Daniel Fischer of the UseR Chile Group recently talked to the R Consortium about the use of R for Data Analysis in Chile. He shared that even though there is a constant comparison of R with Python, R has a very loyal user base in Chile. Daniel also uses R for his work in the agricultural chemicals industry and teaches R through his YouTube channel, blog, and University of Andes.
Corporative Head of Advanced Analytics and Data Engineering at Anasac.
Please share about your background and your involvement in the R Community? What is your level of experience with the R language?
I am an industrial engineer by education. Here in Chile, it’s a six-year degree that is a mix of engineering and management. I have been working for the last 12 years in data analysis-related jobs. I am currently the Corporate Head of Advanced Analytics and Data Engineering at ANASAC. I am also a Business Analytics and Optimization Professor at the Universidad de los Andes (CL). I also use R for teaching.
Around 10 years ago, I did some research and I realized R is a really powerful and easy tool. I started looking for other people using R for their work and founded the useRChile. We were a small group and used to meet in a pub to talk about what we can do as a group. After some time, with help from MetricArts by EY, we organized monthly meetups. Most people with a scientific background, statisticians, and people interested in machine learning or networking attended our meetups.
We used to have two presentations in each meetup and recorded and uploaded them to our YouTube channel. We stopped having meetings a year ago because of the pandemic. But the whole organizing team is still in contact, and we will start organizing meetups again soon. Besides the group, I also teach R through my YouTube channel and blog.
What industry are you currently in? How do you use R in your work?
I currently work for an international agricultural chemicals-producing company. We use R for everything, as it is our main Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) tool. When I started working for the company, I told the team that we can use R or Python. We should not use SQL because it is hard to debug. I wanted something you could run line-by-line like R or Python. The whole team decided to use R because it is much easier. A couple of them already knew Python. But when they saw how much easier R was using dplyr and the whole dataverse, they just said Python is too complicated. So we have all our processes in R and various small libraries in Python which are shared with R using Reticulate.
We built most of the data warehouse data pipeline in R and we built the web applications in Shiny. There is also ongoing work on a real-time recommendation system. We have also built a set of tools to interact with databases which I want to make open-source in CRAN.
In Chile, Databricks is very popular and widely used in industry. Most people use it with Python because it’s cheaper, but there are many bricks built in R too.
Process panel built in R+Shiny. The form allows users to trigger processes, which saves time for the analytics team.
What trends do you currently see in R language and your industry? Any trends you see developing in the near future?
There is a lot of comparison between R and Python and many people believe that Python is much superior. But I think R is much superior for data analysis. People who already use R for data analysis stick to it and when new users learn about the power of R they also prefer it over Python. Even Julia says it wants to be as good for analysis as R and fast as C and flexible as python.
So I think while R might not be as big as Python, it’s like comparing a swiss pocket knife to a big knife used for chopping meat. If you want to cut the meat you are going to need a big knife. R is the big and specialized knife for data analysis. I am hopeful as new people get introduced to R, the user base will also increase with time.
Why do industry professionals come to your user group? What is the benefit for attending?
Our group is appealing to industry professionals as it helps them learn about interesting topics presented by speakers who are experts in their fields. Besides learning, they also get to meet people with similar interests and build their network. We also used to hang out after the meetings at a pub.
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!