During the pandemic, we have seen a lot of growth within the R community. Recently, R Consortium talked to Emilio López Cano, president of R Hispano, about the growth of the R Communities in Spain.
RC: What is the R community like in Spain?
ELC: We are a national organization called R Hispano that hosts activities. We have a yearly conference called Jornadas which is like a workshop. The last conference in 2019 was a proper conference and we had a lot of companies committed to the conference. We had a lot of local user R groups there as well. We had a large number of national members in the organization from the local groups: Madrid, Canarias, Murcia, Málaga, Sevilla, Córdoba, Galicia, or Castilla-La Mancha. You can find an interview with R Hispano, president of an agency in the Ministry of Economy here.
RC: How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members?
ELC: Our annual conference is held in November. In 2019 we did it in Madrid, with the collaboration of the multinational company Repsol, and we invited famous speakers like Max Kuhn, Bernd Bischl, and Jo-Fai Chow (videos available here and slides and other material available here). We planned the 2020 meeting in Córdoba, but we had to postpone it due to COVID. This year it will not be possible to hold it, so we will do it next year. To keep the community alive, last year we organized, jointly with U-TAD, a two-day online event that was quite successful (encuentRo en la fase R, encounteR in the R phase). We used the online platform of U-TAD and Blackboard collaborate. Javier Luraschi was our invited speaker, and the Ecuador R User Group organized the session. Also, the annual assembly of the association was held online, thanks to the University of Murcia Zoom platform. Definitely yes, these techniques help spread our activities and engage more people. Whenever it was possible, past annual conferences were also accessible in streaming.
The local groups have also adapted to this situation. The Canary Islands group organized a YouTube streaming event last April. The Madrid group resumed its meetings on May 26 and they share materials and videos online. The Murcia group has organized several events during the Pandemic, the last one was online, workshop videos and materials are available here). Next month, the most recent group in Castilla-La Mancha, R Quixote is hosting a workshop on R for Business, Teaching, and Research, both in-person (30 spots, filled in 24 hours) and online (unlimited)
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?
ELC: We used Blackboard collaborate to run a conference. It was what we had and it worked fine. I prefer Microsoft Teams which we use in university. Sadly, a lot of people in the R community don’t tend to have access to them.
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?
ELC: The presentation by Borja Andrino during the Canarias meetup in April was very interesting to me. He is a data analyst in the prestigious “El País” newspaper. Within the team of Kiko Llaneras, they analyze election data, and all types of data using R and other tools, and we could see how R is used in something we see every day in the news.
RC: What trends do you see in R language affecting your organization over the next year?
ELC: The new pipe in 4.1 and will it substitute or replace tidyverse. In our group, we have a lot of fans of data.table package and a lot of people use base R and a lot of people use tidyverse. Also, artificial intelligence with the new algorithms and how they are integrated into R. This is a trend that we will have to keep an eye on.
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?
ELC: This is a topic that we include in many activities. At the 2019 conference, we held a round table with top actors in the Spanish scene. Not to mention the presentation by Borja remarked before.
RC: When is your next event? Please give details!
ELC: As far as the local groups are concerned, the one by R Quixote is the next meeting. The next annual conference will be held in Córdoba. We probably will have more details after the summer, when vaccination in Spain advances and we can make plans for 2022. Maybe an online event (a new “encuentRo”) will also be planned before 2021 ends.
RC: Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite?
ELC: Everything related to spatial data and analytics is worth mentioning, as “maps” is something very important for outreach, so I would say my favorite now is Spatiotemporal Data and Analytics.
RC: Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?
ELC: Even though I have been using R in Pharma and in Business (so those groups are amongst my favorites), I would say my very favorite is the Code Coverage one. I plan to improve my SixSigma package and my developments for companies adding quality software good practices in there.
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?
ELC: If I had to choose among the current projects, I would say “Database interoperability for spatial objects in R”, to facilitate “in production” applications of spatial analysis and visualization. If I could suggest a new project, I would support something related to R communities in production (business and/or public bodies). Similar to other community projects, people with common interests in R and their business could spread the word in sectors with high potentials, such as the food industry, manufacturing, etc. I did submit a proposal some time ago on this as well.
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