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R-Ladies Taipei Hopes to Host Hybrid Events in the Future

By Blog

Kristen Chan of R-Ladies Taipei talked to R-Consortium about the unique pandemic situation in Taiwan. Originally, Taiwan was able to keep the pandemic under control, so the group was able to continue to host regular in-person events. The rise in COVID-19 cases in recent months in 2022 has forced the group to switch to online events. The group hopes to host hybrid events in the future, as online events have helped more people to attend their events with ease.

Kristen is a Data Scientist and co-organizer of the R-Ladies Taipei. She finished her Bachelor’s and Masters in Statistics and is currently working as an Azure Technical Trainer at Microsoft.


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

We have two R communities here in Taiwan: R-Ladies Taipei, which I host, and the Taiwan R User Group. For the Taiwan R User Group, we meet every Monday and the R Ladies Taipei meetups are on the last Monday of every month. In our group, we not only talk about R but also about Machine Learning and Data Analysis. We are open to any topics that someone wants to discuss.

R is very popular in Taiwan and almost all industries use R like Telecom or Journalism. Many people also use Python and some people use a combination of these languages. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

From the beginning of the pandemic, the situation in Taiwan was under control. It was a unique situation in the world as we could meet normally and all our events were in person. Unfortunately, in recent months, the situation has gotten worse and we are just switching to online events. We prefer meeting in person because the events are a lot more interactive that way. For now, we will have to rely on Zoom, Teams, or Google Meet for our meetings. But once things get better, we would like to go back to in-person events.

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 only recently started using some new techniques like meeting tools, sharing tools, and discussion forums for our group. For discussions, we are using our Facebook group and for video conferencing, we are using Microsoft Teams. We have a GitHub repository for our group, but we only use it when we have a big event. Usually, speakers share data in their own GitHub repositories. We do not have a dedicated YouTube channel as we do not record all the talks. Whenever a speaker is comfortable, we record and upload that talk on one of the organizer’s YouTube channels.

I think that even after the pandemic has settled, we will still use video conferencing as it makes it very convenient for everyone to attend events. Even though Taiwan is a very small place, having online events has helped us significantly increase our reach. We would like to host Hybrid events in the future with some people attending in person and some people joining us online.

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?

We had a SatRday event last year, and we invited Yihui Xie from R Studio to give a talk. It was really great having someone from R Studio speak to the Taiwan R community. I really hope that we get the opportunity to host more speakers from the R Studio for our events. I would like to take this opportunity to invite speakers from around the globe to join us and help beginners in our group grow.

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

I think there are many people who are using other programming languages. At R Ladies Taipei, we are committed to promoting R, and we will continue to highlight the benefits of using R through our events.

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

I think it is Setting up an R-Girls-Schools Network because at R Ladies Taipei we want more girls to code confidently.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have scheduled our next event for August 29th, which is titled “Natural Image synthesis with privacy protection”. 


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!

From Novice to Industry Professionals, the East Bay R Enthusiasts Welcomes Everyone

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Allan Miller with the East Bay R Language Enthusiasts Group about the group’s history and success in environmental and health industries. The group aims to reach new R users and remains committed to creating a welcoming learning environment. 

Allan has been a member since the group was first formed in 2008. He has been teaching in the Data Science Certificate program at UC Berkeley Extension since 2009. Allan has also been teaching R for 13 years and enjoys teaching students from all over the world. When he is not teaching, Allan is an avid road cyclist.


What is the R community like in the East Bay?

The East Bay R Enthusiasts group was started by Jim Porzak in 2008. It grew out of the D-Lab, a data support center for graduate students doing quantitative research at UC Berkeley. At that time there was an established R users group, the Bay Area useR, which often met in the South Bay.  We soon realized the East Bay community was large enough and that getting to meetings in the South Bay was a drawback for R users in the East Bay and San Francisco that we could start our own user group centered in the East Bay. 

There is a general tendency in user groups to drift towards the most technical level which can be rather intimidating for new users.  The East Bay R Enthusiasts has always focused on new R users. We have aimed to create an environment that is comfortable for new learners but also meaningful for experienced R users. Today, we have a very large R community here in the East Bay with almost 2,000 members in our Meetup. 

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in the East Bay?

