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A Community Gathering in Oxford for Learning about R and Networking Opportunities

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The Oxford R useR Group organizers are leading the R meetup effort in Oxford, UK. The group has over 600 subscribers and brings together >20 R enthusiasts together monthly in an informal setting and over pizza to talk about R coding, learn from one another, and network across sectors.

Meet the Organizers of the Oxford R useR Group đź‘‹



Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work?

Mariagrazia: I started working after graduating from university. I actually needed to re-learn R, because my degree course was really theoretical, so I didn’t really see any real data that was applied to R. It has been really rewarding learning R and seeing all the different things that I can do with it. Also in my daily job, I’m a statistical consultant, so regarding my projects, I have a lot of variety which is really exciting, but we have to constantly learn new ways of delivering content to non-statistical users.

Aino: R is a very useful tool for biological data analysis and communicating scientific data. I’ve learned more and more about it over the years while doing research, thanks in no small part to fantastic online materials and community.

Kaspar: Data visualization, specifically the ggplot2 package, drove my interest in R initially. I agree with what Aino said about how welcoming the R community is towards newcomers and how many fantastic resources are available online. My current work involves using both R and Python, among the two I find R incredibly useful for data wrangling and data visualization.

What is the R community like in Oxford, UK?

Mariagrazia: The user group has been changing a lot in the past few years. It was a huge group since Kaspar formed it along with the previous person that was organizing the group. The pandemic slowed us a little bit down, we are now recovering from it. We have people from many different backgrounds and several departments at the University of Oxford; there are a lot of people from biology, medical science, and a few people from other departments in industry. We also have many people with statistics and medical science backgrounds, as well as other local councils. It’s very interesting how people use R in their work, specifically when we talk about analyzing data.

Aino: When I first joined the group, I was surprised to meet many R users from many different areas of the public and private sectors — this opened my eyes to the wide uses of R beyond academia where I worked at the time. The group is diverse not only in sectors where people work but also in age and level of experience in R. The monthly meet-ups that we host give people a chance to connect across these differences. 

Kaspar: We founded this group back in 2016. Thinking back, I recall the excitement of designing our logo and the challenges of finding the first venue. We gradually managed to build up a diverse community of attendees from different parts of the university as well as from various industries. It is really cool to meet all these people from so many different areas and learn how they use R in their work. Our meetups typically involve a talk which is followed by informal networking over pizza, this is thanks to our sponsor Ascent. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, Zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members?

Mariagrazia: During the pandemic, we decided not to organize the reunions via Zoom or any digital platform because it was really overwhelming. It was a point when everything was moving online; job, family, and even social life. We concluded that people didn’t need another online meeting, because we use these opportunities to get to know people and network, which is not something our members felt comfortable doing online. Right now, we have the facilities to make hybrid meetings, and we do not exclude that possibility because there are people that do not want to lose the opportunity to meet members and ask some questions.

Aino and Kaspar: Also, in these meetings, we have volunteer speakers who give presentations. Often, these are made available online afterward so that people who could not attend the meetup can catch up and be up to date with new topics and tools.

What trends do you see in R language over the next year?

Aino: One positive trend is tools that support better ways to work in multiple languages simultaneously, especially in R and Python. This is useful in my field where both languages are very popular. 

Mariagrazia: Something in my daily job that I have found very useful is the program Quarto, which is used for marking data and building a more straightforward report. Or Shiny, to produce reports daily in my work.

What is your favorite R event you have attended?

Kaspar: Some of my favorite events are our meetups. We have had amazing speakers, and I really enjoy connecting with all our members. 

Aino: I also have enjoyed R Ladies London, also an R group that hosts online and in-person meetups. The NHS-R group also do some fantastic online talks.

Mariagrazia: I enjoyed the EARL Conference which is organized by Ascent, a company that develops tools for R. I was very interested because their workshops showed tools and domains that can be applied to many areas when working with R.

What is your favorite project from the R Consortium?

Mariagrazia: My favorite project is the R-Girls-School Network. It is one of my favorites because, in my field of work, statistics, there is a huge gap between men and women in this kind of discipline. So, giving the chance for girls to develop the necessary skills early in their school career is great for introducing them to a scientific or a programming career. Another project that I liked is R Deposits. I think it’s really important to make these tools accessible, especially in research you need the capacity to make an interface to produce and analyze data and make a difference.

