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Use of R in Non-Profit Social Policy Research in New York

By Blog

Dorota Rizik of the R Ladies New York recently talked to the R Consortium about the diverse R community in New York. She also discussed how her current job at a non-profit organization involves training her colleagues to use R. She shared details of some of the packages they have developed for internal use. 

Dorota has done her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Northwestern University and also completed her Master’s in Applied Statistics from New York University. She currently works as a Technical Research Analyst at MDRC

Please share about your background and involvement with the RUGS group.

My background is in psychology and policy research. I currently work at a nonprofit social policy research organization. I learned R during my Master’s in Applied Statistics and then I joined my current organization. When I joined, MDRC was primarily using SAS and over the past couple of years they’ve been transitioning to R because it’s open source. My role has been to train my colleagues in the R programming language. So I train them on how to use R and also how to do specific data-related tasks like data cleaning, data analysis, or data visualization in R. 

Our focus has been on building both training and guidance for using R for various use cases. We have been working on developing internal functions and packages that staff can use to help automate certain tasks. We have ‌been trying to replace all of the macros and functions we previously developed in SAS. So we have been translating a lot of code from SAS to R. 

It’s just been a wonderful experience to help organize these meetups for R Ladies of New York City. I’ve learned how to organize and communicate, as well as how to adapt to a changing audience and community. So it’s been a very challenging, but rewarding experience.

Can you share what the R community is like in New York?

In our group, we have people from both the private and public sectors. We have someone who works at 1-800-Flowers. We have someone who works in the political space doing analysis for political campaigns or getting voters registered. There are folks that work in media and journalism and the pharmaceutical industry. There are some people who have gotten higher-level degrees. 

It’s just such a wide range, and it’s been very eye-opening to interact with all these people who come from such different backgrounds. It has also been eye-opening in the sense that I have realized that I can really take my skill set and apply it to any industry‌. R programming and programming knowledge ‌in general, as well as data analysis knowledge can be used in many different industries. 

Please share about a project you are currently working on or have worked on in the past using the R language. Goal/reason, result, anything interesting, especially related to the industry you work in?

We are currently wrapping up two major packages, one focuses on analysis, and the other focuses on tabling. The packages are for internal use and not publicly available. Our staff prefers having all the analysis results in one place, so we have been working on that. We have different basic statistical functions like linear regression, chi-square, etc., but we have written them together so that they can produce a nice table of results. The package focused on tabling will interact with the analysis package to create a table of results.

What trends do you currently see in R language and your industry? Any trends you see developing in the near future?

Recently there’s been more talk about ethics and reproducibility. AI has made a huge impact and has been a major consideration for people within my company as we are talking about how to train people in R programming. We want to be mindful that some folks will probably use AI for coding help, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the most efficient answer. So, a major trend in our meetups has been AI and the ethical considerations of relying on AI for developing your code. 

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

We use Zoom for our meetups and Zoom has been incredibly helpful in the sense that it has allowed us to tap into a wider audience. I’ve noticed we have people who don’t live very close to New York City but are still in the relative area and they join our meetups. So that’s been a significant benefit. 

The only downside has been that we get some uninvited people joining and disrupting our meetups. So I would suggest that groups hosting online meetups try to come up with ways to minimize the possibility of strangers joining their meetups. We’ve taken the approach of having a separate sign-up form where you have to provide your first and last name and your email. We’ve also tried not sharing the Zoom link until the last minute before the meetup. So a mix of those two approaches has been helpful.

I’ve noticed more of an interest in physical meetups now. We’ve been online for a while at this point. So we’re trying to find the right balance of which meetups are more appropriate for physical versus online.

Get Involved!

The 2023 RUGS Program is currently taking applications and will close at midnight PST on September 30, 2023. 

These grants do not include support for software development or technical projects. Grants to support the R ecosystem’s technical infrastructure are awarded and administered through the ISC Grant Program which issues a call for proposals two times each year.

