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Inaugural Government & Public Sector R Conference Brings Together R Community!

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

Written by Jared P. Lander, Lander Analytics Chief Data Scientist. Originally posted on Jared's Blog December 23rd, 2020.

The inaugural Government & Public Sector R Conference took place virtually from December 2nd to December 4th. With over 240 attendees, 26 speakers, three panelists and a rum masterclass class leader, the R|Gov conference was a place where data scientists could gather remotely to explore, share, and inspire ideas.

We had so many amazing speakers, whom we would like to thank: Lucy D’Agostino McGowan (Wake Forest University), Dr. Andrew Gelman (Columbia University), Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky (Global Thermostat), Dr. David Meza (NASA), Maj. Maxine Drake (US Army), Alex Gold (RStudio), Kimberly F. Sellers (Georgetown University; The U. S. Census Bureau), Dr. Tyler Morgan-Wall (Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA)), Imane El Idrissi & Dr. Anna Mantsoki (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics), Dr. Wendy Martinez (Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)), Col. Alfredo Corbett (US Air Force), Rose Martinez & Brooke Frye (New York City Council Data Team), Yvan Gauthier (Department of National Defence), Michael Jadoo (BLS), Tommy Jones (In-Q-Tel), Selina Carter (IDB), Refael Lav (Deloitte’s Federal Government Services teams), Dr. Abhijit Dasgupta (Zansors), Dr. Simina Boca (Georgetown University Medical Center), Dr. Wil Doane (IDA), Mo Johnson-León (Insight Lane), Dan Chen (Virginia Tech), Dr. Gwynn Sturdevant (HBS & R-Ladies DC), Marck Vaisman (Microsoft), Jonathan Hersh (Argyros School of Business), Kaz Sakamoto (Lander Analytics & Columbia University), Emily Martinez (NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), Dan Whitenack (SIL International & Practical AI Podcast), Danya Murali (Arcadia Power), Malcolm Barrett (Teladoc Health) and myself.

All the talks will be shared on and the Lander Analytics YouTube channel in the very near future. Stay tuned!

Check out some of the highlights from the conference:

Graciela Chichilnisky explains how financial instruments can resolve climate change

One of my former professors at Columbia University, Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky, gave a presentation on how financial instruments can resolve climate change quickly and effectively by using existing capital markets to benefit highand, especially, lowincome groups. The process Dr. Chichilnisky proposes is simple and can lead to a transformation of our capitalistic economy in the direction of human survival. Furthermore, it is realistic and is profitable. Dr. Chichilnisky acted as the lead U.S. author on the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change, which received the 2007 Nobel Prize for its work in deciding world policy with respect to climate change, and she worked extensively on the Kyoto Protocol, creating and designing the carbon market that became international law in 2005.

Another classic no-slides talk from Andrew Gelman on how his team and The Economist Magazine built a presidential election forecasting model

Another professor of mine, Andrew Gelman told us he wanted to give a talk on how his team’s election forecasting succeeded brilliantly, failed miserably, or landed somewhere in between. To build the model, they combined national polls, state polls, and political and economic fundamentals. Because we didn’t know the results of the election at the time, he didn’t know which of the three he’d be talking about... So how did his election forecast perform? The model predicted 49 out of 50 states correctly... But that doesn't mean the forecast was perfect... For some background, see this article.

Wendy Martinez inspires and shares lessons about the rocky road she traveled to using R at a U.S. Government agency

Wendy Martinez described some of her experiences — both successes and failures — using R at several U.S. government agencies. In addition to serving as the Director of the Mathematical Statistics Research Center at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the last eight years, she is currently the President of the American Statistical Association (ASA), and she also served in several research positions throughout the Department of Defense. She has also written two books on MATLAB! It’s nice to see that she switched to open source.

Colonel Alfredo Corbett Spoke On Air Combat Command Enterprise Data Improvements

Deputy Director of Communications of the United States Air Force Colonel Alfedo Corbett showed us why, in his work, data can be a warfighting asset, fundamental to how Air Combat Command (ACC) operates in—and supports—all domains of warfare. In coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force, ACC is working to improve its data governance, data architecture, data standards, and data talent & culture, implementing major improvements to the way it manages, acquires, ingests, stores, processes, exploits, analyzes, and delivers data to its almost 100,000 operators.

We Participated in Two Virtual Happy Hours!

At lunch on the first day of the conference, we took a dive into the history and distillation process of a legendary rum made at the longest continuously running distillery in the world, Mount Gay Brand Ambassador Darrio Prescod shared his knowledge and transported us to Barbados (where he tuned in from virtually). Following the second day of the conference, members of the Mount Gay brand development team took us through a rum tasting and shook up a couple of cocktails. Attendees and speakers listened and hung out, drinking rum, matcha, soda or water during our virtual happy hour.

All proceeds from the A(R)T Auction went to the R Foundation

The A(R)T Auction was held in support of the R Foundation, featuring pieces by artists in the R Community. Artists included Nadieh Bremer (left), Selina Carter, Thomas Lin Pedersen (right), Will Chase, DiKayo Data.

Traditional R-Ladies Group Photo Happened Again

We took an R-Ladies group [virtual] selfie. We would like to note that more R-Ladies participated, but chose not to share video:

Jon Harmon, Selina Carter, Mayarí Montes de Oca & DiKayo Data win Raspberry Pis, Noise Cancelling Headphones, and Gaming Mechanical Keyboards for Most Active Tweeting You can see the R|Gov 2020 R Shiny Scoreboard here! A custom started at DCR 2018 by our Twitter scorekeeper Malorie Hughes (@data_all_day), has returned every year by popular demand. Congratulations to our winners!

52 Conference Attendees Participated in Pre-Conference Workshops

We ran the following workshops prior to the conference:

Moving from DCR to R|Gov

With the shift to remote, we realized we could welcome a global audience to our annual conference, as we did for the virtual New York R Conference in August. And that gave birth to R|Gov, the Government and Public Sector R Conference. This new industry-focused conference focused on work in government, defense, NGOs and the public sector, and we have speakers from not only the DC-area, but also from Geneva, Switzerland, Nashville, Tennessee, Quebec, Canada and Los Angeles, California. For next year, we are working to invite speakers from more levels of government--local, state and federal. You can read more about this choice here.

Like NYR, R|Gov featured many in-person components of the gathering, like networking sessions, speaker walk-on songs and fun facts, happy hours, lots of giveaways, the Twitter contest, and the auction.

Thank you, Lander Analytics Team!

Even though it was virtual, there was a lot of work that went into the conference, and I want to thank my amazing team at Lander Analytics along with our producer, Bill Prickett, for making it all come together.

Looking Forward to New York, R|Gov, and Dublin!

If you attended, we hope you had an incredible experience. If you did not attend this year’s conference, we hope to see you at the at the New York R Conference and R|Gov in 2021, and, soon, the first Dublin R Conference.

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