Aino: I also got very interested in the R-Girls-School Network, like Mariagrazia, as I also support the availability of these tools for everybody. They can be especially useful for young researchers to develop their skills.

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

We don’t have an event planned just yet. Our last event was on November 28th, it was a Causal inference in R. For future updates on what’s going on with the Oxford RUG, you can follow us on Twitter or our Meetup Group, as well as our Github where we include previous talks and other materials.


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!

Spreading a Passion for R with the MĂĽnster Community in Germany

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Dr. Shirin Elsinghorst recently shared her great experience with the R language, motivating her to start the MĂĽnster R useR Germany. Shirin shared how R has become a very important part of her life, from her first contact with the language while receiving her Bachelor’s degree, in the workplace, and even as part of her spare time activities. She also emphasizes how significant is the presence of women in the IT world, describing herself as a staunch supporter of the R-Ladies.

Shirin Elsinghorst is a biologist by training turned bioinformatician and Data Scientist. She has a PhD and a Postdoc, in which she worked with Next Generation Sequencing data. Shirin has a keen interest in data analysis through R, using the language every day in her work as a data scientist at codecentric. Shirin Elsinghorst is the creator of the R exprAnalysis package, which streamlines RNA-seq data analysis pipelines. Her passion for teaching has led her to give conferences, workshops, meetups, and blog posts to inspire others to use R.


Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work? What do you do when you’re not programming?

SE: I am a biologist by training and R has always been the go-to language for statistical analysis of experiments. Therefore, I had gotten to know R from the beginning of my Bachelor’s program. I had been using it sporadically for analysis, like survival curves, Analysis of variance (ANOVAs), t-tests, etc. However, I was not very well versed with R until my Ph.D., which ended up being very bioinformatics-heavy. For my Ph.D., I had to analyze quantitative traits (Quantitative Trait Analysis) and RNA-Seq data. Surprisingly, I got really into the bioinformatics part and so totally enjoyed writing and improving R code and packages, that I ended up going for a bioinformatics postdoc. During these two postdoc years, I did a lot of Next-Gen-Sequencing analysis, like RNA-Seq, microarray analysis, analysis of SNPs (GWAS), methylation patterns, and microRNAs in regard to genetic epidemiology, specifically autoinflammatory diseases. During my spare time, I founded my R-blog (shirin-elsinghorst.de) and self-taught machine learning and other interesting ways to analyze data.

Even though I very much enjoyed working in academia, I did not enjoy the impact a career in it would have on my family life. So, I decided to switch to an industry where I found a great position as Data Scientist with an IT consultancy in MĂĽnster, Germany. Here, I also founded the MĂĽnster R User Group.

What is the R community like in MĂĽnster, Germany? What was most surprising to you about the community?

SE: The R community in MĂĽnster is very heavy on academia. MĂĽnster is a big university town with lots of students. In my experience, universities, particularly the life sciences, still pretty much exclusively use R. So, there are a lot of beginner users but also some very amazing PhDs, postdocs, (young) professors, and people in the industry who are doing some very cool stuff with R. This was probably the most surprising to me: just how many incredible projects people were working on with R, that went way beyond student-material.

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in MĂĽnster?

SE: The meetups were usually a mix of some students, Ph.D. students, postdocs, and professors, but also people working in the IT industry. MĂĽnster is not a very big city but still has a lot of businesses. We have more traditional IT firms and consultancies but also town-funded firms and a lot of startups.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?

SE: Since COVID we did not have any in-person meetups anymore. However, COVID pretty much coincided with my two parental leaves. During the first, I had help with organizing a few more meetups but ever since COVID, this completely went away. I had been sharing some virtual meetups from other R User groups, so people did not have to completely go without R-content.

What trends do you see in R language over the next year?

SE: In my experience, R tends to develop into being just one part of an analysis, as opposed to the entire analysis being performed in R. There are many tools very specific to certain tasks that are written in other languages, like C, Perl (yes, that does still exist), Python, Java, etc. t just makes sense to use different tools for different tasks. And use R for what is really good at statistical analysis and visualization.