Announcing the New R User Groups, Conferences, and Training Program

By Announcement, Blog

The R Consortium is pleased to announce the new 2022 R User Groups (RUGs), Conferences and Training program. This is an updated version of the RUGS program of previous years that aims to put more structure around the process of applying for support for R-themed conferences and training sessions.

The RUGS Program

The RUGS program supports R user groups and will operate in much the same way as the 2020 and 2021 RUGS programs. Because we are still all under the shadow of COVID-19, we expect user groups to hold on-line and/or in-person meetings. 

RUGS grants will have two parts: support and cash grants. All user groups applying for the program, except for R-Ladies groups, will be automatically enrolled in our RUGS RUGS Pro account. If you receive a grant, we will pay the fees for your program for the year. R-Ladies has its own Pro account so you need to apply directly to R-Ladies to participate. Also note that if you are already participating in our RUGS program and you are not seeking a cash grant, you do not need to reapply.

If you are seeking a cash grant for your user group, please be explicit about how much money you are seeking and what you intend to do with the funds. Be conservative, we need to make our pool of grant money cover the entire globe. All RUGS including R-Ladies groups are eligible to apply for cash grants. 

Conference Grants

Formerly, the RUGs program was intended only for small conferences where all cash grants were limited to $1000. While $1000 is still the limit for small events, now there is a place on the enrollment form to seek funding for larger conferences. Of course, the more funds you are seeking the more justification you must provide about how your conference will benefit the R Community. Please do not apply for a conference grant until your conference website is up.

Training Sessions

Training sessions are a new category this year. Previously we treated training sessions as conferences. We realize conferences and training sessions are very different and that training sessions should be judged with their own set of criteria.

For details on requirements for each type of grant, visit the R User Groups, Conferences, and Training page on the R Consortium website and select “RUGs Program” under the Projects tab at the top of the R Consortium home page. Be sure to check the correct box on the application form.

The RUGS, Conferences and Training program for 2022 will be accepting requests for funding through the end of September 2022.

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

By Blog

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. 

Chile’s R Ladies Group is Open and Inclusive

By Blog

To understand what R Ladies in Santiago is like, R Consortium talked to Riva Quiroga about how they are dealing with organizing and meeting during the pandemic. We also discussed how the chapter is becoming more inclusive and helpful to others in Santiago, as well as all of Chile and Latin America as a whole.

RC: What is the R community like in Chile?

The R community in Chile is very active and diverse. We have members who come from different fields and who have very different interests. There are members who have a STEM background, but also a lot of people from social sciences and the humanities. And they work in very different places: academia, industry, public services, ONGs, students, etc. There are currently four active RLadies Chapters, and one R User group. 

The R user group in Chile started in 2012 in Santiago. I think I found out about them around 2015, but never attended an event because I wasn’t sure I would feel welcomed (it was an all-male group and I was just a beginner), and then they stopped organizing meetings. In 2017 they resumed their activities and we, the team that was planning the launch of RLadies Santiago, started attending. They supported us when we were starting our chapter in 2017, by helping us find venues for our first events. Since then, we see each other as collaborators. We have organized joint activities, and organizers and members of both groups have collaborated together in R-related projects (such as packages, courses, etc.)

2017 was the year the R community started growing at a very fast pace here. Chile is a very centralized country, so everything usually happens only in Santiago, the capital city. So it was great to see in the next few years new RLadies chapters in other parts of the country: Valparaíso (2018), Concepción (2019), and Talca (2020).  

RC: How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

We were a very active group until October 2019, when we had to stop our activities due to social unrest in the country. Probably because it was a very difficult time for everyone, it didn’t occur to us to organize online events. 

And then came COVID. Working remotely and online events became the “new normal,” so we decided to resume our activities. We saw this as an opportunity for collaboration between all the RLadies chapters. So since March 2020 all our activities have been branded as “RLadies Chile.” All our events are held via Zoom, thanks to the licenced account provided by DataUC. We post our videos on Vimeo and use GitHub to share code and materials. 

Online events have been a great opportunity to make our community grow. We have been able to reach people in cities that currently don’t have an RLadies chapter, and also people who were unable to attend in-person events. 

