Reflections on runconf18

Last week I had the great privilege to attend ROpenSci’s unconf. Having typically been in work situations where I was the only or primary R user, I was excited and nervous to attend my first R related event. I’ve been involved with the larger R community for several years, through The Carpentries, reviewing packages for ROpenSci, and through several package specific groups, but a chance to spend two days with my email closed, working on something new in R with many people who I’ve ‘known’ for years via twitter was fantastic. In addition ROpenSci worked diligently to ensure that unconf was a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone, from a clear and emphasized Code of Conduct, to ice breakers that helped start conversations among participants, to accommodating everyone’s dietary needs, and ensuring things like lactation rooms were available really made it clear that each participant was valued.

The unconf focuses on two days of community driven development, which can include new features of existing packages, lesson development, new packages and many other things. I spent my first day with the education group, talking about the opportunities and challenges of teaching R in a formal education setting. It was great to share experiences across disciplines [history, ecology, bioinformatics] and see that many of the struggles we as educators face are common across these disciplines. Our group’s goal is to form a community of educators in R who can share their materials more cohesively. More details on how the group outlined that sharing can be found here.

Day 2 I jumped in with the metadata group, who was working on the dataspice package. dataspice takes your raw data, and creates the spice on top of it, the metadata, which is so important for communicating with yourself in the future, as well as any others who may want to use your data. Creating metadata is often a hurdle to many data users/creators, and dataspice creates template metadata files based on a datafile input, and also has several shiny apps to help the user in populating those templates, which the package then turns into JSON, and if the userdesires a simple website about the dataset. Our hope is to make creating metadata more accessible to everyone!

Beyond being apart of the education and metadata groups, the conference was an amazing chance to meet many of my fellow R-Ladies, including some members of R-Ladies Remote. The ice breaker on the first day, where we grouped ourselves across a continum based on questions like ‘I know what my role in the R community is’ started some great conversations with folks, like myself, who are still not clear on what our role is. After unconf I feel more confident in my role and more confident in being involved and contributing to the parts of the community I belong to in the future.

ROpensci accepts applications to attend unconf each year in February and whether you are a R developer, or a post doc like me who teahes sometimes, and uses a lot of R packages, I encourage you to apply to attend, its a great way to learn, about R and the community as a whole.

Huge thanks to the ROpenSci team for their great effort in planning this amazing event and ensuring that everyone was welcome and able to participate to their fullest. You can see all the diverse and amazing things to come out of unconf18 here

Written on May 28, 2018