What is your favorite R event that you have attended? From a small meetup to a big conference!

SE: This will most definitely be the rOpenSci Unconference 2018 in Seattle! It was absolutely great to meet so many R-folks. It was just amazing!

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?

SE: There are so many amazing projects there, but I feel especially drawn to “Consolidating R-Ladies Global organizational guidance and wisdom”. As one of the fewer ladies in the IT-world, I am a staunch supporter of the R-Ladies and would like to see more ladies venture into informatics.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?

SE: Here, I choose R/Business. As a longtime R user, I enjoy working with R a lot and it is still my go-to language for most Data Science tasks. However, I find that in business, there are a lot of misconceptions about R, such that it is not suitable for use in production or in a business context in general. I would very much like to advocate for a place of R alongside Python in Data Science.

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

SE: I have only been back from parental leave since October of this year, so I’ll try to revive the MünsteR group in the near future to host in-person events again. However, as my kids are still very small, attending events in the evening is still impossible for me at the moment. But I am looking forward to when that changes again! You can check out any updates via our Meetup group.


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!

Going Global During the Pandemic

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Vassilis Georgiou of the AthensR User Group talked to the R-Consortium about the group’s journey during the pandemic. Even though the group wasn’t hosting very regular online meetups, it remained active by becoming a part of the Global R User Group. This group allowed the members of AthensR to attend events from R Users Groups around the globe. Vassilis hopes to revive the group’s local events and expand its reach.

Vassilis is the Director-Innovation at IRI, Athens. He has a Ph.D. in Statistics-Computational Intelligence from the University of Patras.


How did you get interested in R?

I work for a company named IRI, which is based in Chicago and has an office in Athens. We perform market analysis in the retail industry. We gather receipts from supermarkets across the globe, organize the data, and run a series of analytics. I am the director of the R & D team and develop different algorithms and we do all of this in R. Everything we do is in R, from prototyping to developing. We also develop shiny applications to give the stakeholders preliminary results and get feedback. Once an algorithm is final we give it to the software engineers who will build web applications in Java or another language on a large scale. There are also cases where we give access to clients to R Shiny web apps. This is my professional contact with R. Besides that, it has now been several years since we started the AthensR group. 

What is the R community like in Greece? Can you name a few industries using R in Greece?

Many universities in Greece teach R and there are many people who are proficient in R in both academia and industry. Almost all statistics departments mainly use R and it is also becoming popular in other fields like electrical engineering. There is a realization that while MATLAB/Python is useful, they need to use R for statistical things. 

In our company, we have been asked many times why we use R and not Python because they feel Python is a more complete language. We have given them some case studies. For example, if you are running a simple regression analysis but have multicollinearity issues in R you would not get coefficients of this variable. In Python, it will give a coefficient of 1 billion which is useless. So this way we convince them that for statistics we will stick to R. 

Besides the AthensR there are other R user groups in Greece. I know about the Patras R User Group, but there are a few others. Many companies use R for R & D mostly. In our company, 80 percent of our development in R is mostly for R & D prototyping. R can be used in production but there are some restrictions to take into account. And since we don’t always know who will be using it and how skillful they will be, we try to avoid providing access to R source code in production but provide access to Shiny web apps that protect the source code from being accidentally altered. We use statistical modeling R codes internally for our delivery teams and operations teams to run it themselves. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Not just in the case of our group, I feel that shifting meetups online overall has made it difficult to network. While in most events the speakers are very accommodating and the events are interactive, the element of networking is definitely missing and people are not able to bond. 

During the pandemic, we did not host regular meetups online. However, I was contacted by Nicolas Attalides who is organizing the Global R User Group. It is a meetup that brings together R Users Group from all over the world and provides them with a common platform. So whenever there was a new talk planned, we would also publish it in our local R Users Group. Since most groups were hosting online events, members of our group had the opportunity to listen to speakers from Brighton, Barcelona, Vienna, Tunisia, and many other places. So in a way, the pandemic gave our group access to R talks from around the globe.

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 have been using Zoom for our online meetups. We do not currently have a Youtube Channel or a GitHub account. We would like to host hybrid events in the future so that we can hold on to this sense of inclusion and people from around the globe can attend the events. 