This means that our “local” community is now bigger than before. It is no longer limited to the four cities that have an RLadies chapter. People from different parts of Chile and Latin America are joining our events, and even spanish-speaking folks who live around the world. As a consequence, when possible, we try to organize our events in time slots that are not too late for someone based in Europe, and not too early for someone in México. 

This collaboration between the four RLadies chapters to organize online events has been a great experience. On the one hand, it allowed us to connect with a broader community in a new way, so we plan to keep organizing online events even when meetings in person are back. On the other hand, we as organizers became closer. At least for me, having the opportunity to share time with such an awesome group of people has been one of the things that motivates me to keep going during these difficult times.  

RC: 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? 

A couple of months ago we ran an event about how we have been using R during the pandemic, and what new things we have discovered and learned. In that context, Alejandra Silva Tapia, the organizer of RLadies Talca, gave a talk about sonification techniques with R. In her presentation she not only showed some explorations she did with meteorological data using packages like {tuneR} and {sonify}, but also the teaching potential of these techniques. She shared her experience sonifying plots in order to explain statistical distributions to blind students. With just a couple of lines of code, she gave attendees a tool to make their learning materials more accessible. 

It was so interesting that in our internal Slack we added a new channel to share our sonification experiments and new ideas on the subject.

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

There are currently more than 18000  packages on CRAN, and many of them are very field-specific, so it is very difficult to keep up to date with all the new possibilities that they offer. Therefore, it is very challenging to decide what new workshop to offer; what new package to share with our community. Should we run a workshop about something broad and general that might benefit anyone? Or do we target a specific audience that will benefit from learning about new packages or techniques for their field? 

To face that challenge we have been trying to do a mix of both. We have organized workshops focused on general tasks, such as cleaning data, modeling, visualizing, etc., and also subject specific events. Organizing both types of workshops (general and specific) has been our way to attend the needs of a very diverse audience. 

Another trend we are very happy to see is the discussion around diversity, inclusion, accessibility and algorithmic bias in Data Science. We are currently running a book club based on the book Data Feminism to discuss some of these topics. Discussing the social and ethical issues involved in coding and data science is something that interests all of us. And a safe space like RLadies is a great place for starting that conversation. 

In regions like Latin America the decision about what workshops to offer is not trivial. Here, being able to understand English is, in most of the cases, a sign of privilege: you went to a private school, you had the opportunity to study abroad, you work in international projects,  people in your family speak English, etc. And that is not very common. This means that RLadies chapters and R Users groups are sometimes the only place for many non-english speakers to learn about the new developments in R and Data Science. So when deciding which workshop to run, we have this in mind. We see this as part of our mission. 

This was also the reason why the Latin American R community translated, as a joint effort, the book R for Data Science into Spanish. We saw the need (and impact) of having this kind of resource available for everyone who has interest in learning R. 

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 have had journalists attending R Ladies events in the past, and we are very happy to see that some of them, who were also professors, started promoting the inclusion of R as part of their undergraduate curriculum. 

Regarding the second question, there are three data journalism projects that have had a positive impact on society here in Chile, from my point of view. The first one is La bot, a Telegram and Facebook Messenger bot that sends you short and precise data based analysis of current issues. This is a women-led project that has received support and funding from the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Open Society Foundation. The team has made an amazing job showing new ways in which journalists can seek and connect with different audiences. And by always discussing current issues supported by data, La bot has also been a great way to fight the spread of fake news.  

The second one are the reports Alejandra Matus did in the first months of the pandemic. She explored the death rates in Chile for the past ten years and exposed that the government was underreporting COVID deaths. She revealed that there was an excess death rate for March 2020 that the authorities were not explaining. They were only reporting PCR-positive patients who died at hospitals, not people who were dying at their homes or elderly nursing homes. Her work had a great impact. Not only because we started demanding more transparency from the government regarding COVID data, but also because many people began to realize the seriousness of the pandemic. 

The third one is called Plataforma Telar. Chile is currently drafting a new constitution and, in this context, Plataforma Telar is using innovative methodologies to gather and analyze data related to this process (and they are using R!). What I find really interesting is that, although this is an interdisciplinary project based in academia, they have made alliances with networks like CNN Chile to showcase their findings to reach a broader audience. 

