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R Lille Group Organizer, Mickaël Canouil, Talks About Guiding New Users

By June 29, 2022June 30th, 2022Blog

R Consortium talks to Mickaël Canouil about the idea of reproducible teaching tools, cross-platform support, and the use of package building in his community. Mickaël says one of the most important things we can do to ensure that a language stays relevant is to ensure that we have new people using the language.

What is the R community like in Lille?

MC: It is quite new. We (Mathilde Boissel, Julien Hamonier, and I) started the R Lille Meetup group right before the pandemic in February 2020, unfortunately. Our meetings are currently held online, and it’s tricky to start and run groups that way. We don’t know a lot about our members personally, because we only had two meetings before the first lockdown due to the pandemic, which forced us to stop. Our last in-person meeting, and first actual Meetup, was last autumn (2020). It is hard to build a core group and get them together in that context.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

MC: When we started we wanted to hold our meetings in person. Due to the pandemic, this wasn’t possible. Because of this, we didn’t have a lot of meetings in 2020. At some point in the last few months, I started to invite speakers I was interested in to talk to R Lille. From this, we started to have virtual meetings, recorded and made available on YouTube.

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?  

MC: We have a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, and a GitHub organization where we post materials (or links) and everything related to R Lille. These are the main ways that we are communicating with our members. The R Lille website was recently updated using Quarto and submissions for our meetups are now handled by GitHub Pull Request.

Also, to promote the French R meetup, R Lille and Tunis R User Group started a collaboration in 2022, with two recorded meetups on {shiny} (

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? 

MC: Two of the first people that I invited were Will Landau, who gave a talk on his package {targets}, and Sébastien Rochette on how to build a package with the RMD first approach. This lets you build packages using RMD without knowing how to work with packages, which I thought was interesting. I started to use {targets} around the same period and promoted it in my lab as well. Since, R Lille hosted Maëlle Salmon, Aniss Louchez, Mohamed Fodil (collaboration with Tunis R User Group), Margot Brard (collaboration with Tunis R User Group), and Florian Privé on resiliency, spatial analysis, shiny and statistical computation (recording available on Youtube).

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

MC: The {targets} package will be one for sure. Many of R Lille members were really interested after the meetup and were planning to use it. In my lab, we are also talking about {future}verse for parallel computing. Those are the two major trends that I see. In addition, the publishing system Quarto which works as {Rmarkdown} but more independently is really promising.

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?

MC: We don’t have any in our group, far as I know, and I don’t follow a lot of media, so I’m not aware of anything in that particular field. In a way that might be a good thing (i.e., to not follow much media), since and especially during the pandemic, journalists and people were using statistics to report things that were incorrect and/or based on incorrect assumptions.

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

MC: The R Ladies group because the community is quite active, which is nice. I also like projects that help with cross-platform support to make sure that packages stay on CRAN (e.g., R-hub).

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

MC: I am particularly interested in R Repositories, especially the R-universe project by Jeroen Ooms. The R-Universe project is a great platform to get R packages from R developers in a more “social network” like approach than CRAN, in addition, to providing built packages.

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?

o  The current four projects are:

MC: Something related to teaching and education, i.e., formal teaching tools and work on reproducible science that can be used to teach. There are {learnr}, {gradethis} or {exams} which help create teaching materials and tutorials, including grading. This means you can use R to both teach in R and use it as a way to grade assignments in the class. You would be able to teach R in R and use R at the same time.

RC: When is your next event? Please give details!

MC: The next event is not yet scheduled, but will be in person (possibly hybrid) in September to gather R Lille members around some short presentation (likely to be around Quarto). We have meetings with other french groups and are continuing it on an ongoing basis. These are hybrid events in-person and virtual with french speakers and other collaborations. A lot of the RUGS organizers tend to be involved in other RUGS groups as well.

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 accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!