By Amanda Hart, Co-organizer of South Coast MA UseR Group
2020 was a year of firsts: first global pandemic in my lifetime, first year working remotely, first year not traveling home for the holidays, and on a more positive note the first year for the South Coast MA UseR Group. Just before lockdown I had the opportunity to join an Openscapes workshop led by Julia Stewart Lowndes. I spent the week thinking about open data science and learning about tools to aid in collaboration, but I never expected to need to exercise those tools so quickly or extensively. Overnight my community changed. Offices closed, schools closed, classes turned into remote learning experiments, and my community of students and coworkers scattered. This is when the South Coast MA UseR Group was born.
Our R user group started as an excuse to stay in touch and build on the small community formed by the Openscapes workshop. I found a wonderful co-organizer, Amanda Meli, and together we started our monthly meetings. We invited anyone remotely interested in R to join our fledgling group and take the opportunity to “see” people again. Over the course of this last year, our local R user community in southern Massachusetts, USA, expanded to include students and professionals from across Massachusetts, the U.S. and the world with several guest speakers calling in from abroad (one of the benefits of remote meetings).
In so many ways 2020 was a hot mess, but our monthly UseR meetings have been a welcome source of consistency, community, and learning throughout. We are continuing our remote meetings as we start year two, but with any luck (and a dash of science) I look forward to meeting some of my newfound community members in person in the coming months. But until that hope is realized I cannot thank enough my co-organizer, group members, guest speakers, and behind the scenes supporters for making this crazy year better.