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

Our next event is the sixth session of the book club about “Data Feminism”, which will be held in late November. For December we are planning a workshop about building your first R package and one about using git/github in RStudio.

We have been able to be a very active chapter, even during the pandemic, mainly because of two reasons. First, because all our activities are the joint effort of the four RLadies chapters of our country. That makes all the planning easier and keeps us motivated. Second, because we plan the workshops not only taking into account what we already know, but also what we want to learn. For example, if I want to learn about a specific package, I will volunteer to run a workshop about it in a couple of months. That way I have an incentive and a deadline to achieve that objective. Because R Ladies is a collaborative and safe space, we feel comfortable running events that are not about something that we have already mastered, but about something we are currently learning.

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

Obviously, the R Ladies project is very dear to my heart. The support of the R Consortium has been crucial to offer current and prospective chapters the human and technological support to operate. 

I also want to mention the SatRdays project led by Steph Locke and Gergely Daroczig. They developed a starter kit, a knowledge base, and all the infrastructure you might need to run your own SatRday.

SatRdays are accessible R-focused conferences organized by local R communities, that are held on Saturdays. In 2018 RLadies Santiago and the Santiago R Users group organized one of these events, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without all the support this project provided. That event was very important for growing our local community, so we planned another one for April 2020. But we had to suspend it due to the pandemic. We expect to be able to run it again in 2022.

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

I’m not sure if I have a favorite one, but I really like the idea of working groups that are focused on specific fields, like R/medicine and R/pharma. They are a great way to bring together people that are using R for similar purposes to collaborate on events and advocacy, and to make advances in different areas by promoting cooperation.

It would be great to see in the future similar working groups for other fields (e.g. R/social sciences, R/humanities, R/ecology, R/open government, etc.). 

RC: 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?

I would love to see a project about multilingualism. Currently there are many people working toward this aim, and not only by translating learning resources, but also by developing packages that take into account that English is not the only language that exists. For example, Michael Chirico has made a package called potools which allows you to internationalize your own package by translating user-facing communications (e.g., warnings, errors, etc.) into different languages. Also, the Datasketch team (Colombia) developed a package called Shi18y, that allows you to create multilingual Shiny apps. And a group of RLadies from Brazil and other countries from Latin America are currently developing a package with datasets in Portuguese for people to use when teaching/learning R, similar to the ones that already exist for Spanish and Turkish.

All these are great efforts that are helping to make R more accessible to non-English speakers. It would be great to see a Top Level Project that promotes these kinds of initiatives. 

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 4 years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute.

Creating Successful R User Groups in Abuja, Nigeria

By Blog, Events

Bilikisu Aderinto, Founder/Organizer of the Abuja R User Group and R-Ladies Abuja, talks about the lack of R User groups in her area, and her desire to start one, leading to a large increase in members in Abuja. She talks about the issues with income disparity and how it affected lockdown attendance for the group. She also talks about training others to increase their knowledge base in the area.

RC: What is the R community like in Abuja?

BA: I got involved with the R community online while learning and growing professionally as an R user. With a lot that I have learned from various communities with a presence online, I decided to look for a local community close to me. I found none and it was getting lonely as most professional groups in my community were not interested in using R as a programming language. 

So, I decided to start the Abuja R user Group for my local community in October 2019. The response was great as so many members were having similar stories to mine. Most members were new to R, while others were either looking for opportunities that R would bring to their career. In the beginning, we had challenges getting to meeting places and reaching out to members but this was overcome by the positive interest shown by members as we created various committees to manage our activities. We also got support from other local communities in Nigeria.

I also went ahead to create the R-Ladies group to encourage and give more focus to the few members in March 2020 despite the lockdown.

RC: How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?

BA: The impact of the lockdown was highly negative as it was not planned for and there was no end in sight. Virtual meetings were alien to our members and most members had difficulties getting online due to the low standard of living.

RC: 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?  

