Latin American R/BioConductor Developers Workshop 2018

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Today I’m excited to invite you to attend the Latin American R/BioConductor Developers Workshop 2018! It’ll be held in Cuernavaca, Mexico from July 30th to August 3rd, 2018. You can find the official announcement in the Bioconductor support website. Let me share with you why I’m excited about this workshop.

At BioC2017, Alejandro Reyes and I talked for a while about the low representation of Latin Americans through out the years that either of us have attended the BioC meetings1. We wanted to see more Latin faces in person but also in the Bioconductor Support Website and among package contributors. We brainstormed for a while and a at dinner with Bioconductor core members we simply ran with our ideas: we brought up the subject and were pleasantly rewarded with support from the Bioconductor team (Alejandro did most of the convincing!). That is, if we organized a conference/workshop, they would help us by sending someone to be one of the instructors.

Previously, Alejandro and I had already discussed why we like the Bioc meetings so much. One of the keys is that the Bioc meetings have always had events for different levels of R users. That is, you can attend the conference each year and learn something new (that’s how I got my career started). So you can progress from learning R, to mastering several R packages, to contributing R packages to Bioconductor, to brainstorming future directions for the Bioconductor project2. Additionally, the Bioc meetings have scientific talks in the mornings so that you can learn new scientific and R developments in a single conference. We’ve seen this model adapted in other Bioc events like BiocAsia, the European Bioconductor Meeting, etc. It would be ideal if we got to that point, but we wanted to start smaller with a focus on developing R packages.

Separately, Heladia Salgado, Romualdo Zayas and others from CCG-UNAM3 and NNB-UNAM4 have organized the “Talleres Internacionales de Bioinformática”5 (TIBs) for years now. Actually, I was a student in 2006 and gave a lecture in the summer 2010 event. At the TIBs they’ve had an introductory R class for a few years now where Selene Fernandez-Valverde and Alejandra Medina-Rivera have participated as instructors. Among the feedback they’ve received is the desire for a more advanced R course.

Alejandro and I talked to Alejandra Medina-Rivera who shared our enthusiasm for Bioconductor. As a PI in Mexico, Alejandra knows very well how sparse are the R/Bioconductor courses that she can send her students to. By the way, Alejandra is the one who first invited me to attend BioC2008!6 We quickly started an email thread with Heladia and basically, the pieces started to fall in the right places. Heladia, Delfino Garcia-Alonso, Daniela Ledezma, Laura Gómez, Shirley Alquicira, Thalia Uranga Martínez, among others have been instrumental in organizing the workshop. Heladia, Alejandra and others also secured crucial funding from CCG-UNAM and LIIGH-UNAM. Together we were able to invite and get all the logistics so that Martin Morgan, Heather Turner, Benilton Carvalho, Selene Fernandez-Valverde, María Teresa Ortiz and Alicia Mastretta Yanes could all help us teach part of the workshop and/or present their work.

Briefly, these are some of the reasons why they are amazing:

  • Martin: Bioconductor project leader.
  • Heather: extensive experience teaching R and bioinformatics.
  • Benilton: he helped organize a similar workshop in 2015: LAb Foundation Brasil. Also an academic relative of Alejandro and myself.
  • Selene: L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science, has taught at TIBs before.
  • Teresa: RLadiesCDMX plus just look at her awesome GitHub profile!
  • Alicia: she has taught an intro to bioinformatics and reproducible genetic analyses course, plus check her GitHub profile!

If you check the workshop schedule we have, you’ll notice that we will have several sessions devoted to actually writing R packages. So the course will cover both the theory and the practice side of things. If you attend the workshop, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to network with your peers and to learn from other R developers. You should be super excited now!! ^^ Plus we have a code of conduct (en Español) to ensure that the conference will be welcoming to everyone.

This is also a reminder that you have to keep trying. Back in 2009 or 2010 I had gotten an offer of support from Bioc for sending someone to Cuernavaca, but due to funding circumstances it fell through. Like I said, all the pieces fell in the right places this time. Plus Heladia Salgado has made it all possible!

2018 is looking like a good year for R courses in Latin America. For example, there’s LatinR and Buenos Aires RLadies plus our workshop! Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to attend the workshop in 2019!

Again, I’m excited to invite you to attend the Latin American R/BioConductor Developers Workshop 2018! Regardless of whether you can attend it, help us spread the word:

  1. The Bioc team has been great about financially supporting newcomers! I was one of them: just remember to apply before the deadline expires!

  2. It doesn’t have to be in that order. For example, anyone attending the Bioc meeting is welcome at the Developer’s Day and to chime in the discussions about the Bioconductor project.

  3. Centro de Ciencias Genómicas: Center for Genomic Sciences

  4. Nodo Nacional de Bioinformática: National Bioinformatics Node

  5. Internacional Bioinformatics Workshops

  6. I then taught a few courses at LCG-UNAM, CCG-UNAM and IBT-UNAM from 2008 to 2011 with some slides in Spanish and English. Alejandro was my TA for one of these courses! For a few years since then I would get emails in Spanish asking about some of those courses. You can still find those courses online, but I bet that the material is outdated. In any case, it’s another example of the limited training opportunities.

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