I need to expand the organizing committee of our group to start hosting hybrid events. During the pandemic, I have been working remotely, so I am not based in Athens. I also struggle to find enough time to manage the group, as I have been single-handedly organizing the group. I hope to find some new organizers based in Athens who can help me organize physical and hybrid meetups. Expanding the organizing committee will help us in reaching out to more people. We are currently a group of around 150 people, however, the number of R users in Athens is much higher than this. Only from the universities every year I would say at least 4-500 people graduating who for sure have broad exposure to R. 

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting? 

There was a really interesting talk titled Bayesian item response modeling in R with brms back in April. It was organized by Oslo UseR! group and the author of the BRMS package Paul Burkner presented it. Also, there were a couple of really nice introductory talks last year with Shiny and with data manipulation by Nicolas Attalides. They were really nice for people who don’t have a lot of experience. He gave a really detailed step-by-step demo on how you can build shiny applications from scratch without knowing anything about HTML or developing web applications. You can publish your application in just a few minutes. In half an hour you have your own app and you can give the URL to someone. 

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

For now, my focus is to expand the organizing committee of the group and start hosting more regular physical or hybrid meetings. I also hope to expand our group by attracting more members and expanding the organizing team. I think efforts in these directions will have a much greater impact on our group as opposed to the trends in the R language. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project?  Why is it your favorite?

MATTER 2.0: larger-than-memory data for R. It is a main issue of R to be able to efficiently handle data objects that do not fit in memory. Such an initiative could help R penetration even more.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We currently don’t have any upcoming events planned just yet. You can stay updated via our Meetup Group.


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!

Promoting the Use of R in Mali

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The R Consortium recently caught up with Fousseynou Bah of the Bamako Data Science Group (also on Facebook) and talked about the budding R community in Mali. Online events allowed the group to broaden its horizons and invite international speakers to present at their events. They hope to host hybrid events in the future to make the most out of both online and physical event formats.

Fousseynou is an Economist currently working for the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission. He received his Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Economics from the Université Grenoble Alpes, France.


How did you get introduced to R?

I have studied economics, and it is a discipline where you use a lot of data at the graduate level. This is how I started using R back in the early 2000s. Almost 20 years later, I realized what a powerful language it has become. This motivated me to talk to some friends and inquire about having a group of data science enthusiasts come together to share knowledge and have discussions. My academic training mostly influenced me and led me to start this group. R is fascinating as it is free, open-source, and the best way to get people interested in programming and data science. It doesn’t cost a lot and ensures reproducibility. 

What is the R community like in Mali? Can you name a few industries using R in Mali?

The R community in Mali is in the budding stage. I have to go out and find people who use R and understand what it is. The main purpose of our group is to introduce people to R and promote its use in Mali. We are trying to convince people to use R for business handling instead of proprietary programs, as it is an amazing tool and free of cost. They can train their staff and introduce it in their data lives as a working tool. It is mostly people from academia who are familiar with R and using it for their research. In Mali, industries have not embraced R as much as I would hope. A lot of work needs to be done to evangelize, educate, and promote R in Mali.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before the pandemic, we used to host physical events on Friday afternoons. Friday afternoons are when people are still in the mood for work but also relaxed because the weekend is close. We used to host our events at different locations. Mostly we used to go on the campus as it has some research centers. We could use the infrastructure to do our presentations and we used to meet in a room afterward for snacks.

With the pandemic, we have completely shifted our events online. It was interesting because we could connect with people from around the globe and have them attend and speak in our sessions. We connected with people living in Europe, the US, or North America and have them present. So online events allowed us to expand our horizons.

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 have been switching between Google Meet and Zoom for our online events. We have also created a WhatsApp group to interact with our group members. This group is not just limited to the presentations, but we also exchange information regarding different opportunities, scholarships, and collaboration requests. People also use it to showcase a project they have done and ask for help with issues they encounter. 

Our group members do not use GitHub a lot. Whenever I present, I share the GitHub link and inform our group members that the slides, code, and data are available on GitHub. We do not upload our recorded sessions on YouTube. Instead, we share the link within our WhatsApp group due to privacy concerns. I hope in the future maybe we will also start a YouTube channel. 