BA: We shifted our monthly meetups to virtual meetings on Zoom every other month to accommodate all members. We also shared resources and attended to questions or concerns via a Whatsapp group. We also extended our invitations to the global community which boosted the participation and morale of local members.

RC: 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? 

BA: Abuja R User group had the pleasure of having Dr. K.O. Obisesan from the prestigious University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He took us through Statistical Modeling in R. This got so much audience from Nigeria and globally as well. 

For R-Ladies, we had the honor of having our own Julia Silge take us through steps we can take to learn and understand text mining in R. She was wonderful taking her time despite her busy schedule to attend our webinar. The audience was well spread globally.

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

BA: I think there is a lot to do in getting R known in our academic institutions within our local community. We have started a work plan this month on taking every member through a path from zero knowledge of R to a user of R. We are working with some organizations to support us in achieving this goal.

The impact of RMarkdown and Shiny is another focus as we explore their adoption and implementation by members within the corporate and public health organization.

RC: 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?

BA: I would like to appreciate the work done by people in Their project on data journalism in R is applaudable as it relates to our community.

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

BA: Our next event is coming up on October 2nd, and it’s going to be an introduction to Tidymodels framework for machine learning as part of our work plan in taking the new members to a higher level as an R users.

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

BA: The R-Ladies global project has had a great impact on me. I have benefited along with some members in the RStudio Instructor training and certification as well as their support for R-Ladies Abuja.

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

BA: The R Certification project is the one that attracts my interest most. I look forward to seeing future changes that would bring more value to the process and the certificate as well.

RC: 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?

BA: I would like a project to support the inclusion of the teaching of R in our institutions and support academics and students.

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 4 years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

Working with Databases in R – Video Presentation from NairobiR and R-Ladies Nairobi

By Blog, Events

During this Working with Databases in R online presentation, Christopher Maronga shares his years of practical experience in accessing and working with Databases in R. R Consortium assisted by providing access to Pro as a platform for information sharing

John Mutiso, a statistician and member of Nairobi R, introduces the presentation on Working with Databases in R and points to the support of the R-Ladies Nairobi Organizers and NairobiR Organizers. 

Christopher Maronga, a data manager, then shares his practically gained experience on how we can turn R into a powerful tool for accessing MySQL databases and writing SQL code, pulling and querying data from within the R environment.

Maronga structured this session to be mainly hands-on learning by using coding examples and implementations. In his presentation he teaches how to efficiently connect R to RDBMS, query data stored in the RDBMS via R, connect and export data from REDCap and API security. He introduces what RDBMS is and how it is used for storage and management of data. He then goes on to explain REDCap and how it is a secure web application for building and maintaining online surveys and databases. Maronga then jumps into practical examples illustrated through the use of a local SQL database.

In the concluding section, it is emphasized that just knowing how to get data into R efficiently is half the battle in the path towards using R in data science. The speaker ended the session on the note that we should expect to see many more collaborations between R-Ladies Nairobi Organizers and NairobiR Organizers in the future.

We’re looking forward to it!

Full video here

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R-Ladies Philly – Building our Online Community During the Pandemic

By Blog, Events

Authored by: the R-Ladies Philly organizing team

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, R-Ladies Philly has shifted from local in-person meetups to virtual events. Hundreds of local, national, and even international R enthusiasts joined us for monthly virtual meetups and social activities! We organized more than 10 R workshops and co-hosted a datathon with local partners. We even launched a YouTube channel to make our workshop recordings widely available. Based on feedback from our members, this has been very successful despite the difficulties associated with COVID-19. In this post, we share a bit more information on our events and what has worked for our group.


