R Consortium recently talked to Allan Miller with the East Bay R Language Enthusiasts Group about the group’s history and success in environmental and health industries. The group aims to reach new R users and remains committed to creating a welcoming learning environment.
Allan has been a member since the group was first formed in 2008. He has been teaching in the Data Science Certificate program at UC Berkeley Extension since 2009. Allan has also been teaching R for 13 years and enjoys teaching students from all over the world. When he is not teaching, Allan is an avid road cyclist.
What is the R community like in the East Bay?
The East Bay R Enthusiasts group was started by Jim Porzak in 2008. It grew out of the D-Lab, a data support center for graduate students doing quantitative research at UC Berkeley. At that time there was an established R users group, the Bay Area useR, which often met in the South Bay. We soon realized the East Bay community was large enough and that getting to meetings in the South Bay was a drawback for R users in the East Bay and San Francisco that we could start our own user group centered in the East Bay.
There is a general tendency in user groups to drift towards the most technical level which can be rather intimidating for new users. The East Bay R Enthusiasts has always focused on new R users. We have aimed to create an environment that is comfortable for new learners but also meaningful for experienced R users. Today, we have a very large R community here in the East Bay with almost 2,000 members in our Meetup.
Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in the East Bay?
We have people from all backgrounds, but many who attend our meetings are working professionals from Berkeley and the East Bay.
They have many attendees who work in the environmental and healthcare industries, for example, lots of employees from Kaiser, whose regional office is located in Oakland. We also still get graduate and undergraduate students from UC Berkeley.
First meeting at Tolman Hall on Campus (University of California, Berkeley 2012)
How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?
Prior to Covid-19, we held monthly meetups. Like many other groups, we haven’t met in person in almost two and a half years, since the start of the pandemic! We tried starting up a year ago but noticed there was a lot of Zoom fatigue. We are hoping to get back into action this year.
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 used Zoom, it is great for getting speakers from outside of the Bay Area. Usually, our talks include a presentation by an invited speaker followed by a question and answer session and announcements.
What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?
Over the years, we have seen a bigger than ever R community. Data science has become multilingual with python and Julia being used and is showing more integration with these programming languages and environments. But our meetups are still focused on R.
Some members used RMarkdown to make really nice presentations that are visually appealing.
When is your next event? Please give details!
We will meet again this Fall. Be sure to sign up to our Meetup list to receive notifications for future meetings!
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 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!