R Consortium recently talked to Sam Parmar of the Indy UseR group about using R in public health and pharma in Indianapolis. Sam also spoke about his volunteer work with the R Weekly newsletter. The newsletter aims to provide subscribers with a comprehensive list of the latest R resources from around the web. Sam also discussed his short online book with tips and tricks for using AI assistant tools such as ChatGPT or GitHub Copilot.
Please share about your background and involvement with the RUGS group.
I am a Statistical Data Scientist at Pfizer and a member of the RCoE SWAT team, which stands for Scientific Workflows and Analytical Tools. We consult with other Pfizer business lines to provide technical expertise on using the R programming language and its various packages. We are also building a community around using R, which has over 1000 members at Pfizer.
From 2017 to 2020, as an epidemiologist for a local health department, I came across R, which we used in conjunction with SAS. This is how I first got involved with the R community. I used to read the R Weekly newsletters and started participating in the Indy UseR group, which Shankar Vaidyaraman and Derrick Kearney organized. It helped me discover many new tools and grow my network. I used R for a few years as an epidemiologist before working in the Pharma sector.
In my experience with the IndyUseR group, the R community is very welcoming. R has excellent documentation, including Quarto books and R Markdown, which makes learning the language easier. I love that many people are willing to create excellent free resources and present their work. We’ve been lucky to have the creators of the gt and targets packages present at our previous user group meetings. I wouldn’t have been able to change careers without this welcoming community successfully.
Can you share what the R community is like in Indianapolis?
The community is diverse, with folks from many backgrounds, such as pharma, public health, and academia. Seeing new faces in our user group meetings this year has been great. Many recent graduates and students attending our meetings are familiar with the tidyverse. At a meeting earlier this year, we connected with a professor teaching analytics at a local university. We enjoyed learning his perspective on educating students in R.
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?
As I stated previously, I was an avid reader of the R Weekly newsletter. I joined the curation team that generates these issues online just over a year ago. We have an engaged community of readers and listeners and a podcast accompanying the newsletter.
R Weekly is an open source project launched in 2016 and is still actively maintained today. This achievement is remarkable, as very few open source projects last and are actively maintained for a long time. A volunteer curation team oversees the publication of R Weekly. We aggregate information from various RSS feeds, as well as contributions via pull requests made directly to the GitHub repository we host. Our content is public, so it is possible to view historical issues and suggestions we have integrated into the platform.
It is an amazing resource, and we are looking for more members on our team. So, if anyone reading this interview is interested, please submit resource links or do a few pull requests and join our team. Fill in this form to join our team.
Another thing I’m working on is a short tips and tricks book on using AI assistant tools for programmers. This book aims to guide anyone interested in integrating tools like ChatGPT or GitHub Copilot into their workflow and setting up guidelines. It’s not perfect, but I wanted to share it with the community to generate interest and get support from anyone interested in contributing to the book.
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 interest in Shinylive for R and Python in the pharma space. The developments in WebR technology are truly amazing. I’m involved in a Submissions Working Group Pilot that is looking into the use of WebR and Shinylive for regulatory submissions. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see it being used for submissions. Additionally, the integration of GitHub Copilot in the RStudio IDE is an exciting new release that I think many people are looking forward to.
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.