Starting from April 2020, we organized 11 R workshops, ranging from basic data cleaning and visualization to more advanced R usage like R package development and popular topics such as machine learning. One of our goals is to celebrate gender diversity in the R community by highlighting different speakers. We also aim to engage R users from all different levels and encourage speakers to share their learning experiences. We made all workshop content and notes captured during Q&A available to the public through our Youtube channel and event recaps on the R-Ladies Philly blog. See below for links to our workshop events:

  1. Tidyverse (April 2020) – Kelsey Keith
  2. A/B Testing in R (May 2020) – Elea McDonnell Feit
  3. Introduction to R lightning talks (June 2020)
    • 6 R Packages to Add to Your Workflow – Jinyi Kuang
    • How to install R and RStudio for the first time – Tess Cherlin
  4. How to Test and Roll (July 2020) – Elea McDonnell Feit and Ron Berman
  5. Hands on Machine Learning (August 2020) – Jaclyn Taroni
  6. Decision Trees & Random Forests (September 2020) – Trang Le and Karla Fettich
  7. Flexdashboard and debugging with shinyobjects (October 2020) – Jake Riley
  8. Your first R package in 1 hour (November 2020) – Shannon Pileggi
  9. Data Visualization (December 2020) – Trang Le
  10. Introduction to R dashboard development with Shiny Dashboard (January 2021) – Anastasia Lucas
  11. From Learn-R to Teach-R (February 2021) – Ama Nyame-Mensah, Cass Wilkinson Saldaña and Silvia Canelón
A screenshot from our panel event that is posted on YouTube. Here we used to facilitate a panel session with R educators. The top upvoted questions are: “How can I teach my coworkers R?”, “Learning what to google when something went wrong was such a big factor in my own learning curve. Any advice for helping beginners learn what to search?” and “How do you come up with good active learning opportunities, or examples?”


We asked Datathon 2021 participants how they would describe the experience in one word or phrase. This word cloud visualizes their responses. Teamwork, learning, and cats feature prominently.

Every year, R-Ladies Philly organizes a datathon that aims to bring R enthusiasts and community organizations together to create insights through data and give participants exposure to new techniques, real-world data, and a diverse group of local data science professionals. These datathons consist of in-person kickoff and conclusion events, and 6 weeks of online collaboration in between. 

The pandemic caught us in the middle of our 2020 datathon, which was a collaborative effort with other local data groups to help address the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia, so the conclusion meetup had to change format from in-person to online (see a recording here). 

In 2021, we had to switch to a fully online format, where the kickoff meetup was held via Zoom and participants organized themselves into groups through breakout rooms. Our 2021 datathon explored judicial patterns in Philadelphia courts, including bail, sentencing, and the concept of ‘judge harshness’. Participants worked together using Zoom, Slack, GitHub, and a shared Google doc for Q&A that also allowed the partner organization to answer questions asynchronously. Our conclusion meetup (view the recording here) showcases some of the highlights of this year’s datathon findings and the work that participants have put into analyzing a large and complex real-world dataset. 

Insights from a virtual year

Overall, we are looking forward to returning to our pre-pandemic format when it is safe to do so. Being forced to adapt our approach has had some benefits. We were able to reach a broader audience that was not previously able to travel to our events. We were also able to try new event formats and new technology. For example, we held two virtual social events where we experimented with different formats to get to know each other remotely. We also used tools like breakout rooms in zoom for our datathon and online tools like for polls and Q&A sessions for our panel and datathon events. We also tried to keep our events as interactive as possible with lively chats and the usage of Google docs to track and answer all participant questions during workshop events. These practices will be useful for all future workshops, whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid.

We are looking forward to continuing to build our online presence with more YouTube and blog posts, even when we are able to meet again face to face. If you are interested in joining us, please look for upcoming events on our meetup page. We are also seeking volunteers to plan and lead hands-on workshops for the remainder of 2021. Please learn more by visiting our website.

Some photos of our in-person meetups before the pandemic. We look forward to eating pizza together again one day.

Checking in with R-Ladies Taipei

By Blog, Events
 Kristen Chan, R-Ladies Taipei organizer

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) is made to support R groups around the world by providing grants to help R groups organize, share information and support each other. Unlike many groups over this past year, the R groups in Taiwan did not have as long a disruption as other groups did. Can they provide a glimpse of how the rest of the world can hold regular meetings? Do they have a way to mix the wave of virtual meetings along with local meetings? We talked with Kristen Chan, current R-Ladies Taipei organizer, to find out more.

