Why R? 2019 Conference – Summary

December 18, 2019
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Why R? conferences have been the hallmark of the Why R? Foundation (whyr.pl). Our goal has been to establish a series of international R-related events in Poland. After three years, we are happy to announce that our main event, the Why R? conference, has become one of the largest annual R conferences in Central Europe.

Why R? 2019 was the third part of Why R? conference event. After the last edition that was held in Wrocław, our conference has returned to Warsaw. A total of approximately 300 people from 20 countries attended the main conference event. The event took place from 26th to 29th September 2019 and was co-organised by the Faculty of Economic Sciences of the University of Warsaw (wne.uw.edu.pl/en/), a leading academic institution in Poland, having important achievements in quantitative methods and data science. We received major support from ML in PL Society (mlinpl.org), a group of young researchers, aiming to promote machine learning events in Poland, who shared their resources and experience to make the conference more accessible.

For the first time, this year the conference featured a language-agnostic data visualizations hackathon (whyr.pl/2019/hackathon). Such an event gives the Why R? community a chance to exchange experience and inspirations with the users of any other languages and tools.

Table of Content

Participants

In spite of the fact that Why R? events are aimed at experienced data science practitioners, each conference gathers a high percentage of students (around 30\%). Our participants have very diverse scientific backgrounds, where mathematics (mainly statistics) and computer science are the most common. All of them have jobs related to data science, including professional R developers (programmers), data engineers, machine learning practitioners and business analysts. One of the key advantages of Why R? is that it gathers participants both from academia and the industry.

Conference program

The format of the conference was aimed at exposing participants to recent developments in the R language as well as a wide range of application examples. The event consisted of workshops, invited keynote talks, field-specific series of talks, lightning-talks, special interest groups and a full-day data visualizations hackathon. It offered extensive networking opportunities. The welcome party was held at the conference venue on the first day of lectures. In addition, many informal gatherings were organised during each conference day, as the event took place close to the Old Town.

To sum up, Why R? 2019 consisted of: one day of hackathon (60 attendees), one day of workshops (150 attendees), one evening of round tables, two days of lectures (250 attendees) and one evening Welcome paRty (100 attendees). In 2019 we hosted a total of 315 unique attendees. During lectures there were carried out: 6 keynote talks, 42 regular talks and 14 lightning talks. Below you can find the conference agenda.

Materials

Materials from the conference are available on GitHub and YouTube:

Data Visualizations Hackathon

On the day before the conference we organized the free Data Visualizations Hackathon. It was a great opportunity for networking and exchange of experiences between data scientists that use different programming languages. The challenge was based on the data from Google Places API, which allows to search for places in a particular area. Thanks to this API we gathered data related to places in Warsaw, their working hours and occupancy. Based on this source of data participants, divided into 10 teams, were asked to prepare useful business application powered data visualizations solutions and techniques.

More can be found on hackathon’s website (whyr.pl/2019/hackathon)

Pre-meetings

In 2019, Why R? 2019 was preceded by fourteen pre-meetings in eight countries. The purpose of those meetings was to provide the space for professional networking and knowledge exchange for practitioners and students, from the area of statistical machine learning, programming, optimization and data science. The Why R? Foundation supported organisation of pre-meetings financially and/or by sending speakers.

The organisation of pre-meetings would not be possible without the wonderful support of local R communities. Aside from the promotion of Why R? we had a great opportunity to interact with other R enthusiasts.

Workshops

Why R? 2019 conference had a wide portfolio of workshops that are listed below. One can find materials from workshops at this GitHub repository github.com/WhyR2019/workshops

Invited talks

The invited talks topics included domain knowledge from statistics, computer science, natural sciences and economics. The speakers list presents as follows:

  • Marvin Wright (Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology, Germany)
  • Jakub Nowosad (Department of Geoinformation at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland)
  • Sigrid Keydana (Researcher at RStudio, Germany)
  • Steph Locke (founder of Locke Data, United Kingdom)
  • Wit Jakuczun (WLOG Solutions, Poland)
  • Paula Brito (Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto, Portugal)

Random Forests

In 2019 Random Forests algorithm turns 18, which makes it a mature method! Thanks to Klaudia Korniluk from
etsy.com/pl/shop/ShinyNature we were able to set some random seed that
brought to live powerful random forests that we gave as gifts to our keynotes and speakers.

Sponsors

The event could not be hosted without the support of our sponsors whom we say big thank you from the whole organizing committee!

Conference Organizers

The organizing committee consisted of Klaudia Korniluk, Marcin Kosiński, Michał Burdukiewicz, Jarosław Chilimoniuk, Katarzyna Sidorczuk, Filip Pietluch, Weronika Puchała and Dominik Rafacz.

The quality of the scientific program of the conference was the achievement of Stefan Rodiger (Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg), Piotr Wójcik (University of Warsaw) and Bernd Bischl (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich).

Summary

Organizing the Why R? conference would not be such a gratifying experience without the active participation of R enthusiasts. Thank you for coming and see you next year at Why R? 2020! The fourth edition of our conference happens on 27-30.08 in Warsaw. We hope to meet you all there and provide you with an even better dose of R knowledge and networking than in 2019.

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