We have people from all backgrounds, but many who attend our meetings are working professionals from Berkeley and the East Bay.

They have many attendees who work in the environmental and healthcare industries, for example, lots of employees from Kaiser, whose regional office is located in Oakland.  We also still get graduate and undergraduate students from UC Berkeley. 

First meeting at Tolman Hall on Campus (University of California, Berkeley 2012)

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Prior to Covid-19, we held monthly meetups.  Like many other groups, we haven’t met in person in almost two and a half years, since the start of the pandemic! We tried starting up a year ago but noticed there was a lot of Zoom fatigue. We are hoping to get back into action this year. 

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 used Zoom, it is great for getting speakers from outside of the Bay Area. Usually, our talks include a presentation by an invited speaker followed by a question and answer session and announcements. 

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

Over the years, we have seen a bigger than ever R community. Data science has become multilingual with python and Julia being used and is showing more integration with these programming languages and environments. But our meetups are still focused on R.

Some members used RMarkdown to make really nice presentations that are visually appealing. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We will meet again this Fall.  Be sure to sign up to our Meetup list to receive notifications for future meetings! 


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!

Community Call to Action for ISC Grant Proposal Ideas

By Announcement, Blog

Every year, The R Consortium Infrastructure Steering Committee (ISC) conducts two cycles of calling for proposals and awarding grants for projects that will enhance the technical infrastructure of the R ecosystem in a way that will benefit a significant portion of the R Community. The second 2022 ISC “Call for Proposals” will open on September 1st. 

With this post, the ISC would like to solicit ideas from the greater R Community about areas where it is important to extend R’s capabilities, or perhaps to identify new frontiers for R. Are there applications in the Arts, Business, Climate Science, Engineering, Epidemiology, Finance, Geology, the Humanities, Insurance, Mathematics, Medicine, Music, Numerical Analysis, Sociology, Virology, Zoology or any other field that would enhance R in a way that would be meaningful to a significant portion of the R Community or significantly grow the R Community?

If you are a software developer we certainly want your ideas, and we hope that you will respond to the Call for Proposals when it opens. However, if you are not yourself able to undertake a software development project, but feel strongly that R needs to reach into your area of expertise, we want your ideas too!

The R Consortium and the ISC would like to help the R Community to set out a vision for the long-run growth of R. If together we could reach a consensus on areas where building out R’s capabilities would make a difference, we may be able to match ideas with skills and over time fund a significant amount of meaningful work.

Please help us by opening issues for your ideas in the https://github.com/RConsortium/isc-suggestions GitHub repository.

Online Event – Design and Analysis of Experiments with R Syntax

By Blog, Events

The Osun R Users group in Nigeria will be hosting a two-hour Zoom class webinar on Design and Analysis of Experiments with R Syntax! 

Register Today!

Dr. Ayubu Anapapa Okango with the Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Science at the Murang’a University of Technology, in Murang’a, Nigeria, and Timothy A. Ogunleye, lecturer with the Department of Statistics at Osun State University, in Osogbo, Nigeria, will be hosting and facilitating the webinar.

In this seminar, the speakers will cover 

  1. One-Way ANOVA (Completely Randomized Design – CRD)
  2. Two-Way ANOVA Randomized Complete Block Designs without interactions
  3. Randomized Complete Block Designs with interactions – Factorial Experiment
  4. Post-Hoc Analysis of all these scenarios 

This webinar is aimed to help those studying R to better understand the design and analysis of experiments using R syntax as well as using R to better respond to a variety of problems that can arise.

Join Dr. Ayubu Anapapa Okango and Timothy A. Ogunleye on Aug 29, 2022 from 11am-1pm (WAT) / 1pm-3pm (EAT). Register now!

Namibia R Users Group: Fostering the Budding R Community in Namibia

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Tuli Amutenya of the Namibia R Users Group about the challenges of starting a group during the pandemic. She shared the struggle of keeping the audience engaged during online events and reaching out to people. The group aims to cater to the individual needs of the R community in Namibia and also form strong collaborative ties with other R User Groups in the region.

Tuli is a Data Analyst with a background in Data Science and Management. She co-founded the Namibia R Users Group earlier this year.