RC: What is the R community like in Taiwan?

In Taiwan, we have two R communities, one is R-Ladies Taipei which I host, and another one is Taiwan R user group. Both of the R communities promote and build up venues for friendly data discussion. We welcome talks on any data topics such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Data Analytics, Data Engineering, and meet every Monday night. The last Monday of every month is reserved for women.

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

In Taiwan, at the very beginning of 2020, we stopped the face-to-face meetup and started thinking about how we can continue to maintain the meetup. But how lucky we are! Taiwan’s CDC has the pandemic under control, so we can do everything as normal. So we still have the regular meetup, but we require everyone to wear masks to protect each other during the event.

RC: 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? 

In October 2020 we held a satRday conference. It was the first time we had this satRday event and also it is the first one in Asia. And it was tough to make this conference happen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, we had invited Yihui Xie who works for RStudio to give us a wonderful talk. We are using the online meeting to make this happen. The topic is R Markdown. It was an interesting and unforgettable presentation because most of us don’t have the experience to talk to the author directly, so all the attendances were learned a lot.

Photo from satRday Taiwan, Oct 2020

RC: 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?

Yes, some of our members are reporters. They are learning R and some BI tools to help them deal with the data cleaning and make some graphs to let people know more about information. 

And we also have a community called “知了新聞 Cicadata.” It’s a community about data journalism and its goal is that they want the data journalism field more open. By the way, one of the founders of 知了新聞 is also Taiwan R user group’s current organizer.

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

We are still planning the event. But I think we will have a series of beginner  tutorialmeetups to let more people know R.

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

My favorite project is “Consolidating R-Ladies Global organizational guidance and wisdom”. Because of the diversity issue, it touched me more. 

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

My favorite is “Distributed Computing.” Because the data becomes bigger and we need to deal with that and also want to save some time, what we need is Distributed Computing.

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 4 years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications

R Community Explorer – R User Groups

By Blog

By Ben Ubah, Claudia Vitolo and Rick Pack

We recently announced an R-Ladies focused open-source dynamic dashboard built using R and Javascript. That work has now been extended to encompass all R user groups organized through You can find this new dashboard at this link and its code, here.

The R user group support program and the R-Ladies project, are featured in two out of three top-level R Consortium projects

How We Identified R User Groups on Meetup

Identifying all R user groups on required more effort than R-Ladies groups. While R-ladies groups are centrally created and their names follow a standard convention, the names of other R user groups are more difficult to predict.

We extended Curtis Kephart’s technique for using string matching to retrieve upcoming R events to:

  • Match among all data science groups on Meetup (7700 +) those with strings like “r user”, “r-user”,“r-lab”,“phillyr”,“rug”,“bioconductor”,“r-data”,“rug” in their Meetup URL names. We then performed a second round of string matching to search for strings like “programming-in-r”, “r-programming-”, “-using-r”, “r-language”, and “r-project-for-statistical” in the groups’ topics field.
  • Retrieve all user groups that mention “r-project-for-statistical-computing” in their topics separately.
  • Retrieve all R-Ladies groups separately, which was necessary to avoid missing some groups.


For this dashboard, the following procedure was followed:

  1. We used the meetupr package to extract R user groups from
  2. Improved the existing find_groups() and get_events() functions in meetupr to meet our requirements and switched from the defunct Meetup API keys to OAuth 2.0 authentication system. This switch was quite complicated and will be discussed further in another article.
  3. Transformed the data retrieved from Meetup  via meetupr from data frames to JSON, GeoJSON and CSV
  4. Stored the data by committing the JSON/GeoJSON/CSV files to the GitHub repository of the project.
  5. Developed a static HTML dashboard interface based on an open-source Bootstrap template
  6. Rendered the stored data via the dashboard interface
  7. Automated the process of extracting R user groups, data transformation and storage.
  8. Deployed the dashboard via GitHub Pages

The Tools We Used

Combining R (for data-analysis) and JavaScript (for data-presentation) is at the heart of this project as this combination offers great flexibility with automation and deployment.

