Ted Laderas of the Portland R User Group shared his experience of pioneering the Cascadia R Conference for the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast. The conference is now in its sixth year and hosted its first in-person event post-pandemic this year. He also discussed the vibrant R community in Portland which provides a rich learning environment due to its diverse nature.
Ted is a bioinformatics trainer at DNAnexus and was formerly an Assistant Professor at the Oregon Health and Science University. He is also a certified instructor for The Carpentries and Posit Academy.
Please share your background and your involvement in the RUGS group or in the R Community.
I have been using R for almost 20 years, primarily for bioinformatics and computational biology work. One of my earliest projects was clustering microarray data. I built a package to compare all the different clustering methods on microarray data, which was my Master’s thesis. I believe I spent a lot of that time being unproductive in R because I found it difficult. I started getting involved with the R community in 2017 when I joined the Portland R User Group. As a faculty member at a university, people realized that I had access to spaces that could host a conference. I co-organized a conference called Cascadia R when I first joined the R community. Since then, I have been active in the Portland R user group and with other open science and teaching groups like The Carpentries.
Can you share what the R community is like in Portland?
I believe we are fortunate to have a diverse R community in Portland and Oregon. I would estimate that 50% of the community is academic, 25% is government, and 25% is industry. This has created a pleasant mix in the R user group, as people have experience in all of these different areas. For example, one of our organizers, Marley, does a lot of work in economics and spatial analysis. Brittany, another one of our co-organizers, does a lot of work in forestry and ecology. John works for a spiritual/meditation group and does a lot of work with people data.
Portland R is a really interesting mix of people, and we have learned a lot from each other. This is because the community is not just focused on academia, and there are people with all of these different backgrounds. We also have an event format where we help each other out in an intimate setting. People come in with their questions and issues, and we all try to solve them.
Please share about a project you are currently working on or have worked on in the past using the R language. Goal/reason, result, anything interesting, especially related to the industry you work in?
I would like to discuss the Cascadia R Conference, which is now in its sixth year. The Portland R user group organized the conference in the beginning, but we have not been involved with the last couple of conferences. The conference was started because we wanted to have a conference for the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast. We had six co-organizers, and we all had the kind of expertise that came together to make it a success. None of us had experience organizing a conference, but the other members of Portland R were enthusiastic about it. So, we decided to give it a go.
The conference was a great success, and it has become a major event for the R community in the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast. It is a great opportunity for people to learn about R, network with other R users, and present their research. I am proud to have been a part of the conference, and I look forward to seeing it continue to grow and succeed in the years to come.
The first year was quite challenging, as we had only two and a half months to prepare. However, we were able to attract 250 people to Portland to discuss R, give talks, and participate in lightning talks. We also held a couple of workshops in the first two years. Since becoming involved with Cascadia-R, I have been involved in the R community, primarily through teaching. I have helped with workshops and worked with other conferences such as R Medicine and R Pharma. It has been very enjoyable to be involved in the community.
What trends do you currently see in R language?
I believe that there is always interest in anything related to the tidyverse within our group, as everyone wants to learn how to work optimally with their data. It has always been a fascinating topic for people. We have a lot of people who are skilled in spatial analysis, so there has been a lot of interest in that area. Especially with packages like tidycensus, working at the census track level has been very popular. We are also always eager to hear about the latest news on Shiny.
How do I Join?
R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups worldwide 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.