These days, I am nostalgic for the physical events and our discussions over snacks afterward. I feel that this networking and human contact is really important for our group. It allows people to come together and find common ground. So after the pandemic settles, we would like to host hybrid events to reap the benefits of both physical and online events. It will allow us to keep our group open to international speakers while allowing us to promote data science locally. 

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

I hope that the R ecosystem becomes stronger in the years to come. Things are changing in data science now and there is a trend of making sure that people can collaborate. Allowing people to switch between different languages is also a great opportunity. I think it will make R become more visible and highlight the power it has. 

For our group, I think it is very important to make sure people realize the power of R and turn to it. We are also trying to educate people that they don’t need to be from a computer science or technical background to harness the power of R. They need domain expertise to find their way with R and use it. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium,  do you have a favorite project?  Why is it your favorite?

My favorite funded project is deposits: Deposit Research Data Anywhere.  It aims to facilitate the access of researchers to data. And that hits a cord with anyone striving to promote data science, for data is our most valuable raw material.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite?  Why is it your favorite?

Due to my background in economics, my favorite active working group is R/Business.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We don’t have any events planned at the moment, but follow us on our socials to stay updated!


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!

2022 Government & Public Sector R Conference

By Blog, Events

We are proud sponsors of the 2022 Government & Public Sector R Conference hosted by Lander Analytics! This year’s conference will take place on December 1st & 2nd with workshops on November 30th! You can attend either in-person at Georgetown University or virtually online from anywhere in the world.

You don’t want to miss out on the fun! You’ll here from speakers, such as:

And many, many more!

Also, you can attend a the full-day interactive workshop on November 30th:

  • Introduction to Natural Language Processing for Public Policy Research with William E. J. Doane

Use code RSTATS20 to receive 20% off conference & workshop tickets!

To learn more about the speaker lineup, workshops, and agenda visit rstats.ai/gov. Also, follow @rstatsai on Twitter to stay up to date with all conference details. 

If your organization is interested in being a sponsor, please contact Lander Analytics at info@landeranalytics.com.

Preparing to Thrive by Collaborating with Local Universities

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Vivek Patil of the Inland Northwest R User Group (INRUG) talked to the R Consortium about the R Community located in Spokane, Washington, the diverse group of members of INRUG, and the different uses of R language that characterize this community amongst them all.

Vivek Patil is a Professor of Marketing at Gonzaga University, where he used to teach the SPSS to his students for marketing research in the School of Business. After learning about R and attending a course on Data Analysis from Coursera, he learned R to expand his knowledge and introduced R to his students in the Business School.


Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work and what do you do when you’re not programming?

Vivek: In 2012-13, I was looking for something new to learn as I had earned tenure and settled in on the data analysis tools that I was using for my teaching and research. I had heard about the power of R and the fact that it was an open-source tool that would not cost my students anything motivated me to begin my adventure. At that time, I signed up for Jeff Leek’s, Data Analysis course through Coursera because it used R for its analysis. Although the course didn’t teach R, I forced myself to learn it and I just fell in love with it. 

Rather than writing R packages, my focus has been on utilizing existing packages to address different questions in my domains of interest. Similarly, I teach my students to use different packages to solve business problems. I have taught R in my marketing research class and I created two new courses based on it – Data Visualization and Business Analytics.

What is the R community like in Spokane Washington?

Vivek: It is a very small community. Krisztian Magori, a faculty of Biostatistics at Eastern Washington University, and I created the User Group in August, 2014. We contacted a few of our colleagues and had our first meeting on September 30, 2014. Slowly, we had larger numbers of people who began attending our meetings on a regular basis. 

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in Spokane?

Vivek: Our attendees and presenters have included faculty and students from many universities in Spokane, including Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, and Washington State University. Additionally, many Data Scientists and Computer Scientists from different companies representing sectors such as healthcare, finance, utilities, manufacturing, and computing and information technology services, have also attended and presented in our meetings.  

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members?

Vivek: COVID has taken a toll on how frequently the group has recently met. Before the pandemic, we had been meeting quite frequently; there was a time when we would meet in-person on a monthly basis at the Gonzaga University campus. I’m now hopeful that we can begin to meet in-person again and start meeting more often. 