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

The R community in Namibia is fairly new. We just launched our group in April and have since hosted three events. So far the turnout has been quite encouraging and the gender balance is also good. Seeing an equal number of male and female participants in our sessions was heartwarming. At least 40 percent of the participants so far are totally beginners and have not used R at all. The rest of the percentage comprises graduate students. Our events have been online so far.

What are the challenges of hosting online events as a new group? How do you plan to overcome these challenges?

It is quite an immense challenge, especially in areas where people are not accustomed to using online platforms. Luckily for us, it has already been two years since we got into this situation. People are now more used to meeting and communicating through online platforms. 

The actual challenge now is to keep the audience engaged throughout the session. We have also been able to overcome this challenge and now the only challenge that remains is reaching out to the audience. We announce our events on Twitter, but most people are not on Twitter. People in Namibia are not much into social networks, so we have created a database of participants for the launch. We send out emails to this list and so far that has been effective. 

But yes, I don’t think meeting itself is a bigger challenge than reaching out to people through social media platforms.

What are the techniques you are using 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?  

So far we have been using Microsoft Teams for webinars. We also have a GitHub account where we put material from our online events and share the link with the participants. We have also been recording our sessions, but we have not uploaded them online. Since we just started out, we are discussing how to carry on and use other means of communication.

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? 

I think I would like to mention our launch event. For our launch, we were sponsored by Kevin O’Brien through the Why R? Foundation for the Zoom Account to host the webinar. The keynote speaker was Dr. Heather Turner. So that was great.

Presentations from our launch event were quite interesting. We collaborated with Nairobi R Users Group and R Ladies Nairobi, who facilitated the event. They gave guest presentations to provide information about the R community and various possibilities for collaborations and engaging other communities. They also guided us about access to a lot of online materials and provided examples of package designing in R. 

So I think ‌those presentations were quite useful for the audience, especially those who are beginners. It was also very encouraging for us as a new community to know that there is a community out there we can reach out to for support and collaboration. 

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

All the projects are very practical and are affecting different areas of the community. For me personally, the ones related to spatial data analysis are quite interesting. For example, the Google Earth Engine with R is quite exciting, especially for those of us who love to use both the tools. It gives more people the opportunity to use free imagery and do heavy computing and data visualization in R.

How has your experience of organizing this group been? What are your plans for the coming year?  

It’s amazing and we can see that there’s quite a lot of interest in the community. Since we have just started hosting events, people are still coming out from both industry and academia. So it’s really encouraging to see this. 

We plan to set up a structured calendar to invite and collaborate with groups in the region. We have already collaborated with Nairobi R and R Ladies Nairobi for our launch. Now we have contact with R-Ladies Gaborone and Eswatini R User Group and there is a conversation about collaboration. We really want to branch out to the region and invite speakers or presentations from different community areas, especially in Africa. 

So as we are going, we are getting to know our audience and creating a more intimate community. We want to learn how we can best support one another and grow. We are really excited to be a part of the R community.  

When is your next event? Please give details!

So far, we plan to host the fourth tutorial session on Introduction to Data Visualization. It will be online and scheduled for the 20th of August.


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!

From the R Business Working Group – R is for actuaRies

By Blog

Originally posted in the RStudio R Community blog, written by Dr. Maria Prokofieva, professor, Victoria University Business School, Australia, and works with CPA Australia. Dr. Prokofieva is a member of the R / Business Working Group which is promoting the use of R in accounting, auditing, and actuarial work. More information on R Consortium Working Groups can be found here.

What is actuarial science?

Actuarial data science lies at the intersection of math and business studies, combining statistical knowledge and methods from insurance and finance areas. Compared to data scientists, actuaries focus more on finance and business knowledge, while still collecting and analyzing data.

The profession is in high demand, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is expected that actuary jobs will a enjoy 24% increase from 2020-30. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. Moreover, the median salary for an actuary is estimated to be over $100,000.

The focus of the field is on assessing the likelihood of future events, particularly in business settings (especially finance and insurance) to plan for outcomes and mitigate risks. With this in mind, probability analysis and statistics are applied to very many areas, such as predicting the number of children for a health insurance or the payout of the life insurance policy. Some common tasks for actuaries include calculating premium rates for mortality and morbidity products, assessing the likelihood of financial loss or return, business risk consulting, pension and retirement planning, and many more. Basically, actuaries perform any tasks that include risk modeling, be that in insurance, financial planning or energy and environment. 

