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R Addicts Paris: Promoting Diversity in R

By June 25, 2024Blog

Vincent Guyader, organizer of the R Addicts Paris and president of ThinkR, recently updated the R Consortium on the group’s activities. Last year, Vincent discussed the application of R in developing solutions for industrial problems. He emphasized the importance of helping people become fluent in R and leveraging the language to add value to their work. ThinkR is dedicated to enhancing R proficiency in various industries. The R Addicts Paris, one of France’s oldest and largest R user groups with 1,800 members, continues to foster a strong R community under Vincent’s leadership. 

Please share your background and involvement with the RUGS group.

My name is Vincent, and I have been using R since my student days. During my studies, I took on freelance R projects for various companies. Currently, I head a company called ThinkR, where we have a team of over 10 experts specializing in everything related to R. Our services include training, consulting, developing Shiny applications, creating R packages, and more. We also collaborate with Posit and handle hardware installations for clients, primarily in France but also in Switzerland, Belgium, and other parts of Europe.

Since 2018, I have been managing the R user group in Paris, known as the R Addicts Paris. It’s one of the oldest and possibly the largest R user groups, with 1,800 members. I aimed to organize meetups every three months, but the next one has been delayed due to internal organizational issues. I genuinely enjoy helping people become fluent in R and use the language to add value to their work.

What challenges do you face in organizing the R Addict Paris group and how do you overcome those challenges?

One of the main challenges is that our users are not professional programmers or developers; they are specialists in fields like biology and finance. They have to shift their mindset to use programming languages. My daily job involves helping these individuals embrace software development. Coming from a genetics and biochemistry background, I understand how challenging this can be for non-developers. However, I love doing this, and I have a dedicated, competent team to assist.

Based on your work with ThinkR, which industries in France do you see using R?

We have clients in various fields across France, including finance, retail, and research. The health sector is particularly prominent. For instance, a company that used SAS a few years ago now uses R & Python. About half of our clients currently use Python. While we provide Python installation on hardware, we don’t offer Python training yet.

We are committed to being the sole organization in France that can certify R users and developers. The French government has authorized us to issue an official certification akin to a diploma. Our goal is to elevate R proficiency across various fields in France. Our clients include businesses and individuals, with many investing their resources to learn proper software and programming skills.

Do you host online or in-person events?

I chose not to host online events. It’s a very opinionated choice because most meetups switched to online formats during the pandemic. At ThinkR, we are a fully remote company, and I spend my day on Zoom. While remote training is effective, I’ve found that in-person events work better for our user group.

Any techniques you recommend using for planning for or during the event? (Github, zoom, other) Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people who are unable to attend physical events in the future?   

One of the main challenges we face as a group is finding female speakers. I try to avoid having only male speakers, but I only get female speakers every fifth or sixth event, which is not enough. I encourage other R user group organizers to recognize our power to give a voice to different kinds of people. I push myself to include more female speakers. Sometimes, I encounter highly qualified women who hesitate to speak, while less experienced men are more willing. It’s challenging, but I strive to maintain a balanced representation.

I consciously avoid engaging with speakers who lack substance, ensuring I have time to encourage qualified women to share their knowledge. Despite my efforts, female representation remains below 20%. A few years ago, my colleague Diane and I tried to connect with the R-Ladies Paris group. Many men are actively engaged there, and I wonder why that is.

There are many skilled women in the R community, which includes biologists and geneticists. There’s no excuse for the lack of female representation. We must remember our influence and endorse individuals who truly represent our values.

What are some trending topics in R in your R User Group?

I’ve noticed a decline in interest in statistics over the past two to five years. During meetups, we rarely discuss statistics. The machine learning and AI fields aren’t well-represented in R, possibly because most people in these fields use Python. It could also be due to regional differences or my network.

You had a Meetup “Raddicts x RTE – {webr} – Shinyproxy and return of the Reconteres 2024” on 19th June, can you share more on the topic covered? Why this topic?

For this event, we had two male speakers. Colin Fay discussed {webr}, a new JavaScript capability for launching user insights in the browser. This is powerful for deploying Shiny applications. Valentin Cadoret talked about new Shinyproxy functionalities, and tools that enhance the deployment of Shiny applications. So we focused heavily on Shiny once again.

How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups organize, share information, and support each other worldwide. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 68,000 members in 33 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.