Skip to main content

R Ladies Santa Rosa Leading with Other R Communities in Latin America to Create More Accessibility

By July 14, 2022Blog

R consortium talks to Yanina Bellini Saibene about how the pandemic has affected the R-Ladies Santa Rosa. Rather than being reactive to the events of the pandemic, she started a group called MetaDocencia with others to help educators get the resources to help students who are affected the most by the pandemic by using the same educational methods taught by the RStudio Certification and The Carpentries.

Yanina is the new rOpenSci Community Manager and will develop a new project to empower community leaders from historically excluded groups. They will participate, benefit from, and become leaders in the R, research software engineering, open source and open science communities.

What is the R community like in Santa Rosa?

YBS: We are in Argentina, in the middle of the country. We are the capital city of the state of La Pampa, but we are still a small one. The R community here is pretty academic because most people who use R are either researchers or instructors. I am a researcher at the National Institute of Agriculture Technology (on leave). The National University of La Pampa is the state university here as well, along with other research institutes from CONICET. Most of our group members come from these places, but we do have some that are government workers that work with statistics and data as well.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

YBS: Covid hit here in a strong way. We had a lockdown for most of the year. We are now going back to some activities in-person because we have a high vaccine rate. In our state, we are now vaccinating those three years and older. We still have masks, social distancing, and restrictions in place. Because of those restrictions, we are not doing in-person meetings. We won’t go back until that is safe for everyone and people feel safe enough to go back. Doing meetings online allows us to be in touch with other chapters, especially R-Ladies, and organize events together. We have international “visitors” and presenters. It’s easier because all you need is the internet. This aspect of the pandemic has allowed us to have a large range of people who come to our community. Our chapter became more accessible to more people.

One of the international meetups hosted by R-Ladies Santa Rosa during 2020

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?  

YBS: We’re going to keep doing online events even after the pandemic. Because we are rural, I am used to being on the outside of everything. We’re going to keep on the online events, and we’re going to keep inviting people from other parts of the country or the world. We are also going to try and keep collaborating with other R-Ladies chapters, RUGs in Latin America, and the world to do other events together. For example, the R-Ladies chapters in Ecuador and Colombia did an amazing reading club. They did it among several chapters because they didn’t have to travel and could share the burden of hosting. These virtual settings have a lot of advantages and are more accessible because more people can be part of them. In addition, most of the meetings are recorded and are available for viewing at another time if you can’t attend, although it is not the same, you do not miss everything.

Joint meetup with R-Ladies Resistencia-Corrientes and MetaDocencia in April 2022 – Interactive Tutorials with {learnr}

We use meetup for organizing meetings, and we use the R Ladies Calendly and Zoom account for the events. We also use Jitsi and Google Meet when we have a scheduling conflict with other R Ladies chapters. Zoom is the most stable of the accounts and gives us the best audio and video quality.  The recordings are published on the R-Ladies YouTube channel.  We have playlists in five languages. For connection between members we also have the R-Ladies Slack Community and for Argentina, we have the R-Ladies Buenos Aires Slack that functions as a Slack of our country. In this last space, we present everything in Spanish. 

Virtual Meeting with R-Ladies organizer from Argentina

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? 

YBS: The best event that we had in 2021 was a pre-useR! meetup. Several R-Ladies chapters meet up and do an introduction of what useR! is for those attending for the first time. We get these chapters together and talk about their experience as an organizer, talkers, presenters, or attendees. We wanted to have more people from across the globe be part of the conference. It was amazing to see how the R-Ladies chapters could get together to improve their careers, have a larger contact network, share our experiences, have a safe space to learn and make mistakes, and share knowledge. Not only about R but other parts of a work atmosphere or dealing with work/life balance.

useR! 2021 and R-Ladies discussion

For 2022 I will highlight a “visit” R-Ladies Santa Rosa did to R-Ladies Johannesburg to deliver a tutorial about Learnr (in English) and a collaboration with R-Ladies Mendoza explaining how to convert an R script into an rmarkdown report with a focus on reproducibility (in Spanish).