Read the full article here

R Ladies Philly is Making a Difference with its Annual Datathon Focused on Local Issues

By Blog

Alice Walsh and Karla Fettich of the R Ladies Philly talked to the R Consortium about the thriving R Community in Philadelphia. The group has broadened its reach both locally and internationally during the pandemic. However, they have a deep commitment to the local community and remain focused on local issues. Every year, the group partners with local non-profit organizations to host a Datathon to promote learning while contributing to the local community. 

Alice Walsh is a founding organizer of the R Ladies Philly. She works at Pathos, an Oncology Therapeutics company, using data to position cancer drugs. Alice got her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work is at the intersection of bioinformatics, molecular biology, and data science.

Karla Fettich is a co-organizer of the R Ladies Philly. She works as a Senior Data Scientist at AmeriHealth Caritas, where she builds identification and stratification solutions for different populations in the healthcare industry, and coordinates larger data science efforts. Karla got her Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Temple University.


What is the R community like in Philadelphia?

Alice: The R community in Philadelphia is very vibrant, I would say. Even though it’s not known as a technology hub, Philadelphia is a city with a lot of data and tech happening. It’s not like the Bay Area or Silicon Valley, but there’s a very vibrant data science tech community in Philadelphia. 

We know other R-User groups and Data Science groups in Philadelphia, and we have collaborated with them. There’s the Data Philly Group and also the Philly R-User Group, which took a hiatus during the pandemic and is back now. There are also some Python groups. 

The Healthcare industry in Philadelphia is robust and several members of our group are working in healthcare. We also have several members who work in media because Comcast is a large local employer. Overall, the Philadelphia R community is characterized by a focus on specific industries. 

Karla: Not only vibrant but it’s also a great, supportive, and fun community. We have been to a couple of Python events and they just really don’t have that vibe. In the R community, people are keen to learn. Users at all levels are happy to share their knowledge and learn from others. There’s always a lot of excitement and everyone’s just really eager to work together. So the R community in Philadelphia has been very collaborative. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Alice: Our pre-pandemic events were always in person and for many people, it was difficult to commute. Our events are now online, and we have been able to reach a lot more people. We also have an audience joining our events internationally, and it has been amazing to broaden our reach during the pandemic. It has also become easier to share our events because we record them and upload them on our YouTube channel. 

But now we are figuring out that some events are better online than in person. We don’t do a lot of speaking events and most of our events are interactive workshops. And I have actually found that it is very good to be delivered in an online format.

We have also realized that it is really difficult to do networking online. And that is also something which was an important part of our mission. Connecting people to mentors who are in the industry can help them with career moves and things like that. We have done online networking events, but I think that’s something we have to do in person. So from now on, we are trying to be very strategic about when we have an in-person event versus when we have an online event. We want to pick the format that best suits the content and makes us reach a maximum number of people. We are still figuring it out. 

Karla: I just wanted to add to the comment about how we can now reach an international or broader audience. It’s been great. Not necessarily globally, but also reaching the people who might not ‌commute to a physical location though they are around in the area. We have been able to reach more of those. But I think the challenge we have encountered is trying to stay true to our mission, which is to focus on the local community. So we love and appreciate having a global community join us. But it has made it ‌tricky to figure out how we can still keep the local essence of our chapter.

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?  

Alice: Maybe a good example of how we use different tools would be our collaborative community data project we have every year, which is Karla’s brainchild. We pair up with a local nonprofit to help them work with their data. Volunteers from our community work with them to show them what they can do with their data. The volunteers get training to work with an actual dataset, and the training partner gets to learn something useful to take forward. Maybe they hire data scientists or maybe they decide there’s more potential to use their data. 

So that project then involves a lot of collaboration. We use Zoom to do the actual kickoff meeting with the partner, and we use tools like Slido for organizing Q&A during live events. We use Google Docs for additional Q&A, usually to capture questions and answers asynchronously. People type in their questions and when the partner has time, they can go in and answer them. We also have a Slack workspace where teams can have their own channels. In the past, they would meet in a coffee shop and work on it together. Instead, now they meet up in the Slack channel or have a Zoom meeting to discuss what they are working on. 