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

Vivek: I have sent a call out to the group members to invite potential presenters to contact me. Initially, I was paying for the meetup pro account with my money and then we had support from Revolution Analytics and Microsoft. I appreciate the support the R Consortium is now providing to fund the Meetup account that has made communication with the community easier.  


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!

A Survey of Changes around the Tidyverse Package in R

By Blog, Events

Date: Friday, 28th October, 2022 • Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm (WAT)

Register Here: https://forms.gle/TGinG326AgHrfqej7

Join the Osun RUG, Nigeria at their event on A Survey of Changes around the Tidyverse Package in R with special guest, Chief Scientist at RStudio, Hadley Wickham. The core tidyverse includes the packages that you’re likely to use in everyday data analyses. As of tidyverse 1.3.0, the following packages are included in the core tidyverse:

The tidyverse also includes many other packages with more specialized usage. Attend this webinar for an in-depth discussion with the man who invented the tidyverse itself … Prof. Hadley Wickham.

Speaker: Prof. Hadley Wickham

Hadley is Chief Scientist at RStudio, winner of the 2019 COPSS award, and a member of the R Foundation. He builds tools (both computational and cognitive) to make data science easier, faster, and more fun. His work includes packages for data science (like the tidyverse, which includes ggplot2, dplyr, and tidyr)and principled software development (e.g. roxygen2, testthat, and pkgdown). He is also a writer, educator, and speaker promoting the use of R for data science. Learn more on his website: http://hadley.nz


Organizers: Osun RUG, Nigeria (www.rug.org.ng)

Hosting Malaysia’s Largest Annual R Conference

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Poo Kuan Hoong of the Malaysia R User Group (Also on Facebook) recently talked to the R-Consortium. He discussed the group’s rather smooth transition to regular online events. The group has also shifted its annual R Conference online, with speakers from around the globe.

Kuan Hoong works as a lead Data Scientist at BAT. He has a Ph.D. in Distributed Computing from the Nagoya Institute of Technology and has also previously worked in academia. He founded the Malaysia R User Group in 2015.


How did you get introduced to R?

Back in the day, I used to work as an academic at Multimedia University. At that time, there was a lot of interest in Data Science and Big Data at the university, and R was one of the popular languages. I founded the Malaysia R User Group to get the community to do some knowledge sharing. From there, I have been organizing a lot of knowledge-sharing events and talks. 

I am very passionate about communities and I have also founded another community called the TensorFlow and Deep Learning User Group. So there are two communities I run and manage. 

What is the R community like in Malaysia? Can you name a few industries using R in Malaysia?

Seven years ago, the Malaysian Government took the initiative to train people in big data analytics. They encouraged people to take a Coursera course and one of the courses offered by the Malaysian government was the Data Science course by John Hopkins

The instructors used R programming language to teach that course. From that time, there was a lot of interest in R and a number of people picked R as a starting language for Data Science. Of course, now many people are also using Python. When I founded the R community, there was a lot of interest in R. R is actually a language that is easily picked by people with non-technical backgrounds, especially people from statistical and math backgrounds.

Industries that use R in Malaysia are mainly finance-related. A famous company that uses R in Malaysia is called MoneyLion. It is an American company and its entire data analytics team is based in Malaysia. The primary language used by the company is R. Besides that, there are a lot of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that use R for simple analytics. A lot of people are now adopting Python because it can be used in Machine learning, Deep Learning, and other AI stuff. I think we should use both languages as both have their own strengths and I encourage people to learn both.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we used to have monthly events where I used to organize a physical meetup with the help of some enterprise like Microsoft or the Malaysian government in providing us with public space. Ever since COVID, all our events have shifted online. Normally we have one or two-hour workshops or talks. We have also started a new full-day event and we call it R confeRence. We are also hosting this conference online since COVID. I think shifting events online is not that bad. The upside of online events is that we can have international speakers for our events without having to arrange for them to fly in. So it saves a lot of logistic arrangements and costs on our end. It is also much easier to get people to attend online events. They can attend events from the ease of their homes and it is also much safer during the pandemic. It is also easier to organize events. Definitely, COVID has changed the way people connect. Nowadays people are more eager to go back to physical events as they want to connect and network.

