Building inclusive communities. The Latin American R Community

By Yanina Bellini Saibene in English Community Education rstats

February 19, 2022

On February 19 I participated in a panel called “Building inclusive communities” Hosted by AsiaR

I shared the live panel with Heather Turner and Iman Al Hasani. anani Ravi and Adithi R Upadhya host the event and moderate the panel.

The idea of the panel was to share the experience of the growth of the R community in Latin America, so I made a time line with the last 5 years rescuing the most important milestones (of which I have been part as an organizer, as an assistant or enjoying them as a member of the community).

Milestones in the R community in Latin America

This journey starts in 2017 with R-Ladies, a world-wide organization to promote gender diversity in the R community. In 2017 the first actives chapters in Latin America were founded (mine was Santa Rosa, the second chapter in Argentina). Today, Latin American R-Ladies are almost 30% of the R-Ladies Global, with 59 chapters sharing the first place with the anglophone North America. I’m a member of the R-Ladies Global and Leadership Team.

In late 2017, a group of R-Ladies and I started crafting LatinR, a Latin American conference about the use of R for research and development. LatinR will have its five edition this year, in hybrid format.

As part of LatinR we have workshops and tutorials, The Carpentries, a community that each foundational coding and data science skills to researchers worldwide is one of the communities present in the conference,increasing regional interest in this organization. Today Carpentries have more than 30 instructor and 4 trainers that can teach in Spanish. I become a member of the Executive Council this year by the vote of the community.

The success of LatinR led one of its chairs to hold the first SatRday in Latin America in Spanish, and one year later, with some R-Ladies, the first in Portuguese in Brazil was organize.

In 2019 was also ConectaR, another conference celebrate in Costa Rica. The oficial languages of LatinR are Spanish, Portuguese, and English. It is a trilingual conference because almost all Latin America speaks Spanish and Portuguese. However, in order to be on the map we need to speak English.

On the other hand, English is a barrier to Open Source and Open Science movements in Latin America. There are too few materials in local languages. This is why in 2018 we decided to collectively translate R for Data Science book to Spanish.

This include the translation of the package datos and a year later the translation of the same package to portuguese. This allow us to have all the dataset used in the book in our language, becoming a great tool for teaching.

From the success of the collective and volunteer translation of R for Data Science, the community also got interested in translating Greg Wilson´s book Teaching Tech Together, which I lead the translation in 2020.

The book is based on The Carpentries instructor training and was used on the RStudio Certification Program. In 2019 the first Latin American person got certified. She is an R-Lady and was part of a study group we created to get the certification. I was part of that group too, and today I’m one of the examiners that certified RStudio Instructors. This study group dynamic is replicated by MiR, another community that supports historically underrepresented R users worldwide, to help its members become certified.

Based on all the experience previews and drive-by COVID-19, I co-founded MetaDocencia (means MetaTeaching in English). We nurture a community of Spanish-speaking educators by teaching concrete, evidence-based, and student-centered educational methods. In addition, we collaboratively develop open, reusable, and accessible resources to foster effective training practices.

Other similar communities related to R and to provide material and trainig in Spanish were created in the region like R espacial (R spatial) and The Bioinformatic Developer Community.

In 2020, as an event in LatinR, we organize the first ReproHack, a computational reproducibility hackathon in Spanish. An event focused on trying to reproduce papers and give feedback to the authors.

In 2020, in the LatinR Slack, come the idea to make a Survey for the Latin American R Community to know each other better. One more time, a group of R-Ladies take the task and with the help of RForwards, conduct the survey that they present at useR! 2021.

Finally, in 2021, had the first talk in a language different than English, was my talk in Spanish about interactive tutorials and useR! 2021 has the first keynote in another language than English was a talk in Spanish about MetaDocencia. Last year I also asked in rOpenSci for the chance to send to review a package in Spanish, and the community answered yes. Last year the first package in Spanish successfully passed the first review of rOpenSci.

Some considerations

  • R-Ladies is the driving force behind much of the community’s progress. In every event, group, translation, new community there are R-Ladies in decision-making, leadership and organizational positions.

  • All of this is volunteer work so the most privileged people are those who are reached first. Efforts must be made to reach other, more excluded groups. Especially by meeting them where they are, going to their places and working with issues of interest to them.

  • Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges. Building a team that can take over and continue with the tasks when the founders need a break or move on to other activities.

  • There is a lot of talent and potential in our regions. Contact with international communities is an opportunity to make us known, to open doors and generate contacts for collaborations and professional opportunities.

  • As language is often a barrier, translations are a very useful and low-barrier task to contribute.

Posted on:
February 19, 2022
5 minute read, 954 words
English Community Education rstats
R-Ladies rstats Community Education
See Also:
Proyecto 2 - Las Estrellas del Universo R
Project 2 - The Stars of R-Universe
Project 1 - rOpenSci's Code of Conduct and Code of Conduct Committee