I think that’s a good example of how we use a lot of different tools for one project. And then we aggregate all the code and results to GitHub. We always have a repo for each year’s projects and that way we can bring everything together in a final report.

I think the plan is that we will continue to have a mix of online and in-person events. Right now, I think it is a challenge for small groups like us, without a big budget, to host a hybrid event. That requires a media team because your speaker needs a microphone and someone needs to film. We would love to have a technology solution to make it happen.

For now, we will host in-person events when we feel it can be done better in person. We will also try to have a lot of programming workshops online, so that we can kind of have the best of both worlds. Recently, when we tried to move back to in-person events, many people asked us if we will be a hybrid event. But we don’t have the technical capability to do that at the moment. I think other people are figuring it out, so maybe we can learn from them, but it’s definitely a challenge. 

Karla: For the Datathons, we used to have the kickoff and conclusion meetings in person. People could come and present their findings and have the partners involved. It was also a good way to ask questions, get everybody involved, and network. These meetings have moved online, and it has been easy to record and save for people to refer back to. While everything else went really well online, I feel that the first and last meetings worked better in person.

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? 

Karla: I would like to mention this year’s Datathon which went from February to March. Our partner this year was a non-profit organization that helps elderly or disabled people in the community and connects them with the services they need. They hadn’t really explored their data, and they really wanted to know their impact on their community. 

So we split our team of volunteers into three different groups, each tackling a different aspect of the question. One group focused on the impact on the community and another group focused on data visualization and helping in putting it together for decision making. That’s something we know is really useful in the industry, but not everyone takes advantage of that. Another group focused on opportunities for further growth and comparisons between current impact and what else is out there. 

So it’s been a very insightful Datathon because each team dug really deep into the data. They presented the data in a way that was clear and would help the organization. The organization has really taken this report to heart, and they have been working on it. It helped them rethink how they relate to the data and what ‌data collection they should do going forward so that they can leverage data better in the future. I know their board is currently discussing the results as well, so they are planning on taking action based on the results. It has been a really fascinating Datathon, just like the ones in the past. Each Datathon uncovers something really interesting and leads to other projects afterward. 

Alice: The thing that I find really special about doing this work is that we always focus on issues that are important to our local community and local groups. So this year we were working with a local nonprofit that works with the local senior citizens and folks who need help. It is very meaningful, and that’s been our mission as well. So while we love having reached a broader audience now, we want to make sure that we can focus on what makes Philadelphia unique and try to tap into that.

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

Alice: We ‌see trends in the topics people are interested in. Most of our events in the past have been very educational. We usually have people do a workshop on a specific package or an intermediate or advanced R topic because that’s been very popular. So we have trends over time on what’s popular, and the ‌workshops people are interested in attending and presenting. 

For example, we are doing a book club this summer to talk about using tidymodels. The tidymodels framework is relatively new to R, and machine learning has always been a big topic that people enjoy. I think it’s mostly because it’s broadly relevant across all industries. I do oncology research, and there are applications there, but also in manufacturing, geospatial and other fields. So when new packages or developments come out related to these core topics, they will influence our programming. Over time, there are changes in the R landscape which bring changes in what we talk about. 

Karla: I think recently, machine learning and data visualization have been popular. I think geospatial stuff has also been very popular in the past. We are ‌actively listening to our community and seeing what they are interested in learning and doing, and try to accommodate that with workshops. We try to encourage people who are interested in that topic to lead a talk or a workshop, and they don’t have to be experts. They can either do it themselves or they can find experts to do that. We encourage people to speak up about what they are interested in and then we tailor our events. 

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?

Alice: I can’t think of something super specific by our members. In the past, some of our Datathon efforts have hit on local issues around which there has been journalism. For example, the opioid epidemic is very important in Philadelphia. Because we have been very hard hit by opioid use disorder, and there’s a project we did there. That was a couple of years ago now. 

Karla: From that Datathon, another project emerged. Because during that project, one thing we were focusing on was mapping treatment locations for opioid use disorder. They have actually taken that idea and worked towards putting up a website and it has been released recently. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

Our next event should be on our Meetup. We are doing a community-wide book club around tidymodels and that is coming up in August.


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!

Interview with Ehouman Evans – Experience with R and Use with Agroforestry in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

By Blog

View the full interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yW5TRZslj8 

Ehouman Evans (Ph.D.), Agroforestry Project Manager at CIRAD, gives an interview to the R Consortium about his journey with R, his career, how he’s applied his R knowledge to Agroforestry, and more. The interview was conducted by Kevin O’Brien of the Why R? Foundation.

In this interview, Ehouman began by sharing about Yamoussoukro in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), its well-known surrounding cities, and what the R community is like there. Afterward, Ehouman discussed his work in Agroforestry and the impact it is having on locations in West Africa. He also connects his sustainable development goals with his work as a “plant scientist.” 

Following this, Ehmouman gave more background on his career path and transitioned to his journey with R and its usability in his work. He discussed more about the R community in Cotonou, surrounding countries, and his personal journey with learning and using R. Ehmouman also shared about the networking he has done with other R communities around the world. The interview finishes with Ehmouman sharing some of his favorite R packages and wraps up by giving his advice for those who are beginning their journey with R. 

Main Sections

0:00 Introduction

0:31 Sharing about Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

5:01 Plant Science, Numerical Ecology, and location

7:15 Sustainable development goals 

9:00 Sharing about Ehouman’s career path

14:40 Journey with R 

17:33 R in the community of Yamoussoukro

20:19 News about R Community in Yamoussoukro

22:26 Connections with other Francophone countries 

25:38 Ehouman gives advice 

28:05 International connectivity

29:33 Ehmouman’s favorite R package

30:46 Thank you!

More Resources

Main Site: https://www.r-consortium.org/ 

News: https://www.r-consortium.org/news 

Blog: https://www.r-consortium.org/news/blog 

Join: https://www.r-consortium.org/about/join 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rconsortium 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/r-consortium/

Campus useR Group Frankfurt Using Non-Traditional Techniques to Increase Information Sharing

By Blog

R Consortium recently talked to Till Straube of the Campus UseR Group, Frankfurt, Germany, about the group’s aim to provide an informal knowledge-sharing environment for Campus R users. The unique format of the group was difficult to achieve in online events, and they look forward to returning to in-person events. He explained that the group constantly strives to be inclusive of all R users coming from all backgrounds and levels of expertise. 

Till is a geographer and works at the Goethe University of Frankfurt in the Department of human geography. His research interests center on critical data science, digital infrastructures, and security technologies.


What is the R community like in Germany?

Before moving to Frankfurt, I was working in Bangkok, and we had very active user groups for software engineers. These were casual gatherings, where we got together and talked about different technologies. I was looking for similar groups in Frankfurt to connect on the same level. I found one user group and tried reaching out to them, but it had been inactive, and I didn’t get a response from them right away. So I decided to start a new user group for R in Frankfurt and started looking for allies. I found Janine Buchholz, who also worked on campus here, and we started this group together. 

After we had announced our first meeting, we heard ‌from the existing user group. A company had been organizing it, and they had a very different approach. At first, we considered combining the two groups, but our different focuses became apparent. So we decided it would be fitting to have a university-focused group. 

We started the Campus useR Group Frankfurt as a platform for everyone who works with R on campus to connect in a more casual way than the classic format of expert talks. We experimented a lot with different formats that were all designed to get people in the room talking about R in a way that was comfortable for everyone. In terms of topics, we found our niche in questions related to research, publishing, and teaching, but we also discussed working with R more generally from the beginning. 

There are also Data Science meetups here where they talk about R as well, but they tend to be rather business focused. My impression is that few academic users of R are committed enough to those conversations outside of the university. Also, the R-Ladies Frankfurt was founded around the same time. Some ‌members of our group are also part of that group, so there has been a lively exchange with that group. 

  Campus UseR Group Logo

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we had regular meetings in person once a month. It was around March 2020 when ‌we could no longer meet on campus. We switched to online meetings pretty much right away. 

At that time, it seems many people were looking for online meetings on the Meetup platform. Interestingly, there were suddenly people joining our meetups from all over the world, sometimes just listening in.

We held on to our casual and diverse formats, but the casual, information-sharing experience was missing. Even though we were successful in creating an online setting that remained easy-going and fun, it was a lot more work. It was just not the same as many of our formats from our in-person meetups didn’t work well for online meetups. The spirit of casually sharing ideas or coding together on a laptop couldn’t translate so well online.

At the end of last year, our co-founder Janine moved away for job reasons, and I was very busy finishing my Ph.D. and preparing the defense. So we haven’t had meetings for 4-5 months. But we are planning to return with in-person events at the university because that’s possible now. Probably with the new semester, we will start again.

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? For example, did you use GitHub, videoconferencing, online discussion groups more? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that cannot attend physical events in the future?  

We have been using Zoom for video conferencing, and it worked fine, more or less. We were also sharing data for doing exercises, but we had been doing that before the pandemic, so this was not a recent development for us. We don’t have a dedicated GitHub repository. Our preparation is much more casual, and the focus is on the meetings. We have a “no homework” policy so that anyone can join at the spur of the moment. 

As far as the idea of being more inclusive by offering online formats is concerned, we are focused on creating unique learning experiences that are only possible in person. The formats we had in mind for our group didn’t translate very well online. However, we do put in efforts to stay more inclusive in terms of language, for example. All our events are in English even if all the people preparing them are native German speakers. In addition, we always emphasize that our meetings are for R users of all backgrounds and at levels of expertise. So, I would rather focus on keeping our group inclusive in those ways than looking at online formats as a quick fix. 

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? 

We have had some amazing talks from members of our group. As I said, we try to avoid the classic format of having an expert talk in presentation style because we have so much of that in the university already. We usually choose a topic and share our experiences. And no matter the topic, it usually turns out that one or in the group has had valuable experiences that everyone can learn from.

One meeting I remember fondly was called “Teach me Shiny,” where ‌I was introduced as the “non-expert” while the audience was the experts. I had heard of Shiny at the time, but I hadn’t used it. I would be in the lead sharing my screen, but the audience had to tell me what to do. In the end, I put together a simple Shiny app, and I think that was a very interesting format and a learning experience for everybody.

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

Publishing tools and workflows involving R have a huge potential in university. I am not sure if it will affect our organization, but I really hope more people continue to look into it. I do all the scripts for my lectures in Bookdown because it is so easy to share information and collaborate. R does not get enough recognition as a publishing platform. I don’t see many people using it for teaching materials, for example, using R Markdown for making slides, writing papers, etc. So that’s really where I save a lot of time in my text editor (not having to fidget with software). I can’t predict the future, but I hope more people at university realize this potential and start playing around with R in this way.  

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?

I should be more in touch with what’s happening in data journalism, but unfortunately, I am not up to date at the moment. I know there are really interesting data journalism efforts that are connected to far-right violence in Germany, which I think is a really important topic. It’s something that lends itself to giving it more visibility through maps and data journalism. 

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

As a geographer, I am really interested in the spatial features of R. So I was really pleased to see Tidy Spatial networks’ efforts.  I have also used d3 before, and d3po is also one of the funded projects. Overall, I find projects with a focus on spatial data very interesting. Also, it’s great to see that R Ladies are getting funded support.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We are planning to return with an in-person meeting at the university. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the start of the new semester in October. I plan to celebrate this relaunch by announcing it beforehand and reaching out to everyone. With this event, we want to revive the format of casual meetups with everybody sharing ideas and doing some coding hands-on. I feel that it really fills an important gap in the R landscape


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!

Robin Donatello Talks About Growing an R Community at a State University

By Blog

Growing a user base for R at a university can be challenging at the best of times, especially when dealing with the silos that are present in the university system. Robin Donatello with the Chico R Users Group talks about how this issue became both easier and harder to deal with due to the pandemic.

Robin Donatello is an Associate Professor of Statistics and Data Science at California State University, Chico. Robin has also helped host the ASA Datafest, a data analysis competition in which undergraduate students from various majors get to work in teams on large, complex, and real-world data. 💡


What is the R community like at CSU Chico?

RD: It is struggling to have cohesion right now. For the most part, I have been a one-person show, but recent hires in Statistics have brought some new energy to the University and additional interests in building a data scientist community. We have about 20 faculty that use R in about 40 classes. We have about 100 or so students each semester being exposed to the language, but for the most part, everyone is doing their own thing.