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?  

For our group, we use two main social media platforms: Facebook and Meetup. We also have a discord for our members to discuss any R-related problems or challenges they face. For online events, we mainly use Zoom. Most of our events are recorded, and we upload the recordings on our Facebook page. We also use Google Colab for our hands-on workshops, which allows participants to program without having to install R Studio. Many people aren’t aware that they can also use Google Colab for R. We are also exploring R Studio Cloud and trying to educate our members about these cloud-based platforms. We upload all the code from our events on GitHub. We don’t have a GitHub account for our group, so I just use my personal GitHub to share all the codes. 

For our conference, UCT Malaysia partially sponsored the event, so we actually use WebEx. The Cisco WebEx also has a conference tool. 

Our members are quite eager to go back to physical events. But there is a challenge to actually find a venue that is large enough to host a socially distant event. It is also difficult to convince people to attend events wearing a mask and taking proper safety precautions. 

Can you tell us about one recent presentation or speaker that was especially interesting and what was the topic and why was it so interesting? 

My favorite would be our annual event. We get some really impressive speakers from big companies like Microsoft and even from the R Studio. 

A more recent presentation I would like to mention is a hands-on workshop on tidyverse using Google Colab. 

What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?

A good trend I see is that the R Studio now supports Python. Many people have this misconception that R is an old language and R Studio is only for R. So I think R Studio supporting Python allows people to use both programming languages in a single platform. By combining the strength and weaknesses of these languages, they can do their work more efficiently. 

Do you know of any data journalism efforts by your members? If not, are there particular data journalism projects that you’ve seen in the last year that you feel had a positive impact on society?

A lot of our members have used data to analyze the COVID trends. There is also a big project called the CovidNow to which our members contributed. It was an open-source project where people contribute analytics using R on the COVID data. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium,  do you have a favorite project?  Why is it your favorite?

I think an interesting project is the RECON COVID-19 challenge to make the R community improve its COVID-19 resources. I think it is a very relevant project during the pandemic and I find it interesting. That could be something interesting to us. Another interesting project is the Tidy spatial networks in R.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite?  Why is it your favorite?

I think there’s definitely interest in the R/Business. Because a lot of time people want to know how we can apply R programming language in business and if it’s actually relevant to us. They want to know how they can leverage R for some simple analytics and if that can bring some ROI for the company.  

When is your next event? Please give details!

Our next event is the annual R Conference, scheduled for the 26th-27th of November. It is going to be a two-day event and we have just published the call for speakers. You can find more information on our website: www.r-conference.com 


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!

Bringing Back an R useR Group to Edmonton!

By Blog

The R Consortium recently spoke with Dr. PĂ©ter SĂłlymos, organizer of Edmonton R User Group-Yegrug, Edmonton, Canada, about how his interest in learning R came up, how he currently uses it in his work, and the trends in the language over the next few years. But above all, PĂ©ter tells us about the challenges and progress involved in bringing the R community back to Edmonton last year.

Dr. PĂ©ter SĂłlymos is a Senior Data Scientist with a background in biology, environmental science, and computer programming. His work with the creation of end-to-end data analytics, statistics, and ML is focused on streamlining and improving decision-making. He currently facilitates evidence-based decision-making in the public services sector.


Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work? 

PS: I am a biologist by training, but early on I started doing a lot of computer work related to statistical analysis. Despite the computer work I was doing, I started learning R a little late. What really got me completely into programming with R was that I was teaching at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest a while back. The Statistics department lost the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) license we were using at the time due to a funding issue, so we had to rewrite the curriculum and decided to go fully open source. We started using R, and the students were very interested in this. For a while, I felt like I was falling behind and needed to catch up. That is how I officially started learning R and I have definitely progressed, to the point where I can now teach it to other people. Since then I have been involved in all sorts of R-related things and the R community.

Previously, there was a user group in 2012 that students started to organize in the area for R, but it ended after two years, and just last year we decided it would be a good idea to bring the group back! It is amazing how useful the R language is. In my work, I use it for estimating all kinds of things, like vegetation- and weather-related power outage risk. I continue to use R in a lot of different ways, from machine learning to statistics and data processing.

