With data science quickly slipping into so many aspects of our lives, the open-source R programming language has been gaining notoriety for its use in statistical analysis and data visualization, despite its long-running face-off with Python.
Per Elea McDonnell Feit, a Drexel University professor, R’s user base has exploded.
“It’s optimized for statistical analysis,” said the researcher, who’s been working with R since 2003 and coauthored a book called R for Marketing Research and Analytics.
Next week, Philly will be getting a local chapter of a global group that seeks to rally local women in tech around the language: R-Ladies Philly. The group will meet for the first time next Wednesday to intro the Philly community to the might of the language.
“I want to have a community that’s very inclusive and willing to have women take the lead,” said organizer Alice Walsh, a senior research investigator at Bristol-Myers Squibb, who moved to Philly in 2007. The aim, per the researcher, is to setup an inclusive learning environment around the language. Initially, the programming will focus on beginner content, but R-Ladies Philly seeks to appeal to both entry-level and advanced users.
Last year, an email to the organizers of R-Ladies Global, which now has 60 local chapters around the world, led to Walsh getting access to a Slack channel, Git repositories and information. Along with Walsh, developers Katerina Placek and Katie Cousins are also organizing.
Per a rough 2016 graph, there were more women among top contributors to R projects than other languages like Java and Python. The stat is indicative of what McDonnell Feit sees as an ethos of the R community: diversity.
“The R community is doing really well in gender diversity,” the professor said. “It’s a shining star in the tech community where there are awful things going on. It’s always made me happy to be involved in R, a community that’s been very supporting of women.”
It’s a platform, McDonnell Feit said, where spaces are proactively created.
“I’m excited to bring my students to this community,” she said.