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Eskisehir R Users Group in Turkey Talks About Pushing Boundaries During the Lockdown

By November 23, 2021Blog

The R consortium talked to Mustafa CAVUS of the Eskisehir R Users Group (also on Twitter) about handling group activities during the pandemic. Mustafa shared that online events during the pandemic have allowed their group to evolve as a global forum for Turkish R users and hybrid events in the future will help them further increase their reach. 

Mustafa is working as an Assistant Professor at Eskisehir Technical University, Department of Statistics and is also a visiting Postdoc Researcher at Warsaw University of Technology, Faculty of Mathematics and Information Science. His research interests are in the areas of AutoML and Explainable AI.

What is the R community like in Turkey?

There are many R users in academia and industry in Turkey. Many people have become interested in package development and Shiny development beyond being a user. Especially in recent years the interest I have seen in the use of R in several fields in Turkey amazes me. From a statistician’s point of view I can see some interesting examples in urban planning and landscape architecture using geo-spatial data. I can say that there is a really large number of R users and enthusiasts in Turkey.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Actually our user group was founded just before the pandemic. When we were planning our first meeting, we were unable to plan a face-to-face event due to the pandemic and we conducted all our activities online. Although this reduced the overall quality of communication, it also enabled us to meet many people outside of Eskisehir. 

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 certainly use these methods e.g. video conferencing through Zoom is used often. I think many events will be planned as hybrids in future as we get better at using these techniques. And we are also using virtual tools to provide easy access to many people all over the world. We produced some content in the pandemic period for our Youtube Channel in Turkish with Uğur Dar, co-organizer of our 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? 

As an Eskisehir R user group we had the opportunity to get together with R users from different cities in Turkey and even the world at the events we started. Over the time our group has evolved into a forum that is not just local. 

We turned this harmony which we achieved together with Turkish R users living in different countries into a great environment. 

The online conference we held in April 2021 with the support of Why R? Foundation and, of course, the R consortium, was the largest R conference held in Turkey to date with over 2500 registered and 800 on spot participants. We as an organization committee wrote about the details and our experiences in the “Conference Report of Why R? Turkey 2021 (PDF)” which was published in the latest issue of the R Journal also. 

I think that each presentation at this event was interesting because it appealed to different audiences.

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

Actually I know that with the conference held in April 2021 many researchers and professionals from industry started to work together by using R. My expectation for the next year is that this interaction will continue to increase, and we will see interesting usage examples of R in several 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, but there is a quite interesting project on data journalism in Turkey called VeriPie. A group of undergraduate students from the department of statistics of Middle East Technical University are engaged in up-to-date data journalism practices mostly using R.

When is your next event? Please give details!

Actually, we are working on an online conference that we plan to organize for Turkish R users in the second quarter of 2022. The overwhelming interest in the event we organized last year motivated us to organize a more extensive event. It will consist of lightning talks, regular talks and also invited speakers. Last year our event just consisted of invited speakers. 

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

This is a really tough question I think. My favorite is the RECON COVID-19 Challenge. It is a really promising project and actually I had interest in it but I couldn’t find enough time to contribute. 

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

I would say R Medicine because I have been working on Medical datasets lately in my postdoc period.