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Indy UseR Growing as New Businesses like Insurance and Pharmaceuticals Move into Indianapolis

By Blog

Shankar Vaidyaraman and Derrick Kearney sit down with R Consortium to talk about how the Indy UseR Group coped with the pandemic. They started moving towards online events early, how they work with a diverse group of coders and their interest in attracting non-coders to the language.

Derrick Kearney
Shankar Vaidyaraman

What is the R community like in Indianapolis?

DK: I’m outside of Indianapolis and I’m newer to the group than Shankar is. I would say that the R Community is growing because there is an increasing number of businesses setting up offices in Indianapolis. I remember before the pandemic we were at a meeting and two new people from an insurance company, and they said that they just got transferred to Indianapolis and wanted to learn R. It was super interesting to see that new businesses were moving in and their workers wanted to learn R. That’s how the R community was growing in Indianapolis.

There are a lot of Pharmaceutical companies in the area as well.  We have asked them to share their experience with R and talk about different R packages. We have tried to cater to all of Indiana. We might even be the only R Group in the state! We are currently also reaching out to more users for in-person and virtual events. 

SV: I agree with Derrick. A lot of people in the Indianapolis area are learning R for their work. The group has been around since 2015 or 2016. It’s gone through its ups and downs. Given the size of Indianapolis, we have had quite a few R users.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

SV: We didn’t have a lot of members attend the meetings before the pandemic. We had several meetings talking about what we could do about it. We started doing it online before the pandemic. We knew that we had some people coming from Bloomington (UI) or Lafayette (Purdue). We started having Zoom calls so that people from the greater Indiana area could attend.

DK: Before the pandemic, I didn’t appreciate it as much as now the Zoom meetup. We had a speaker attend from Purdue, pre-pandemic, give her talk on Zoom. The speaker wasn’t going to be able to attend and present beforehand. Having that available has been a help. Over time, Zoom fatigue has started taking over. When I first started attending, I thought this would work well because I would have better time management. But over the last half year fatigue has set in. Maybe I need the time to drive over to the place to calm down.

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, or 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?  

DK: Meetup and Zoom are the main two technologies. Shankar has been keeping a GitHub repository where you upload presentations and resources. That has been helpful, allowing those who couldn’t make the initial event to have access to the information and videos. We also have a YouTube channel where we try to post our videos. That has helped with engaging the community who couldn’t attend the event.

SV: I think that we will try to do it since it’s a decent opportunity for those outside of Indianapolis to join in.

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? 

DK: One that was interesting to me was our last presentation about the Arrow project. I had heard about the project a lot, but I wasn’t following in-depth about what it was. I was able to hear about the project, what it was, what it wasn’t going to cover, and how people could help out with the project. Ian Cook gave that presentation.

SV:  I like the one from RStudio Rich Iannone about tables. I liked it because I wanted to do nice tables in R. I always wanted to do that but never was able to. Seeing the talk let me go through the process and make them. The package he used was GT.

DK: I liked that presentation because he had a lot of examples. Visual help because you want to see what the table looks like. Oh, you want to change it to this other thing? Here’s how you change the code.

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

SV: Primarily because the users that we have are from different backgrounds (environmental, data science, agriculture) it’s hard to see the trend that would cover all these topics. Also, in the last year, I haven’t kept up with R developments (Shiny and R in Production). Maybe R has graduated into a bigger thing with more people or companies (like RStudio). People are now thinking about it more as a main program than as an exploratory program.

I know that R is trying to move into TensorFlow problems, and R has a package in tensor. I am interested in whether or not R will start moving towards more machine learning, especially when you can call Python from R now.

DK: I’m usually trying to communicate something to people, I need to show people something and I need it to look professional. I found doing that in R was easy. Even taking notes or writing up a letter of recommendation. I thought to myself “maybe there is an R markdown template for this.” There was and I was able to create a good workflow for writing my letter. 

I have noticed a bigger focus on data science, and it seems to be starting to take shape, rather than it being a buzzword that encompasses many things. For data science, people would have to be familiar with moving data, collecting data, and storing it. There are people that can specialize in things like building models, and others. This can potentially make people happier in their data science journey. It is also noticeable in the Meetup groups, everyone comes in with the R tools they know and use, this creates something that can be teachable and promotes collaboration. 

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?

DK: When it comes to data journalism the most common thing that comes to mind is Andrew Ba Tran, from the Washington Post, at the RStudio Global conference. It was memorable in that I remember it, but right now the topic escapes me. I was able to talk to him afterward.SV: There was one at the RStudio conference on how they use R for the ACLU.

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

DK: I don’t have a favorite because I’m not involved or knowledgeable about them in general. Those that look interesting are the Rust Extender because I like computer languages. I think it’s interesting to see the connections between Rust and R. The R for engineering applications is also interesting. When people think about R they think about statistics or modeling. When they think about engineering they don’t think about R, they usually think about MATLAB as the primary language. I think it’s interesting to have this push to use R. Also setting up the R girls network looked interesting.

SV:  That is a good point about the R for engineering because of my background in chemical engineering. I feel that MATLAB, then Python, are the primary languages. I tend to use R for more things now and still have a place there.

There are four projects that 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:

SV: For people who are programmers who want to try R it’s easy. For those who have never done programming, it’s harder. Can we set up something that is more deliberate to engage those who have an interest in R but do not have the programming background? How do we get them onboard? They have the analytical background but not the coding part. Going from excel to R for instance. Some are so good at excel and can do a lot. But some things in R would take a lot of hoop-jumping in excel. Monte Carlo simulations for instance. I have no idea how to do this, but I think that this would be a good idea.

DK: When I get a good idea I tend to direct them toward the RCDI group.

When is your next event? Please give details!

DK: Next event will be on August 16th. We are trying to get in contact with a makerspace to host in-person events, and topics. We are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things!

More information here: https://www.meetup.com/indy-user-group/events/287115976/


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!

R Ladies Cuernavaca Partners with Biotechnology Institute to Quickly Expand Reach in 2022

By Blog

Nothing is harder than starting right as the pandemic hits. Today, R Consortium talks to Joselyn Chávez of R Ladies Cuernavaca about what it was like to establish a chapter right a pandemic hits, and how they haven’t just survived, but thrived and built community throughout Mexico.

Group picture for the team at CCG
Joselyn Chávez

What is the R community like in Cuernavaca?

JC: The R community is relatively new here, but it is enthusiastic. Before 2018, users in Cuernavaca were split and isolated. Mostly they were students taking graduate courses or workshops but not in a community or involved in international R. 

In 2018, the community of software developers for bioinformatics held a workshop. It’s from these that we started our R Ladies chapter. The community started growing up, and we invited people to join the R community in general. We saw an opportunity to start and expand our chapter because in Cuernavaca we have several campuses from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, and The University of the State of Morelos. We saw an opportunity to recruit these people, and the students of the university were the first target. We also have professional attendees, researchers, and diverse teachers. There are a lot of students in the biological area with a great interest in basic R usage, analysis of biological data, and applying statistics as well.

This year (2022), we partnered with the Biotechnology Institute in Cuernavaca, to which a lot of members have ties. In this program, participants meet once per month from January to December covering various topics. There are around 60 people that attend these workshops and at the end of the program, graduate students from the Institute receive a certificate of completion. 

We also welcomed two new members to the team, Aurora Labastida Martínez and Ernestina Godoy Lozano. This has been great because the group gets to share the work and collaborate with one another more.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

JC: When the lockdown started in March of 2020, we had just started R Ladies. We ended up postponing the third meetup we had scheduled. We spent the next 4 months thinking about what we should do. Should we wait for the end of the pandemic or start looking for new possibilities? Seeing how other chapters were doing virtual, we started to have meetups on Zoom. We started recording meetings, made a YouTube channel, and made the recordings available. Initially, we were afraid of how the community would respond. We were lucky because the community was very responsive and we saw people from other cities in Mexico, as well as other countries. Mostly from Latin America, but some from Spain and other countries. Currently, we hold our monthly meetings in a hybrid format but most of the attendees still participate virtually.

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?  

JC: We have a Slack channel, we do have some interaction with members there, but Slack isn’t that popular in Mexico. We have some problems getting people to connect in that space. They interact mostly via Twitter, Facebook, and Meetup. We also have a GitHub repo and a Youtube channel where people can access all our materials including talks and demonstrations on R tools.

Online information: R Ladies Cuernavaca repository on GitHub and Youtube channel

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? 

JC: Our community is interested in statistics, plot generation, and data management. Some of the most successful talks have been given by Aurora Labastida, one of our team members who has a lot of experience in biological data management and statistics. She also has a talent for teaching. For one of her talks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT0SJ-9ZIlc ), the people were very excited. The meeting was planned for 2 hours, but in the end, we extended it for 3 hours. Attendees continued asking questions and doing the example work. They were very happy. We had an attendee from Spain who stayed for the entire time. It ended up being 3 am in Spain at the end, but he refused to leave, even though the recording was available after. That was a very successful meetup.

Dashboard (Spanish)
Dashboard (English)

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

JC: We try to offer trendy topics like tidyverse and this year we planned a syllabus for all the meetings of the year, covering from R for beginners, to statistics and plotting. We are focusing on basic topics because a lot of members find in R-Ladies Cuernavaca meetups the opportunity to first approach the R language. 

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?

JC: Since our community is relatively new, they have not done much journalism in the community. In the past year, in the general R community, we started doing the 30 days of graphics. In Latin America, we had data on the Wednesday project. I think all of these have the main goal of growing data management, plotting, and analysis.

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

JC: From the 2021 funded projects, my favorite is Setting up an R-Girls-Schools Network because it has similarities with the general philosophy of the R Ladies project. I believe that opportunities created by this project can be life-changing for so many girls from different backgrounds. Speaking from my experience, being a part of this community has opened a lot of doors. I was able to get a scholarship to attend an RStudio scholarship that I got while a member of R Ladies. I met a lot of organizers around the world, not just in Latin America, but in other countries. After the conference, I started collaborating with them. I gave some talks for R Ladies Baltimore. I have an invitation for R Ladies Tunis. I also started a collaboration with other RLadies from Latin America. We have a survey where we look at R users in Latin America to know the challenges they face and how we can help. Also, I  took part in the UseR 2021 conference organizers team that represented a huge opportunity to collaborate and connect with others.

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

JC: I am biased by my professional interest and experience with the Community of Software Developers CDSB. I think the R repositories group (https://github.com/RConsortium/r-repositories-wg) plays an important role, since there is a lack of resources that encourage people to transition from R users to developers. 

There are four projects that 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:

JC: I think one that affects a large part of the R community. I am biased because I am a part of the Latin American community, which has space to grow up. I have taken some courses from an Argentinian initiative called Metadocencia. They started offering courses given by trained teachers that are carpentry trained. I took a course with them, and it was amazing! I was teaching a course at the beginning of the pandemic, and after taking the class with carpentry instructors, I was able to incorporate some of the aspects that they suggested. I think I became a better teacher. It is different learning how to code and teaching code. I think a training program for R would have a huge chance to have more workshops, recruit more people, recruit more instructors, and spread the language. Also, since I am part of the R-Ladies, this program gets my vote. It has been a great resource to receive support and collaborate with other R users in the community. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

JC: We are preparing the next monthly meetup on July 14th that will cover an introduction to tidyverse packages (https://github.com/RLadiesCuerna/meetup_julio_2022). 

Some of the founders of our chapters run summer workshops as well as part of the International Workshops of Bioinformatics (https://www.nnb.unam.mx/EBM2022/ ). Verónica Jiménez Jacinto and Leticia Vega Alvarado lead the Basic R course (Intro to R and RStudio), while I lead advanced workshops as part of the CDSB community (Advanced analysis of metagenomes https://comunidadbioinfo.github.io/post/cdsb-2022-workshops/#.YsN8Uy1h2wA )

In 2020, Ana Beatriz Villaseñor Altamirano from R-Ladies Queretaro and myself created R Ladies MX, which is a virtual annual meeting of all R Ladies chapters in Mexico. This year’s event will be organized primarily by members of the R Ladies Puebla chapter. We will have this meeting in September 2022. This idea was inspired by the Latin American community. We chose September because independence day is on September 16th. Last year we launched it for the second time and had a lot of attendees. We took advantage of the internet so we could all get together. We have 12 chapters and we all came together to meet and collaborate, there were over 300 spaces available. We had presentations from members to show how they use R in work or research. We are planning to do this meetup annually and have invited all the chapters in Mexico to join in. We are always welcoming more members to join!


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!

Virtual Events Opened New Horizons for R-Ladies Dallas

By Blog

R-Consortium talked to Dr. Sydeaka Watson of the Dallas, Texas chapter of R-Ladies Global about turning the challenges of the pandemic into opportunities for the group. She shared the initial struggle of finding an appropriate platform for the online events. R-Ladies Dallas overcame this temporary setback and hosted virtual events with both an international audience and speakers.

Dr. Sydeaka Watson

Sydeaka is a Data Scientist currently working remotely for Eli Lilly and Company (a pharmaceutical company) in Indiana. Her educational background is in mathematics and statistics. Before transitioning to Data Science in 2016, Sydeaka worked as a biostatistician for several years.

What is the R community like in Dallas?

We have two different R User Groups in Dallas. I organize the R-Ladies Dallas group, and then there’s also the Dallas R Users Group. When the Dallas R Users Group temporarily went on hiatus, several guys from the Dallas R Users Group joined R-Ladies so they could maintain their connection to the local R community. 

During COVID, the two R groups hosted a joint event leveraging Zoom, thus allowing the members in both groups to learn from each other. I also cross-posted events in both groups so that we could attend group events together. 

Most of the R users in our communities are from the industry sector. Some of them have been working in industry for a long time, and others have just started working in industry. Many of these people have heard a lot about R. They want to leverage the power of R for their personal and professional work projects.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Before COVID, we hosted monthly in-person events at various venues. We primarily hosted events at Improving, a local tech business that makes its space available to Dallas tech meetups that need a place to meet. Multiple meetups hosted their events at this place pretty much every night of the week. Improving also provided audio-visual support as well as free beverages and pizza. Hosting events in this space provided us with the opportunity to socialize with the other tech meetups in Dallas. At the time, R-Ladies was one of the smaller meetups, with up to 10 attendees per session. Most of our members were women or non-binary, but we would have a few men attending now and again. 

During COVID, when we hosted our monthly virtual events, I tweeted our event invitations on Twitter. People from across the U.S.A. and all over the world started joining our events. It was amazing! We also had speakers from other states and around the world. We went from up to 10 attendees per session to maybe 20-50 attendees per session. So I would say we significantly increased the size of our audience during the pandemic.

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?  

At first, we were using free Zoom, Skype, and Jitsi accounts for our virtual meetups, as we didn’t have a budget for video conferencing platforms. Later, Improving gave us access to a Microsoft Teams Pro account, and eventually R-Ladies Global provided access to a Zoom Pro account. These allowed us to better connect with our members. It was difficult at the start because we had to take time to get familiar with these platforms. However, eventually, we figured out how to leverage these platforms so we could stay connected and make it work. We continued to share content and conversation over Slack and GitHub as we had been doing before the pandemic. However, during COVID, we started posting recordings of our events on the RabbitHole AI YouTube account.  

I have been thinking about whether we should continue using these technologies in the future. We received such a brilliant response from other parts of the world to our virtual events. When we had speakers joining from other cities in the US, they brought their audiences with them. Our remote speakers promoted their talks by sharing them on their Twitter accounts so that their Twitter followers also signed up and joined our events. That was a nice side effect. It was so nice to find that we weren’t restricted to having speakers who weren’t physically present in Dallas. I think there’s an opportunity for us to leverage what we learned during COVID for sure. 

I just have to learn what’s the best way to do that because honestly, that can be a bit of a challenge. In a hybrid event, how do I pay attention to the room and also make sure that the online audience is also engaged? There are a few considerations that we need to think about, but I think we should definitely explore that idea.

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 and our most popular event was Data Science Portfolios 101 with Dr. Rachael Tatman. She was a dynamic speaker, had a strong following, and brought her audience with her. She connected with all attendees at all levels. As a long-time statistics and data science professional, I walked away with several tips that I felt were helpful in my career stage. It was the most popular event we have hosted, and the response was overwhelming.

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

Given the high competition for data science talent these days, I think we’ll see shifts from “how to get a DS job” talks to “how to stay competitive and maintain my leverage” talks.

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?

We had a couple of talks related to Data Journalism. There was a talk titled Digital Story Telling by Amber Thomas. She discussed the journalism efforts involved in transforming a simple idea into a data-driven, visual essay. Another interesting talk was “Flexible reproducibility in data workflows “ with Brooke Watson Madubuonwu. She works for the ACLU and talked about some projects she was involved in and her challenges with accessing and cleaning data from various sources. Brooke shared how she used those methods to get some superb insights that helped in their social justice efforts. She was one of the finest speakers we had. In pre-COVID times I would have never been able to get this caliber of the speaker. I would have never had a chance to know her or invite her to speak in our meetup.

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

My favorite project is “deposits: Deposit Research Data Anywhere.” As a researcher, I understand the need to make datasets available to the general scientific community. I really appreciate this effort to create this data repository that people can access and contribute to and would like to learn more about.

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

This is the first time I’m hearing about these working groups. However, I applaud the mission of R IDEA, particularly regarding its emphasis on diversity and inclusion. That aligns well with the R-Ladies mission. This is a group that I would really like to learn more about.

RC: When is your next event? Please give details!

We are working with the Improving venue to book the space and transition back to the in-person meetup format. For details about future events, visit https://www.meetup.com/rladies-dallas/events  


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!

R Lille Group Organizer, Mickaël Canouil, Talks About Guiding New Users

By Blog

R Consortium talks to Mickaël Canouil about the idea of reproducible teaching tools, cross-platform support, and the use of package building in his community. Mickaël says one of the most important things we can do to ensure that a language stays relevant is to ensure that we have new people using the language.

What is the R community like in Lille?

MC: It is quite new. We (Mathilde Boissel, Julien Hamonier, and I) started the R Lille Meetup group right before the pandemic in February 2020, unfortunately. Our meetings are currently held online, and it’s tricky to start and run groups that way. We don’t know a lot about our members personally, because we only had two meetings before the first lockdown due to the pandemic, which forced us to stop. Our last in-person meeting, and first actual Meetup, was last autumn (2020). It is hard to build a core group and get them together in that context.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

MC: When we started we wanted to hold our meetings in person. Due to the pandemic, this wasn’t possible. Because of this, we didn’t have a lot of meetings in 2020. At some point in the last few months, I started to invite speakers I was interested in to talk to R Lille. From this, we started to have virtual meetings, recorded and made available on YouTube.

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?  

MC: We have a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, and a GitHub organization where we post materials (or links) and everything related to R Lille. These are the main ways that we are communicating with our members. The R Lille website was recently updated using Quarto and submissions for our meetups are now handled by GitHub Pull Request.

Also, to promote the French R meetup, R Lille and Tunis R User Group started a collaboration in 2022, with two recorded meetups on {shiny} (https://github.com/Tunis-R-User-Group/Lille-Tunis-Meetups).

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? 

MC: Two of the first people that I invited were Will Landau, who gave a talk on his package {targets}, and Sébastien Rochette on how to build a package with the RMD first approach. This lets you build packages using RMD without knowing how to work with packages, which I thought was interesting. I started to use {targets} around the same period and promoted it in my lab as well. Since, R Lille hosted Maëlle Salmon, Aniss Louchez, Mohamed Fodil (collaboration with Tunis R User Group), Margot Brard (collaboration with Tunis R User Group), and Florian Privé on resiliency, spatial analysis, shiny and statistical computation (recording available on Youtube).

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

MC: The {targets} package will be one for sure. Many of R Lille members were really interested after the meetup and were planning to use it. In my lab, we are also talking about {future}verse for parallel computing. Those are the two major trends that I see. In addition, the publishing system Quarto which works as {Rmarkdown} but more independently is really promising.

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?

MC: We don’t have any in our group, far as I know, and I don’t follow a lot of media, so I’m not aware of anything in that particular field. In a way that might be a good thing (i.e., to not follow much media), since and especially during the pandemic, journalists and people were using statistics to report things that were incorrect and/or based on incorrect assumptions.

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

MC: The R Ladies group because the community is quite active, which is nice. I also like projects that help with cross-platform support to make sure that packages stay on CRAN (e.g., R-hub).

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

MC: I am particularly interested in R Repositories, especially the R-universe project by Jeroen Ooms. The R-Universe project is a great platform to get R packages from R developers in a more “social network” like approach than CRAN, in addition, to providing built packages.

There are four projects that 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?

o  The current four projects are:

MC: Something related to teaching and education, i.e., formal teaching tools and work on reproducible science that can be used to teach. There are {learnr}, {gradethis} or {exams} which help create teaching materials and tutorials, including grading. This means you can use R to both teach in R and use it as a way to grade assignments in the class. You would be able to teach R in R and use R at the same time.

RC: When is your next event? Please give details!

MC: The next event is not yet scheduled, but will be in person (possibly hybrid) in September to gather R Lille members around some short presentation (likely to be around Quarto). We have meetings with other french groups and are continuing it on an ongoing basis. These are hybrid events in-person and virtual with french speakers and other collaborations. A lot of the RUGS organizers tend to be involved in other RUGS groups as well.


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!

Francophone SatRday Conference Coming Soon – Save the Date!

By Blog, Events

The next Francophone SatRday Conference will be Saturday, August 6, at 9 am UTC, and will cover Using R for Data Science and Epidemiology. Join experts Ehouman Evans, Marie Ruth DAGO (Intro to R), Aminata Ndiaye (R in Epidemiology), Bryan Tegomoh, and Khalid Lemzouji to better understand how to use applications using the R Language for data science, epidemiology, and more. The event will be held in French.

RSVP here!

What are SatRdays? 

SatRdays are R-focused conferences that are held on Saturdays. They happen all over the globe and are organized by local community leaders to help and grow the local community. There is a big emphasis on making these events accessible – by not requiring time off work, by not costing more than a day’s wages, by being supportive of new community members or leaders.

New R Community in Botswana Wants to Implement Data Into Local Businesses

By Blog

Many of the local businesses in Africa have no idea of what data can be used for or how it can be used to help their business. R Consortium talks to Edson Kambeu about the idea of partnering with local businesses to implement R and Data Science in their business. He also talks about the inroads that have to be made in teaching users and the outreach that will affect their organization in the coming year.

What is the R community like in Botswana?

EK: We are just starting to know each other. One of the main challenges we have is in getting people to become more active. We have a decent number of people signed up on our meetup group. Almost 200 people have signed up for our meetup group,  but if we have an event between 20 to 30 people tend to join up in our online events. Getting more participation from members is currently our main goal. We have had a few meetups where we collaborated with Bulawayo R Users and EswatiniUseR to improve participation. Thanks to the R Consortium, who have also been supporting us from the beginning. We hope to continue to grow. We still need the support of the R Consortium, especially in our current situation, where we are trying to grow the community.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

EK: Our meetup group just started in March 2020. Soon after COVID restrictions were introduced in Botswana. The restrictions prohibited in-person meetings.  This affected our ability to hold face-to-face meetings. We then decided to conduct online meetups and in March 2021 we had our first online meetup. Since then we have been holding online meetups.  Holding online meetups is always challenging as some members may not have access to the internet. However, they have allowed us to reach even people who are outside Botswana. 

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?  

EK: COVID 19 restrictions forced us to meet online. We connect mainly during our online meetings which we conduct using Google meet and Zoom. The good thing about online meetings is that we are able to reach people from far places. We have sometimes had people from other countries attending our online meetups. Because of internet access challenges for some of our members, we cannot completely rely on these online platforms to connect. Once COVID 19 restrictions are eased we hope to go back to in-person meetings or probably a mixture of online and in-person meetings.  We have a Github page where we share materials used by our presenters. Those who would have missed our online meetings have the opportunity to access the materials on Github. We also have a WhatsApp group where we inform each other about R events. Sometimes some members ask questions and people are able to help on the WhatsApp group.

 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? 

EK: The most recent R presentation I liked was ‘Putting R in Production’ presented by Jacquiline Nollis of Saturn Cloud on the 23rd of February 2022. I liked the talk because it dispelled the notions that circulate amongst peers in data science that it is not possible to put R in production.  

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

EK: Right now, we do not have a high number of R users in my organization. Most are familiar with SPSS and have not used R before.  I am trying to introduce R to my close colleagues and hopefully, many of them will soon start to appreciate how good R is.

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?

EK: I am not aware of any data journalism by any of our members. However, I am aware of Code for Africa which is an organization that promotes the use of data in journalism in Africa. I got to know of Code for Africa through data journalist Catherine Gicheru when she presented a talk during UseR 2021 conference.  

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

EK: R ladies is my favorite. When I started the Botswana R User Group, I was inspired by  R Ladies groups such as R Ladies Jozi and R Ladies Nairobi. These groups are active and I follow what they are doing. It’s also good that they are encouraging the inclusion of women in tech fields.

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

EK: R business is my favorite active working group. It’s something that could be useful in Africa. A lot of companies here don’t know about data science, and this type of group can be very helpful for Africa. Something that can be very helpful in Africa is the addition of data science and machine learning in business processes and systems. It is something that businesses in Africa are lacking. 

There are four projects that 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:

EK: Something to do with collaboration with industry and implementing R into the business sector. A lot of businesses don’t know what data science is, let alone what R is. They don’t even have efficient systems set up to collect data and analyze it. It’s important that we start initiatives that help businesses in this regard.

When is your next event? Please give details!

EK: We will be having an online meetup on the 18th of June 2022. We will be hosting the meetup with EswatiniUseR and BulawayoR. We have been trying to collaborate with other regional meetup groups. Our topic will be ‘Writing custom functions in R’. I am going to be the presenter during the meetup.


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!

North East Data Scientists Group Works As a Professional Group

By Blog

R Consortium talks to Colin Gillespie (from Jumping Rivers) about how a relatively small area deals with increasing membership, what companies are doing to make their data science teams more efficient, and how we might want to look at how governments might view data science.

What is the R community like in Newcastle upon Tyne?

CG: Newcastle upon Tyne is the largest city in the northeast of England. We are a large area with a small population. Correspondingly, our community is rather small. However, we do have a lot of people who are using R. There are a number of world-leading universities in the region (Newcastle University and Durham University). We also have a number of government agencies that use R, such as the Department of Work and Pensions. On top of that, the National Innovation Centre for Data and Jumping Rivers are situated in Newcastle.

The user group started around 2016 with around eight people. About 2018 we rebranded as a Data Science User Group named North East Data Scientists and our attendance grew (almost overnight) to twenty people. We still talk about R applications, but we get a larger audience. Not all of our talks are about R, but a good portion of them are. In general, we have a data theme that covers R, Python, and Machine Learning. Newcastle is big enough to have one of everything (R, Machine Learning, and Python), but not big enough to have large single groups. 

We have over a thousand members right now. During COVID we had around 25-45 members attending. Over the last six months, we’ve gone back to in-person events at the amazing Catalyst building. We typically have around 40 attendees.

A typical meet-up would have two talks per night, one short and one long. We’ve also just started running short tutorials.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

CG: Once covid happened we had more people coming from around the world. We kept up talks at the same pace (one every two months). We also tended to keep the meetings short (1800 to 1930). One big benefit is that we have been able to grab people from around the world to give talks. However, we always try to aim the talks at our group specifically.

Now we’ve started in-person meet-ups, some things have changed (for the better)! We have a great new venue that is home to multiple data companies, including the National Innovation Centre, Jumping Rivers, and DSTL. This has increased attendance and made organizing the meet-up much easier (my office is two floors above the meet-up room).

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? 

CG: Dean Attali had a presentation where he took a shiny app that he made and went through how to make it better. He showed tricks and other ways to make them more efficient. This was an outstanding talk. We didn’t get a recording of it due to time constraints. 

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

CG: Companies in our area are expanding their data, and science teams. One of the things that they are wondering is how to better implement best practices and how to work in teams with data scientists. This is especially important when you work in small teams. This isn’t necessarily R, but data science in general.

Are there particular data journalism projects that you’ve seen in the last year that you feel had a positive impact on society?

CG: My favorite one was the Financial Times piece on COVID. It is excellent. It shows the numbers on COVID, density plots, and how well vaccines are affecting infections. It runs on R as well. One of the main authors did a talk at RStudio last year as well.

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

CG: HTTP testing in R. Maëlle Salmon, who is writing the book, is always excellent. I think that a lot of work is being taught by blog posts, which can be a bit dangerous. So a canonical source would be great.

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

CG: Keeping my eye on the R validation hub. Not sure how much progress they are making. Jumping Rivers (the company I work for), often has clients who are interested in the topic. So it’s nice if it’s solved based on community effort.

There are four projects that 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?

CG: Something around the legal aspects of R. Perhaps working with governments and big companies to demystify R. Because of the potential legal ramifications (like can you sell R code?) having a central answer would be great.

When is your next event? Please give details!

CG: Our next meet-up is scheduled for July 14th. But we are also running an in-person conference this October 6-7: Shiny in Production! The conference is going to be an afternoon of workshops on the 6th, followed by a day of talks from experts across a range of industries on the 7th. We’re really looking forward to welcoming people to the Catalyst! 


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-State R User Group Hope to Make a Comeback with Physical Events This Summer

By Blog

R consortium talked to Emily Bellis and Asela Wijeratne, organizers of the A-State R User Group, about their campus R user group. They discussed the struggle of managing a new user group during the pandemic. They also stressed the need for a centralized R Certification program for R proficiency.

Emily Bellis is an Assistant Professor of bioinformatics at Arkansas State University. She works in Evolutionary Genomics, Spatial Ecology, and Machine Learning.

Asela Wijeratne is an Assistant Professor of bioinformatics at Arkansas State University. He is a Molecular Biologist in training and loves analyzing data. He also co-organized an R user group at the Ohio State University.


What is the R community like in Jonesboro?

Emily: I would say for now at least, it’s mostly centered on our campus community and many graduate students are active participants in our group. We have a few faculty members as well who take part and lead sessions. We also have some undergraduates who will attend here and there, but I think the core of it is a lot of our graduate students who are doing research projects and using R for their research. In the Meetup group, I see more people joining from the industry, but they are not very active in the group.

Asela: I would say it’s small compared to what I have seen in Ohio State. But I see a huge growth potential as well. A few people from our incubator programs who are running their own startups are also a part of our group. But it is a small number. Hopefully, we will engage more folks from the industry as well in the future. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Asela: As a new group, it was really challenging for us. We only had one physical meeting before COVID. I feel online meetings do not have the same impact as physical ones. It has been difficult, but we hope to get back as things are getting better.

A-State R User Group First Meetup: “Introduction to R and R Studio” by Jake Steele

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

Emily: Mostly, we have been using Zoom for our virtual meetings. And then, we also have a Slack group, but it’s not as active as I hope it would be. We also ask our presenters to post their code and slides on their GitHub and we link to that on our website. We don’t have a central repository for our group, but we encourage our speakers to post on their own GitHub.

Asela: I don’t really like the idea of hybrid events, as it’s difficult to communicate with two different audiences. But it seems like hybrid events are more common these days. Personally, I prefer physical or virtual events, as it is easier that way. But we will see how it goes.

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 actually really liked two of our recent presentations. One we really loved was Alix Matthews’ presentation about GGplot. It was really great, especially for our new users. And then we also liked Aaron Shew’s presentation as we learned a lot of new tips and tricks for working with spatial data.

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

Emily: I am really appreciating what’s going on with reproducibility reports like rmarkdown. I integrate those into my teaching as well. So for one of my courses, everyone has to write their paper or their project report with rmarkdown. I have taught this course twice. From the first time I taught, there is much more support for making tables and citing references, etc. So it’s been really fun to see all the developments. I am also really excited about interoperability. I prefer to use Python for a few things and then a few things I prefer to do in R. In rmarkdown I love how things are becoming so smooth and integrated with the ability to inter-operate. 

Asela: I think every field is becoming data-intensive now. Being able to analyze this data, in fact, is critical. Since I started using R 10 years ago, R has become really user-friendly. R Studio and all these other tools that Emily mentioned for reproducibility make it very convenient. It seems like even the syntax is getting easier. These are all positive developments, which make R more available to people with different backgrounds. R is really useful for data analysis as it allows one to analyze new data effectively and produce really nice visualizations. So I see a huge potential for growth as well. 

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?

Asela: We do not know of any data journalism efforts in our group. But I like data journalism in general. If you ask me about something that affected society, it is this article published in the Guardian “Our food system isn’t ready for the climate crisis”. It’s about how we haven’t kept up with diversity in terms of our food production. So by breeding these crops, we have created these monocultures and with climate change, we are going into this crisis in the future. It has really nice visualizations, and I loved it. I don’t entirely agree with what they are saying, but in terms of data journalism, they have done a remarkable job.

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

Asela: Database interoperability for spatial objects in R seems interesting.

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

Asela: I like the idea of R Certification. But it seems it is for clinical trials only. It would be really nice to have a unified certification for R proficiency in other disciplines. It would be very useful as right now there are so many certifications but there’s no certain way to tell who has the skills. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We will definitely get back on track in the summer once the semester is over. We really want to get back to physical events and hopefully start some activities soon. 


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!

R-Ladies Cotonou Talks About Running an R users Group in Benin, West Africa

By Blog

A lot of what we use in the day to day life in the developed world may not always be available to those in the developing world. R Consortium talks to Nadejda Sero about running an R-Ladies group in Benin, West Africa, that is both dominated by men as well as lacks basic infrastructure such as reliable internet to hold online meetings.

What is the R community like in Cotonou?

I’m not sure if I could call it an “official R community” like what exists in other cities and countries. I would rather say clusters of R users are spread in the country, mainly in the southern part, where prominent universities and institutions are found. Most users I know evolve in academia – students, faculty, and researchers. They are scattered into small groups and dominated mainly by men. In my country, minorities, especially women, are barely represented in STEM. So, R- Ladies is a great platform that helps us come together, network, discuss our gender issues and learn. We have been including small talks related to women in Science and the professional world. This is how R- Ladies Cotonou has been functioning. I have reached out to some of my colleagues about creating an R Users Group. As I am already involved with R-Ladies (organizer and member of the Global Team), I cannot lead another group. But I am available to help and share my experience with the R community. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Globally, COVID-19 has prevented us from having new meetings till we started adapting and exploring online options – an ongoing process here ☺. After a long break, we restarted our meetups with the help of the R-Ladies mentoring program. Then, Covid happened, and everything kind of shut down. I was fully aware of the issues we would run into. How to make it work? I observed how the other chapters adapted and discussed with other organizers in Slack. However, our realities were different. I initially felt pretty shy and guilty about suggesting online meetings to the frequent participants of our meetups. To investigate attendance at a probable online meetup, how comfortable it could be, and needs, I shared a google form before planning the first online event. As one may expect in this part of the world, the leading cause reported by interviewees was the terrible and expensive internet. I think it’s the type of internet that will teach you patience and how to be humble. Although R-Ladies has a Zoom account, the difficult access to good internet and, to some extent, “working” devices (computer, smartphones, etc.) have been significant limitations to the group expansion. The slight positive feedback encouraged me to push things forward. And the first online meetup of R-Ladies Cotonou happened in August 2021 with very few attendees. I made sure everyone knew that having slow internet, putting your camera off, and only communicating via chat was acceptable. Our local chapter is still figuring out things, but there is a trend favoring in-person meetings. 

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?  

The main social media tools I have used to connect with people are email listserv, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Covid did not change that. Collaboration happens mostly via Google forms. Our group owns a GitHub page, and meetup account. We used the R-Ladies zoom account for our online meetup. As a strategy to promote these platforms, I presented all of them at our online event, how to access them, and contribute to the available resources. Besides, I kept using Inkscape and Canva to make flyers for advertisement. “Word of mouth” is one of the most used tools too. Experience showed that people communicate better via the WhatsApp group, which is open to anyone attending our meetups. I believe making the group more inclusive implies keeping promoting our social platforms and attendance at meetups despite the not-so-reliable internet.

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 have moved to the US recently to start my Ph.D., so I haven’t been as active as I would want. I have been entirely disconnected from the R community events. My favorite was our last in-person meetings. We had a workshop about importing and exporting data in R by Ruth Ouangbey. These basic skills are often overlooked when teaching R. I appreciated that she presented base R and tidyverse options. It was a good update for me. On the other side, we also benefited from a lightning talk on the current state of women in STEM and available fellowships, funding, and opportunities by Sherifath Mama. Most of our attendees are women in academia. Note that the positive correlation between R users and Science in my country is quite strong ☺. I think it is always good to know where your peers stand. Moreover, we do not talk enough about job opportunities or scholarships for this underrepresented category, especially in the francophone zone. I once asked an interviewer of a prestigious fellowship for women from developing countries why we were missing on their map of fellows. He replied to me, “You do not apply”. I thought to myself, “We do not know it exists”. We are still at the point where we cannot stop talking about R-Ladies, R Consortium diversity efforts, and Funding for STEM.

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

I think about Tidyverse, data manipulation, improved data handling, and machine learning. Most of the people using R I knew were generally invested in base R. It is fine, but I believe the advancement of data science creates the need sometimes to use less traditional packages. Data science has become a dream job everywhere. I have noticed that many people are trying to dive deeper into data manipulation (everything you can do with data) and machine learning, especially with R. These trends will probably impact the group because most of our members are in academia. If they request workshops or talks on those topics, that’s what we will provide. 

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?

No, I am not aware of any. I have been disconnected from R news, so I probably missed all the good stuff. The only stories including data and R I meet are the “regular” scientific articles ☺ 

When is your next event? Please give details!

I am not 100% sure, but hopefully, between July and October 2022. We have yet to decide if it will be online or in person. Topics are still in the oven, and speakers are not selected either.

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

R- Ladies Global! It is a fantastic project because inclusion and diversity are essential wherever you are on this planet. I better understand the need for inclusion now that I am a representative element of diversity ☺. It is a great community where everyone learns a lot. Since joining the organization, I have grown and acquired various organizational and social skills. Also, I love people coming together and sharing programming in R and sometimes linking it to other languages. 

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

R Certification training prepares you with the adequate skills to teach and constitutes valid proof that you can lead/teach without an academic diploma in statistics, biostats, or similar. With that certification, you have evidence that you know what you are doing. 

There are four projects that 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:

A project supporting R Communities in developing countries worldwide. The approaches and methods we use in developed countries are different from what is required in developing countries. Ways of running meetups, advertisement, funding, support, culture, and reception of ideas are many factors that create differences among groups worldwide. The contrasts and inequalities have become very clear and understandable to me during the past year. I often reflect on my personal experience. Running R-Ladies Cotonou has been all about an adaptation of what is available. I participated in the R-Ladies mentoring program, where I discovered that adaptation was crucial for “reviving my sleeping chapter”.  The tools and guides, once available, were mostly tailored for chapters in developed areas. But the structure for R-Ladies was very flexible and facilitated things for me.  

R Communities in emerging countries worldwide would benefit from a specific project that would provide a different framework. For instance, R-Ladies Cotonou took a whole year to receive the R Consortium grant. Such a project would support R Users willing to grow in Data Science or related fields. Another aspect of the project could target training R users (high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels). In some parts of the world, before expecting to find R users or a vivid R community, you first need to create favorable conditions for their birth – teach people what R is and its usefulness in professional, academic, and even artistic life.


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!

Bakersfield Data Analytics and R Users Group: Collaboration and the Need to Reach Out to Students

By Blog

R Consortium talked to Zhenning (Jimmy) Xu of the Bakersfield Data Analytics and R Users Group about the challenges of engaging members of a small and budding R community. Zhenning emphasized the significance of collaborations and co-hosting events for smaller R communities. He also shared his vision of attracting more students to the R community through local events and competitions.

Zhenning (Jimmy) Xu

Zhenning received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas at El Paso, an MBA, and a Data Science Certificate from Johns Hopkins University. He is an Assistant Professor of marketing at the California State University, Bakersfield. His research interests include modeling and simulation, informatics, social network analysis, new product development, and marketing analytics.

What is the R community like in Bakersfield?

We just got started with the Bakersfield Data Analytics and R Users Group. When I was working in Maine, one of my friends started an R community. I was a founding member and helped him with booking locations for group meetups. When I moved to Bakersfield, I started this group here. But then we had the pandemic, so we had to move everything online. Since this is a smaller city, it is difficult to get students and professionals involved. We already have two co-organizers and we are all working hard to make this group a success. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

I would say there are both pros and cons to the pandemic. Because of COVID, we have moved everything online, so we don’t need to worry about logistics like booking a room or arranging food for people who attend the events. The events have become zero cost and the only cost involved in running the group is the Meetup membership that we have to pay from our own pocket. I hope we will get some support from the R Consortium in the future. 

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 of people that cannot attend physical events in the future?  

I have been using different technologies to connect with the members of our group. Many users who attend our meetups do not have any background in R programming. I use R Studio Cloud, which is user-friendly and well-suited for beginners. GitHub, I feel, is for intermediate users who are familiar with the basics. I also use RPubs because it allows people to do free hosting and they can host a graph, a presentation, or a table. For video conferencing, we use Zoom and I plan to use Slack or Discord for online discussions in the future. 

Bakersfield Data Analytics and R Users Group Meetup: ”How I built the Tidy Tuesday API?”, December 2, 2021

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 only had one external speaker. I give most of these talks myself. The problem is that we don’t have a lot of attendees at our meetups. Meetups for big cities like Boston have over 50 attendees. I attend their events myself. For most of our meetups, we get mostly 5, maybe up to 8 attendees. I think the last one which captured the interest of the audience was the Dashboard presentation I gave in 2021. It covered how to design a dashboard that could allow people to display information or graphs on one page. It was interesting for the attendees as they didn’t know they could use a programming language to do a very basic design. 

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

There are probably many things. I would say it would be how to engage more members of the community. Data Science is extremely popular in big cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. But in smaller cities, it’s difficult to host events. So we plan on combining or co-hosting this meetup with different groups in different cities.

We are not too far from Fresno, for example. If we could get 2-3 cities to co-host a bigger event, it would be much more meaningful because we get to reach a much bigger audience. Otherwise, if we look at the number of members and the ones that actually take part, the numbers are low.

Collaborations are difficult, and I look forward to learning how to collaborate and co-host events. It would also be nice to host hybrid events because people really like them.

I am also really interested in involving the new generation of Data Analysts and Data Scientists. We have so many students taking Statistics or Data science classes, but some of them are not using R. I want to learn how we can convince students to probably make R their primary choice.

This past fall, I collaborated with a few friends to organize a hackathon. We found that many students are passionate about business analytics. However, they would need more opportunities to enhance their data storytelling skills. This spring, I worked as a judge for a local data visualization competition and our members had the option to use four different programming languages, including R. None of the teams used R, which was surprising because the host is a public university here in California. So maybe with R Consortium’s pending support, we can engage more students in the future.

Based on some online statistics, even though many of the students take statistical courses, over 95% of them never use R. Out of the 5% that use R, only 2-3% feel confident about using R. I really want to change that because companies are really passionate about hiring people who are proficient in R or Python. Once these students get a job, they will spend 3-6 months learning R. I have suggested we host regional events or competitions for students to be involved. 

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

Google Earth Engine with R is outstanding. I have been using R for two years but I have never heard about this website. So you need to promote it. Many people who use R don’t know about this website. The contents of this page are more for technical people and it would be nice to have content business people can understand. 

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

I liked the idea of R Certification. I also suggest having a working group for Students and R for marketing and supply chain professionals as well.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We do not have a definite plan at the moment. I am thinking of doing a dashboard design event in the coming weeks. I am also looking forward to collaborations with other meetup organizers because I think there are not enough collaborations and smaller cities can really benefit from collaborations. 


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!