I currently have a USDA HSI Education grant where I was able to fund 3 other faculty to become Certified Carpentry instructors. The goal is to increase the pool of faculty who want to teach these skills outside of the traditional class so that we can feel like we have a community.  A lot of faculty are still burnt out right now and aren’t interested in taking on any additional work. As a teaching institution, our primary responsibility is in-class teaching and support. I’m hoping that soon we’ll get something other than an ASA Datafest. We are actively working on a new Masters program in Data Science and Analytics expected to roll out in Fall 23. We envision teaching both in R and Python, and I look forward to exploring how the two languages complement each other.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

RD: One of the things that we had going pretty well before the pandemic was a thing called Community Coding. This was started based on the idea behind UC Davis “Meet and Analyze Data”. Faculty, Staff, and Students can come and do work, and people would be there to help. The hard part was scheduling a room. Trying to have a centralized room on campus and then trying to have a faculty or student be there at that time. We had 10-15 students, each student about two times a week come in for direct help, they knew someone would be there since it would be like drop-in tutoring. When we switched to online in 2020, they all were gone. No one showed up. From 2021-22 it has gotten a little better. It’s still sparse, but people are getting used to virtual now. Getting help on zoom is less of a barrier now than it used to be. I am seeing more non-traditional students and students not in my class drop in and ask questions. The virtual nature has allowed us to expand the help across campus because faculty are more open to doing zoom hours than to going across campus and sitting in a room. We were able to offer 14 hours/week of help in Spring 21, but the support was still very underutilized. Holding Community Coding virtually also allows us to meet people in the larger R community, not just at our institution.

We also had to cancel our ASA DataFest in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid, which is typically a good networking and community-building event. 

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?  

RD: We will do this in the future. We have a lot of students that are working as well, so we will keep on these online. We have graduate students who can’t attend during the day, we have professional students and others who just can’t participate during the day for some reason or another. There will always be some online component, at least for the Community Coding events. The Carpentry workshops are often offered in a hybrid format, allowing for both online and in-person audiences.

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? 

RD: We haven’t had a presentation recently. We are discussing ways to bring back regular meetups that can re-engage our community.

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

RD: The only thing that I can think of is the growth of the tidyverse has made teaching students in the applied sciences easier. It helps, but sometimes knowing the base is more helpful for the advanced stuff. The basic student, however, will probably only use it in their analysis and some classes in general, but will not become an advanced R user. It has made my life as a teacher more accessible and I’d like to see it continue.

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?

RD: There is an adjunct professor who is a certified R Studio and R Carpentry instructor who is doing a data journalism class. It started a few years ago with an older professor. When that professor left, it stopped being taught. When the current professor came back, he took up the class. However, he’s an adjunct so he may or may not stay. It was offered for the first time this semester with no advertisement, so the enrollment was low. That’s a constant battle for us is advertising and getting the word out about these things. If they could get this class into a major, like journalism or data science. I will add it as an elective to data science and as a class in the data analytics minor.

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

RD: Data Carpentry because building capacity at the faculty level is the only way that we will build a community and get it out to more students.

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

RD: I wasn’t aware of the groups ahead of time, mostly due to my schedule. If I did, it would be a community of diversity and inclusion, mostly because we are a Hispanic-serving institution. Over 40% of our students identify as Hispanic in origin and the faculty at Chico does not reflect the same diversity. The main aim of my current grant is to empower traditionally underserved populations to engage in research and data analysis using R and to support their growth in scientific fields.

Four projects are R Consortium Top-Level Projects. If you could add another project to this list for guaranteed funding for 3 years and a voting seat on the ISC, which project would you add?

The current four projects are:

RD: I would like to see a service similar to Data Camp created. That was an amazing tool that I will no longer use due to their corporate behavior. That platform was so helpful for teaching students. If someone were to make something similar to that which was community-driven and not profit-driven that would be amazing. That would be super helpful for instructors. Even enhancing the LearnR and grade this package to have more tools and easier to install and use for new learners. A group that is designed to help teachers to teach R easier is what I would like to see.

When is your next event? Please give details!

ASA DataFest in Spring 2022 returned as a success. We had 28 students from two universities attend, which is not too much lower than our pre-pandemic number of 35. A common theme student stated is that they wished they had more experience with R before going into the weekend. This can be an opportunity for us to do more pre-event activities and meetups in Spring 23. 

Our next Data Carpentry workshop will be in August and again in January. We are trying to offer about 2 each year, but the participation has been still pretty low compared to pre-Covid. 


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!