Flier for the meetup “Good, nice and cheap: reproducible reports with rmarkdown” by R-Ladies Mendoza in collaboration with R-Ladies Santa Rosa and MetaDocencia

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

YBS: As a community in Latin America, we do a lot of effort to have our events and materials in our native languages (Spanish and Portuguese) and to give space to regional talent. For example, we translated books like R For Data Science and Teaching Tech Together by Greg Wilson.

Translation Team of R4DS with one of the authors 

I’m part of rOpenSci now, and we will work on expanding documentation beyond the English language. One of the most successful efforts of rOpenSci is our Software Peer Review System. In 2021, we successfully piloted Spanish-language software peer review in which the submission itself, and all reviews and editorial responses were in Spanish. While Spanish-language review is now available, our documentation is still only available in English. We will translate our Dev Guide “rOpenSci Packages: Development, Maintenance, and Peer Review” and associate components of the peer-review system (e.g., submission forms, bug report templates), as well as produce guidance for authors on including non-English documentation in their software packages.

We will also develop embedded community champions from historically excluded groups and peer mentorship groups in collaboration with the CSCCE, with the aim of increasing the diversity of contributors across all channels and levels of participation in rOpenSci by supporting two cohorts. 

Each cohort will receive training on (1) how to plan and facilitate engaging and inclusive workshops to support participants’ success, (2) channels through which new members can engage in and contribute to rOpenSci and R projects, and (3) technical skills in software development and review. After training, champions will organize peer groups in communities in which they are embedded. They will promote participation in peer review and contribution to rOpenSci open source software, infrastructure, and documentation and gather feedback on where rOpenSci’s current programming might be improved to meet the needs of all who wish to participate. The tenure and responsibilities of each cohort will have clear start and end dates and champions will receive an honorarium.

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?

YBS: We don’t have any journalists in the R-Ladies Santa Rosa chapter but some people that do science communication. My sister is a journalist. Sometimes we do data stuff together, but not as part of the Santa Rosa’s chapter. I like when the media uses data and science to report stories and explain things. We need more of that. What I enjoyed this year is the keynote on communication at useR! 2021. Both speakers were awesome. One of the speakers talked about climate change and how to communicate about the topic. Like with vaccines, we have some similarities in how people behave with climate change. They referenced research on how we act the way we do on these subjects and how we can communicate in a more efficient way. The other person talked about how the R and Data Analysts work with journalists, and how we should use data to tell stories. These communities can work together to improve the skills of the journalist to allow them to better explain and include data in their work. This talk is a must-see for anyone who is interested in how to do science and wants to reach people.

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

YBS: R-Ladies, of course! I am part of the global team and I love this community that helped me a lot. It has grown fast in Latin America. We have the same number of chapters as the United States and Canada. We have the second-highest number of members, with 28,000 members. R-Ladies has allowed us to be part of international conferences such as useR!, co-found and organized our own conference, called LatinR, because we know each other from R-Ladies, and increased our contact network to improve our careers. We could also apply for grants to user groups, and I have been able to get that grant two times for Santa Rosa which has helped us to hold events, especially when in-person.  The process of the grants needs to be improved to remove or reduce the burden of work involved for RUGs organizers in receiving international money in some countries.

LatinR <- Latin American Conference About the Use of R in R&D

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

YBS: I like the idea of R Certification because we have the R Studio certification, which certifies Shiny and Tidyverse only and is on hold. 

Four projects 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?

The current four projects are:

YBS: I think adding one about accessibility and another to focus on translation would be good. For translation, Spanish and French would be good languages to start, as you could cover some parts of South America, Africa, and Asia with those two. I would also mention Portuguese because it is very important for Latin America. I would have a group working on generating communication, guides, books, and instruction for R. I would also translate at least the error messages in a wider group of languages. Language is a huge barrier, as not everyone has the money and the time to learn a new language. Especially in the academic world, English is the main language. But, you won’t always be in academia. If I have to give a priority, I would choose the accessibility project, led by people of the community with different disabilities and experts on the topic, that get paid for their work. And always, always I would maintain R-Ladies (but I’m completely biased on this).

When is your next event? Please give details!

YBS: We did two events this year, and we plan to do at least one more in the second half of the year. It will be online and probably in collaboration with another chapter or conference. We are going to do something for people who want to move from using spreadsheets to using R and also related to building R packages.

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!