, and the like. Because of that, we couldn’t meet in person. To get around this, we did our meetings primarily on Zoom.
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?
In the last meetup in November, WhyHive, who does analytics using Shiny, did a presentation for the work they did for the International Women’s Development Agency. It was amazing to see, and they were such a young crew. WhyHive is a social enterprise that works with non-profits to analyze and make data-driven decisions. Typically, our Zoom meetings with higher turnout tend to be around 30 to 40 people. For this one, we had 70 to 80. The conversation for this was so good that we had to cut off questions to them at the end due to time.
RC: What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?
The overall trend where more of our users are going is Tidyverse and all things Tidy. For better or worse, it is where our users tend to be going. We have seen a lot of time series, tidy objects, tidy models, and the like. In our organization, it has become almost the de facto method, to the point where people don’t usually use For loops anymore.
RC: When is your next event? Please give details!
We are currently in the planning stage, and we are looking for a speaker. More details to come soon!
RC: Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?
Due to my work, Mater 2.0 stuck out to me. It would be very nice to deal with larger data frames. It would help with scaling projects to a larger size.
RC: Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?
The ones that I saw, distributive computing, were really interesting. Being able to scale is one of the problems and one of the limitations that our members run into. You can multithread it or hack parallels or distribute a job, but it would be awesome if it were more native. This would also help with scaling projects up for people who work in industry.
RC: 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?
I think there should be more put into diversity and inclusion. This is a really important field that I believe should be emphasized. Another one would be looking into scalability in R and making it more usable in work environments. I attended an R User Conference in Brisbane some years ago, and what I saw showed a lack of scaling. In industry we try to use R in production, and the lack of scalability is an issue in R. This issue is becoming more important.
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 4 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!