What is the R community like in Edmonton? 

PS: Here in Edmonton, students are very interested in R; there is a strong community of developers for Python and JavaScript as well. The computer science department here at the University of Alberta has a very strong background in the subject, particularly Python. But faculty and students from other departments, like biology and statistics, tend to use R.

Alberta has a very strong environmental industry presence, where R has also gained popularity over the past few years.

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in Edmonton?

PS: The Edmonton R User Group-Yegrug has been hosting events every month now for the past year. Fortunately, the number of attendees at these meetups has increased since the beginning. We also joined events with the CalgaryR group earlier this year, I did a presentation on “Hosting Data Apps” (https://hosting.analythium.io/ ), a website mostly about Shiny app hosting where I discussed my experience with Shiny. We were only a few members, some of my personal acquaintances included, later we started promoting events through Twitter and Linkedin and we started to make a little more noise. People started to get interested in attending, and we have had more than 30 people attending several virtual events. Since the group started, I have noticed that most of the people interested and those who are easier to reach are those in academia, but we still hope to reach more and more in other industries! 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?

PS: At the beginning, due to COVID, we had to change the way we did things including virtual events only, but afterward it was an advantage because, through our online work, we were able to reach more people. The technique that we use that has worked mainly because most people are familiar with it, and it serves our purposes is Zoom. After our Meetups, we post information and resources through the group’s GitHub. We also use platforms like Meetup for all the tools it has, such as discussion forums, sending updates to attendees, and reaching these people easier by posting events in advance. We are trying to organize our first in-person event in November, we will be using several of these technologies moving forward to continue to reach more members as well as the local community in Edmonton. 

Collages by PĂ©ter SĂłlymos

What trends do you see in R language over the next year?

PS: The trends I see for the next year in the R language are the changes and focus on multilingual tools, leading to more interaction between them, and making it even easier to add stunning visualizations.

What is your favorite R event that you have attended? From a small meetup to a big conference!

PS: I attended the UseR! 2022 Conference, which was really amazing, it was a huge online event. I also gave a presentation on Best practices for Shiny apps with Docker. Another event I really liked was the rstudio::conf(2022), this one was in person, and for me, it was amazing that we are restarting these types of events. For rstudio::conf, they broadcasted the live event which made it easier as I was able to attend the events live from my home.

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?

PS: I definitely think R-Ladies is a great one. I am not very sure if there is an active R-Ladies chapter here in Edmonton, but I know other similar groups like Women in Engineering (https://womeninengg.ca/), and I am glad that these kinds of activities take place.

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

PS: Our next event is on October 27th on Binary packages on Ubuntu with r2u by Dirk Eddelbuettel. We also plan a meetup event every last Thursday of the month, you can check out our Meetup for updates!

As for our plans for next year, we are very excited. Some colleagues have already expressed interest in speaking at either our usual meetups or at a larger-scale event next year.


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!

New Repositories Working Group

By Blog, News


The R Validation Hub is happy to announce the Regulatory R Repository Working Group, which will be tasked with designing and prototyping the tools to support a cross-pharma, collaborative repository of regulated use case suitable R packages – You can imagine the end result as being a CRAN-like service for systematically vetting packages for regulated use and providing access to high-quality packages. For this, we are looking for new contributors and expertise.

Other Opportunities to Get Involved!

The Hub has two further active technology work streams:

Each of these has been running for a while now but underwent a change in leadership over the summer following the industry departures of Marly Gotti and Yilong Zhang to Apple and Meta respectively.  I’m pleased to say that Eric Milliman (riskmetric) and Aaron Clark (Risk Assessment app) have now picked up the baton(s) and are working together on a joint roadmap to take us forward. 

If you’d like to know more, we’ve just published a new page on the website describing each of our work streams.  Please check it out and, if you have something to contribute, get in touch through the website.

Case Studies

We’re still happy to receive case studies following the three sessions earlier in the year (available to watch here).  These can be oral presentations, or if you would like to write up your case study then we welcome additions to the GitHub repository. Again, please reach out if you would like to know more.