We used a mix of these tools to develop the dashboard:

  1. R, RStudio and the following packages:
  • meetupr, curl, jsonlite and leafletR
  1. Javascript and the following libraries: jquery.js, d3.js, echarts.js, leaflet.js, leaflet-markercluster.js and lodash.js
  2. Gentelella Admin Dashboard Bootstrap HTML template
  3. Travis CI to automatically build the project, execute R scripts and bash commands
  4. Bash commands to call R scripts and commit modified files to GitHub


We appreciate Curtis Kephart (RStudio) for contributing code that helped us with ideas on identifying R user groups on Meetup.

We also thank the authors of the meetupr package for their excellent work. Special thanks to Jenny Bryan, Erin LeDell, and Greg Sutcliffe for their help over the last month with implementing the requirements for the new Meetup OAuth 2.0 authentication system.

R Consortium Community Grants and Sponsorships Top USD $1,000,000

By Announcement

Fall Grant Application Cycle Starts September 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, August 28, 2019 – The R Consortium, a Linux Foundation project supporting the R Foundation and R community, today announced a major milestone of $1,000,000 in grants and sponsorships approved. This includes both grants for R projects like R-hub, R-Ladies, RC RUGS, and many more, and community event sponsorships, like financial support for useR! 2019, R Cascadia, R/Medicine, and other R events large and small worldwide. The nonprofit organization also announced that they will begin accepting Fall Grant Cycle proposals starting September 2019.

Grants are awarded in areas of software development, developing new teaching materials, documenting best practices, standardising APIs or other areas of research that “broadly help the R community.” Full details for submitting a proposal, deadlines, and a list of previously funded projects is available at:

“The goal of the R Consortium is to strengthen the R community by improving infrastructure and building for long term stability,” said Hadley Wickham, Infrastructure Steering Committee Chair, R Consortium. “The grants help support important projects that impact many R users through better software and stronger communities. We are so grateful for the immense work that the R community does and so happy that we can contribute back.”

Example sponsorship and grant recipients include:

  • R-hub, a centralised tool for checking R packages;
  • R-Ladies, a world-wide organization whose mission is to promote diversity in the R community;
  • RC RUGS, the R Consortium’s R user group and small conference support program;
  • SatRDays, bootstrapping a system for local R conferences;
  • Testing DBI and improving key open source database backends.

A complete list of projects that previously received grants is available at

“In the R-hub project we created and operate a multi-platform build and check service for R packages, free to use for everyone in the R community, thanks to the support of the R Consortium,” said Gábor Csárdi, software engineer at RStudio, and author and maintainer of R-hub. “As of today R-hub supports 20 platforms on four operating systems (macOS, Windows, Linux, Solaris), and since its start it has handled 68,000 submissions, for more than 3,000 different R packages, from more than 2,000 package maintainers. It has become a key tool for R developers around the world.”

“Thanks to R Consortium for their support in helping R-Ladies grow to 167 groups in 47 countries with close to 50,000 members,” said Gabriela de Queiroz, Senior Engineering and Data Science Manager at IBM and Founder of R-Ladies. “With their support, we’re able to help people who identify as underrepresented minority achieve their programming potential through our network of R leaders, mentors, and learners.”

“RC RUGS is able to focus on supporting user groups and smaller conferences around the world, filling a real need to support grass-roots organizations that are not in large cities or other well-known locations. There are great R communities around the world in many different locations. This year we are delighted to see user groups applying from Latin America, Africa, South Asia and other underserved regions throughout the world,” said Joseph Rickert, R Consortium Director and administrator of the program. “We are trying very hard to connect R users with limited resources into the greater R Community”. 

The 2019 Fall grant cycle open September 2019. More information on submitting a proposal for a grant is available at:

About The R Consortium 

The R Consortium is a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization and Linux Foundation project dedicated to the support and growth of the R user community. The R Consortium provides support to the R Foundation and to the greater R Community for projects that assist R package developers, provide documentation and training, facilitate the growth of the R Community and promote the use of the R language. For more information about R Consortium, please visit: