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COVID-19 Data Hub Paper Published in Nature Scientific Data

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“A worldwide epidemiological database for COVID-19 at fine-grained spatial resolution” by COVID-19 Data Hub developer, Emanuele Guidotti was published in Scientific Data on the March 28, 2022, and is available to view online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-022-01245-1 (DOI  10.1038/s41597-022-01245-1).

The R Consortium is proud to be a sponsor of the COVID-19 Data Hub. We believe that the need for accessible, organized, official COVID-19 case data will persist for some time into the future, and that the COVID-19 Data Hub is a serious contribution to science and public health.

— Joseph B. Rickert, Chair R Consortium Board of Directors

PAPER ABSTRACT 

This database provides the daily time-series of COVID-19 cases, deaths, recovered people, tests, vaccinations, and hospitalizations, for more than 230 countries, 760 regions, and 12,000 lower-level administrative divisions. The geographical entities are associated with identifiers to match with hydrometeorological, geospatial, and mobility data. The database includes policy measures at the national and, when available, sub-national levels. The data acquisition pipeline is open-source and fully automated. As most governments revise the data retrospectively, the database always updates the complete time-series to mirror the original source. Vintage data, immutable snapshots of the data taken each day, are provided to ensure research reproducibility. The latest data are updated on an hourly basis, and the vintage data are available since April 14, 2020. All the data are available in CSV files or SQLite format. By unifying the access to the data, this work makes it possible to study the pandemic on a global scale with high resolution, taking into account within-country variations, nonpharmaceutical interventions, and environmental and exogenous variables.

Sylhet R User Group in Bangladesh Hopes to Get Back on Track with Physical Events

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R Consortium talked to Bolaram Paul of the Sylhet R User Group about the challenges faced by the group because of the pandemic. As a group focused on physical events, they could not readily shift their events online. However, they are hopeful things will return to normal and they will organize physical meetups again. Bolaram also shared his vision of creating, as well as translating, R resources to the local language, to further facilitate the adoption of R in the country.

Bolaram is a Senior Web Developer who is passionate about open source technologies. He has been working with the open software communities and is also pursuing his Master’s degree in Computer Science. 

What is the R community like in Bangladesh?

The R community in Sylhet is still in its early stages, although there are many R users in academia and industry in Bangladesh. R is getting popular in banking, e-commerce, finance, and many more sectors and people are getting more interested.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

We used to organize offline events in educational institutions, so that we could interact physically. Because of the outbreak of the pandemic, the government banned public gatherings. As we were not familiar with online events, the pandemic really affected our ability to connect. However, now things are getting back to normal, and we are planning to organize online events as well.

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? 

As we were used to offline programs, we didn’t use these technologies. But basically starting now, because of the COVID-19 situation, we are researching techniques to boost our communications and interactions. 

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 got a presentation from one lecturer at a local university. He discussed the diversity of R applications in various sectors and real-life use cases of R language. He made the talk really interesting by using images, and it captured my interest.

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

Because of the pandemic, the entire world is facing a crisis. I hope we’ll find the best solutions to fight this crisis. My expectation for the next few years is to create or translate more R resources into our local language. I believe it will make interactions easy, and we will get more contributions in the development of R packages and usage examples in different disciplines.

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?

As far as I know, not in our community. I noticed a few local NGOs using data to analyze oxygen plant/bed/health supplement stock in nearest hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak to help people. I believe data journalism is the future and journalists need to be data-savvy. We will try to organize a training session on data journalism.

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

My favorite is the RECON COVID-19 Challenge. It is a really helpful project for analytics resources in R, to support the response to COVID-19 worldwide.

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

R / Business. This ISC group works with the R programming environment and the R ecosystem in business research. This is very helpful for making optimal decisions based on data analysis and helps small startups make perfect decisions.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have not scheduled our next event yet. We are hoping to schedule it soon.

UPDATE: Successful R-based Test Package Submitted to FDA

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The R Consortium is happy to announce that the R Submissions Working Group successfully completed the follow-up to the original pilot 1 eCTD submission! All submission materials can be found at: https://github.com/RConsortium/submissions-pilot1-to-fda

The pilot 1 test submission was an example submission package following eCTD specifications which included a proprietary R package, R scripts for analysis, R-based analysis data reviewer guide (ADRG), and other required eCTD components.

The initial submission was submitted through the eCTD gateway on Nov 22, 2021. An FDA written response letter was received on Dec 3, 2021. The FDA response commented on two minor findings and included a number of suggestions for best practices. The updated submission package addressed all of these issues and was submitted on Feb 11, 2022. The final response letter from FDA was received on Mar 14, 2022, and can be found at: https://github.com/RConsortium/submissions-wg/blob/main/Documents/Summary_R_Pilot_Submission2.pdf .

Throughout the submission process, we successfully submitted R scripts with its natural file extension (.r) through the eCTD gateway. A proprietary R package was also submitted through the eCTD gateway. Following the submitted ADRG, the FDA staff successfully installed the proprietary and open source R packages, reran the submitted R scripts, and reproduced the analysis results. In addition, the FDA staff performed independent programming in R to evaluate the results.

To our knowledge, this was the first publicly-available regulatory submission package using open source language; this successful pilot sets an important milestone to streamline future open-source language-based submissions. 

As a next step, the R Consortium R Submission Working Group aims at initiating an R submission pilot 2 to experiment with Shiny app code submission through the eCTD gateway. In addition, the working group is also exploring R based pilot submissions to other health authority agencies globally. 

The initial announcement of the R Consortium R Submission pilot 1 can be found at: https://www.r-consortium.org/blog/2021/12/08/successful-r-based-test-package-submitted-to-fda

Eswatini R Users Group Forging Ahead Despite Pandemic Hurdles

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R Consortium recently caught up with Emmanuel Olamijuwon and Nontsikelelo Shongwe, organizers of the Eswatini R Users Group (Twitter: EswatiniUseR). They discussed how the R user base is growing in Eswatini and how the pandemic has affected them. (Eswatini is located in southeastern Africa, surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.) Although the COVID pandemic really affected their community, the group is gearing up to restore the former status quo before the pandemic hit.

What is the R community like in Eswatini?

The R community in Eswatini is expanding significantly, and we are optimistic it will continue doing so. Apart from tertiary students and the corporate world, there have been calls for adoption and use of Free and Open-Source Software in teaching and learning in Eswatini’s secondary and high school. This is perhaps the reason behind the growth of the R community in the country.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

The COVID pandemic has greatly affected us. We haven’t been able to meet physically because of the restrictions that came with the pandemic. Having virtual meetings has also been impossible due to limited internet connectivity — not everyone has internet access because of the cost — and for those with internet access, the speed is slow. 

In the past year, did you have to change your techniques to connect and collaborate with members? 

The Internet has always been a challenge that’s why we haven’t been able to use any online platforms, such as GitHub or Zoom. We have only used WhatsApp, but only for the organizers so we could share important communications.

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 Heather Turner do a presentation on diversity and inclusion in R. It was exciting to see what R-Ladies community groups are doing and how we fit in as a community.

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

I am not sure if this is a trend, but I would love to see R incorporated with Python. Not necessarily to see which language is better but in order to get maximum results from the two. 

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?

Currently not really any. However, we heard in the local newspaper of an initiative UN Eswatini was running to educate journalists in the country about data journalism. That’s the only data journalism project we have heard about.

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

Emmanuel: I love the Setting up an R-Girls Schools Network project. It is my favorite probably because I joined the R community through R-Ladies South Africa. I had gone to one of their meetings and one of the organizers advised me to start an R-User group so I started. I love its goal which is to increase representation and participation of girls in R. This happens to be one of the things I would love to see as well.

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

Nontsikelelo: My favorite is R/Pharma. It is my favorite because it focuses on easening decision-making environments and health technology assessment for Health Analysts through utilizing R. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We are still in talks with other organizers when we can have our next meeting.

Hiring a New Community Manager for rOpenSci

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From the rOpenSci Project

The rOpenSci project, a developer collective that develops tools and fosters community to enable open science with R, is hiring a new community manager. rOpenSci is an avenue recruiting new talent into the R ecosystem and a hotbed of experimentation of approaches to package design and infrastructure for R.  Our work is only as strong as our community, though, and the community manager plays the central role in bringing in new members, fostering collaborations, and maintaining the welcoming and positive experience that keeps that community strong. Thanks to an award from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, this position will help lead a new program to recruit and support open-source leaders from historically underrepresented communities, working with affinity groups like Minorities in R, LatinR, AfricaR, R community, and R-Ladies.


The job is fully remote and has no geographic restrictions. A full job description and application form can be found at https://ropensci.org/careers/community-manager-2022 

Risk Assessment Shiny App – Update from R Validation Hub

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Recent update by Marly Cormar on the Risk Assessment Shiny App. Marly is an executive committee member of the R Validation Hub where she advocates for the use of R within a biopharmaceutical regulatory setting, and Senior Data Scientist at Biogen.

The Risk Assessment App is an interactive web application serving as a front end application for the riskmetric R package. riskmetric is a framework to quantify risk by assessing a number of metrics meant to evaluate development best practices, code documentation, community engagement, and development sustainability. The app and riskmetric aim to provide some context for validation within regulated industries.

Update details:

Murcia R Users Group (UMUR) in Spain Didn’t Let the Pandemic Break its Momentum

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R Consortium recently talked with Aurora González Vidal of UMUR Asociación de Usuarios de R Murcia (Also on Twitter). She covered the historic involvement of Murcia in the evolution of R in Spain and the progressive nature of the R community in Spain. Although the original community spirit of the group has suffered during the pandemic, shifting events online has also significantly increased the reach of the group. With two future events already planned, the group has held on to its pace and is also hopeful to host hybrid events in the future.

Aurora has been the president of the R Murcia Users Organization since it was established in 2017. She is also a postdoctoral researcher in the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence at the Faculty of Computer Science, University of Murcia. In her free time, she enjoys playing sports, including climbing and krav magá (self-defense). She is also an avid reader and loves playing the saxophone.

What is the R community like in Spain?

I consider that the R community in Spain is very active, and it consists of multidisciplinary researchers and people in business. Some of my colleagues also work for banks and engineering companies and they are introducing R in their work environment. Adoption of R in industry is still in its early stages and mostly as a personal effort from the employees.

I was told that in 2009, before I started at the university, there were some individual R users spread through Spain that belonged to Linux mailing lists and statistical forums. They gathered here in Murcia for the first time to share knowledge and experience at a national R conference. It was special because here in Spain, bigger events happen in Madrid and Barcelona. Since then, there is an annual conference that grows more every year. 10 years later, in 2019, we celebrated the Xth conference again in Murcia and there were 144 attendees, 32 talks, workshops, posters, a prize, and 2 invited speakers that are prominent references in the R-world: François Husson, who was there in person, and Julia Silge, who gave her talk remotely from Utah. I think in Spain we are very passionate about R and the ecosystem around it because it relates to progress and sharing. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

Our original community has suffered a lot because the main activities that we performed, the bi-monthly workshops, had a powerful component of being present. Seeing each other’s faces and getting to know the people, getting to share ideas by having a coffee together after the workshop, was an important part of our spirit. So the original idea of the workshop has suffered. 

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?  

We are using Zoom, and some of our speakers have decided to publish their code on GitHub. It’s something we promote, but not something we ask for. Normally, how it works is that we work a lot through mailing lists. So when someone wants to become a member, they fill out a questionnaire, and we communicate through email. If there is any discussion, it goes through email. We normally provide a doodle to select days for workshops so that every member can vote. In other words, apart from video conferencing, there is nothing new in particular that has happened during the pandemic.

Since we started offering the workshops online because of the pandemic, we have enlarged our community. We engage people not only from our region but also people from other local groups in Spain, and even in Latin America. We also started a YouTube channel that gives our content a projection. It’s great because we get to analyze the interests of the audience from the views on your YouTube channel. For those things I am happy, and the idea is to continue with a hybrid setup in the future, once it is safe to gather again. 

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? 

Our most recent workshop was very interesting. Jose Vicente Yago, a colleague of mine, who is a data analyst in the Computer Sciences Faculty of the University of Murcia, gave it. It was about creating R packages and deploying them as APIs for machine learning applications. I think this is especially interesting because once we create a function, a set of functions, or even a package, there is the possibility of exposing them to any platform or to any client that does not want to be aware of how R works. It was great, and it is currently available on our channel and also the code is on GitHub. This is not something we ask for because every talk is different, but we encourage the speakers to publish their content, and we support them.

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

I see that people at the organization are very interested in R for education, R for ecology, and artificial intelligence. A more transversal interest is always developing Shiny apps. Our vice-president already gave a workshop about flexdashboards, and we are thinking of offering a talk about shiny extension packages for theming, UI components, visualizations, etc.

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?

There is a local R organization, named R-Quixote, from Toledo with which we collaborate frequently. Through them, the editor of the digital journal “The Data Science Magazine” contacted us to help in a section that is an R course. Some members of UMUR, the organization, especially the ones on the directive board, have collaborated previously, providing R courses to Ph.D. students, professors at the university, and other professionals. I will try to get many members involved in this project. 

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

Personally, from my research and academic view, I would say that the Google Earth Engine with R is amazing. In smart agriculture, satellite images are really useful for detecting problems with crops. 

And then also from a social point of view, the R Girls Schools network sounds amazing too. I think this is something we can also do as a local group. We could try to go to schools, teach what is coding and empower girls from school to choose Data Analysis and Computer Science as careers. So these two things would be my favorites from the funded projects. 

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

I think R Certification is very useful because at this point we use online courses, we try on our own but there is a lack of institutions or certification that can provide proof of proficiency in R. So that would be useful.

And also the Distributive Computing working group. Because many times there is this belief that we can only work sequentially in R. Of course parallel computing is possible but people aren’t aware, so these efforts are interesting and useful. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have already planned the following two talks. The first one will be about CARET from a predictive point of view and with a focus on biotechnology. There is a lot of expectation with that one. The second one will be a presentation of a package named mapSpain() that is in CRAN. The author himself will show how the package can create maps of the different administrative levels of Spain with R. 

How Abidjan R User Group Is Leveraging Online Meetups To Go Beyond Borders

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Anicet Ebou is a PhD student in Bioinformatics at the Institut National Polytechnique Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY de Yamoussoukro (INP-HB), Ivory Coast. He works as a bioinformatician to design tools and methods for molecular and agricultural data, and he is one of the lead organizers of Abidjan R user group.

Anicet talks to the R-consortium on the status of their community group especially during this post COVID era. He also shares the trends in the R language which he feels will affect the global R user community.

What is the R community like in the Ivory Coast?

Our community is medium-sized in terms of number of members. We have around 500 active members. The community is composed of people who are very interested in the R language. We have people from academia, students, professions in the field of data science, networks and IT.

Majority of the members come from academia. We have PhD students, researchers, university lecturers etc. Our members have done interesting projects in R which we keep in our Google Drive folder.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

When COVID hit our country, it was not easy for us because we had to find a new way to meet and continue with our programs. After realizing that the pandemic was not going away anytime soon, we switched to online.

All the meetings we had in 2020 were online, and we would have at least one physical meeting a month. In 2021 it was more difficult to have in-person meetings despite that the COVID situation was calm and the restrictions were lessened.

Our community members now prefer online meetings to physical ones. In 2020, we used to book a small room at one of the universities and invite only a few people to attend while the rest were streaming at home. I think this is what has made our members more inclined to online meetings than physical meetings. Whenever we call for a physical meeting, they always ask for an option to stream online.

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?  

What we have learned from 2020 through 2021 is that people are now used to having everything online. This has prompted us to switch to video conferencing for all our meetups. I think one of the mistakes we made in 2020 was that we were not quick to discern that our community was turning virtual.

We tried organizing in-person meetings in 2021, but the community was not reactive. We have learnt that it’s better to have on-site meetings only for bigger meetings like conferences, hands-on training, and leaving the rest for online. Online meetings are what people now prefer.

Apart from video conferencing, we have a Telegram channel where people ask questions and help one another. I believe these techniques are going to be more effective for us as a community because people are able to connect from anywhere.

Our online meetings always draw people from outside Abidjan and also from outside the country such as Senegal and Mali. Transitioning to online has eliminated geographical barriers. 

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 Abraham Bio do a presentation on the use of Shiny to create web apps. It was interesting because it gave the participants an opportunity to see what R is capable of doing.

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

What I have seen is that people are more interested with the use of spatial analysis in R, like how to draw maps, and view spatial data. People are also interested in linking R with Shiny to create web applications, and also how to transform data in R. These are the three major areas we are planning to address as a community this year. 

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 haven’t seen any data journalism from any of our members, but it seems to be a trending topic in the data science space. We are thinking of having a meeting in line with that this year to motivate people who would want to go into this field.

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

My  favorite is the Extendr – Rust extension for R because Rust is a new language and is memory safe. I feel it is a good language to get into R. I work with Rusty on a regular basis that’s why I love this project.

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

I really like the Distributed Computing in R working group because my day-to-day job involves working with algorithms and how to optimize them. This area interests me because everything we use in R involves data structures and making sure the design is perfect.

When is your next event? Please give details!

We have our next event in February. The executive team will be meeting soon to decide on the agenda and the date.

R-Ladies Galapagos Chapter on Collaborations, Challenges, and Opportunities During the Pandemic

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R Consortium talked to Denisse Fierro Arcos of the R-Ladies Galapagos Chapter (also on Twitter) about the struggles of managing an R-Ladies group during the pandemic. Denisse talked about the close collaboration between three R-Ladies chapters in Ecuador and one in Colombia during the pandemic. With a shared YouTube channel, the Ecuadorian chapters are deeply committed to their shared goal of promoting R in Ecuador. Denisse also shared the challenge of internet connectivity issues in the Galapagos and her plans to overcome it. 

Denisse is a Marine Biologist by training and started programming during her postgraduate studies. She developed a deep interest in programming and is passionate about teaching programming to people, who can then apply it to their research. R-Ladies has provided her with a platform to pursue her passion and reach out to more people through events and workshops. 

What is the R community like in Ecuador?

The R community in Ecuador is small but growing, I would say. More and more people are getting interested in applying programming to whatever field they are in. Since the pandemic, our R-Ladies meetings are done online, we get a lot of participants not just from Ecuador, but also from other places in Latin America. Most of the R users in Ecuador apply it to business-related projects, but the use of R in biology is becoming more prevalent. 

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

So it has been good and bad in a way. It was good, as shifting to online events allowed us to reach many people all over the continent. It also led to our collaboration with four different R-Ladies Groups in Ecuador and Colombia, with whom we co-organized a series of workshops during 2021. 

Because of internet connectivity issues in Galapagos, it is difficult to reach out to the local population. Many people suggested recording the sessions, just in case the internet drops and they can’t actually attend. This led us to start a YouTube channel together with other R-Ladies groups in Ecuador.

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?  

Yes, I have had to change the techniques I used to connect with members. When I started the Galapagos chapter, I was working with an organization that works on the conservation of the Galapagos. So through them, I could reach other organizations in the sphere. But after everything went online, it became a bit more difficult to reach out to potential participants.

A survey done in Latin America suggested that Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are the three main channels people used to find out about programming-related events and activities. And so we have used these platforms. In addition, we are also using platforms like Google Colab, in case people do not have R installed on their computer. While tools like Google Drive helped us organize all our events even when we were in different cities across the planet. We depended a lot on Zoom for our sessions as well. 

Online events were a good thing in a way because anyone could connect from anywhere, but also not so good when people didn’t have a stable internet connection. I am still trying to figure out how to get around that. Possibly now that COVID-19 restrictions have loosened up a bit, we can create in-person sessions in places where there is a good stable internet connection, so participants can connect and take part that way. 

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? 

The one that I liked the most was this series of workshops that we did with the four R-Ladies chapters. So essentially, we did a book club using the book “R for Data Science” by Hadley Wickham. Over six months, each R-Ladies chapter was in charge of a book chapter and we taught participants how to apply the concepts covered in that chapter.

It was really great experience because we had never really worked with people outside Ecuador before and also because we helped start a new R-Ladies chapter in Ecuador. I feel it was a really great way to collaborate and make new friends in the process.

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

So at the moment, I am doing a Ph.D. and I am a little outside of my area of expertise, combining physical oceanography with marine biology. It is a challenge because not only they are two different fields of study but also because physics people usually use Python, while biologists use R. I think the trend in science is going to be that more people are going to use programming, whether it is R or Python. This is mostly because it is now really easy and less expensive to collect vast amounts of data and it would be impossible to analyze it using spreadsheets. In the future, I think researchers will use a combination of programming languages because each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Researchers will become better at programming and incorporate it into their work. And hopefully, we will start teaching these skills at university, because they are a must for researchers. 

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 don’t know of any members of R-Ladies, or any of the groups I am involved with, that are doing data journalism. But in Ecuador, there are a couple of groups that are doing a superb job of sharing information about science, specifically about open-source. 

There is OpenLabEc, which completed a series of workshops in 2021 about open data, how people can apply that to whatever industry they are in. They also organized along with another organization, Datalat, a workshop about the principles of open data, which I attended earlier in 2021, thanks to a scholarship they offered. 

There is also another group that does a podcast, which is available on various platforms, including Spotify. I usually listen to them, it is called Estacion DivulgaCiencia. It is a station that dedicates itself to science in general. They feature different aspects of science and they make it really accessible to the general public, so it’s nice and clear. I really enjoy listening to them. I think these groups are great because they make information more accessible to scientists and the general public.

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

It’s the R-Ladies, I really think that it is an excellent community. I have learned a lot through them. The reason I started the Galapagos chapter was that I was introduced to an R-Ladies group through an organization that I was working with, in Ecuador. And I really like how they try to help each other in becoming better at programming and teaching others. And I think that is the way forward and I quite like them. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

We are in the planning stages at the moment of the next event. We are going to start a series of workshops, with other R-Ladies groups in Ecuador, particularly the one in Guayaquil. Through this series, we will teach people about R programming and a bit about statistics focusing on biology and ecology.

We did something similar last year in Galapagos, but because we could not secure any funds, we could only complete one workshop out of a four-part series. This year we are working on improving the curriculum we developed last year, so we can get funds. We don’t have any dates yet, but we think it’s going to be in the first trimester of the year. We are going to have these workshops throughout the year and hopefully, we will complete the entire series this year. 

Using the Local Dialect to Teach R Programming

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Tell us about yourself

My name is Dattijo Murtala Makama, I am currently working as a Senior Software Engineer at the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR). I majored in Applied Mathematics and Machine Learning. I have been the Lead Organizer for Bauchi R User Group for the past 3 years. Furthermore, I have experience working with Machine Learning technology and also community organization.

What is the R community like in Nigeria?

The R community is still young and vibrant. In July 2018 when I started the R user group in Bauchi after I exchanged some emails with the then Director of R Consortium, Mr. Joseph Rickert, we had only 3 R user groups in Nigeria. But now we have over 10 user groups. More needs to be done to capture young developers and bring them to learn R programming, but we’re making progress.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? 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 pandemic pretty much brought almost everyone to a halt. Our community was hit by the pandemic as well. We had to improvise via WhatsApp. Some community members who live in the same neighborhood do meet, program, and have mini-workshops. Generally, we still had to follow the trend of utilizing virtual platforms. We had tried different approaches in order to make our meetups possible despite the pandemic. We utilized exchanging scripts via WhatsApp as we have a very vibrant WhatsApp group for Bauchi RUG. We later changed to hybrid events as the social distancing measures were being relaxed.

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

In the coming year, I see organizations and schools adapting to use R programming in many data analysis projects. We did a few outreaches this year and the attendance was impressive. 

Also, using our local language to teach R is becoming more important. This year we had facilitators from Horizon IT Services who taught R programming in Hausa to our community members. Numerous researches have shown that the use of the first language in the second-language classroom helps students make connections with their existing knowledge of the mother tongue, thus facilitating the process of better understanding. This is the reason why we adopt the Hausa language as a medium of instruction in teaching R programming language to our members. In addition, we’re based in the Northern part of Nigeria, where many of its inhabitants struggle to understand English as compared to the Southern part of the country.

We believe this will empower our local community and increase interest. And we intend to continue next year. Moreover, we are following the footsteps of the LatinR community whose member, Yanina Bellini, teaches R programming in Spanish in order to facilitate a better understanding of R within the Americas. As a result of which, she recorded a significant increase in terms of participation at their meetups. And we have also recorded some impressive numbers as well.

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

Well, actually I have 2 favorite projects: Improving translation in R. This is because language serves as a barrier to getting many people to get started learning to program in R. Having documentation in other languages could help attract lots of people to programming in R.

Secondly Setting up an R-girls-schools network, we need to give more women the opportunity to learn data science because the statistics show that women are not well represented. By exposing young girls to R programming we can improve the participation of women in data science.

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

R/medicine is my favorite active working group. I have always wanted to apply mathematics to solve medical problems. During my undergrad, I got a freelancing job to analyze Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) patients’ data. 

When is your next event? Please give details!

The first event of the year is scheduled to hold on 29th January 2022. It’s titled “Getting Started with R programming.” It will serve as an introduction on why and how to get started programming in R. We’ll also use the opportunity to announce the registration for our next R for Data Science Study Jam. But we’ll be focusing on tutoring R programming in Hausa as well as collaborating with women in data science in order to attract as many women as we can.