R Language Trends in 2019 – what to look out for

Jesse Casman
r language
© Shutterstock / patpitchaya

R language enthusiast Jesse Casman collected information from speakers of the UseR! 2019 conference in France, taking the pulse of the R community and looking at what trends are the ones to look out for in the coming months, as well as insights into some really interesting and exciting projects. Let’s take a closer look.

In July 2019, the R language programming community gathered in France at the UseR! 2019 conference to plot the future of data. I caught up with Joseph Rickert of the R Consortium in between his talks to get his take on R web apps, data organization, statistical techniques, and more.

In order to identify 2019 R language trends, I asked Joseph about three sources of information on R trends:

  1. His talk on R Consortium financial grant activities;
  2. UseR! Keynote topics;
  3. His talk on R Consortium working group activities.

Experts on the R ecosystem, either at the R Consortium or at the UseR! 2019 speaker selection committee had selected projects or topics for each activity.

Licensing, teaching, package management, validation and diversity improvements

Joseph spoke about the innovative projects that the R Consortium is helping by giving $800,000 in grants. Projects like the RUGS program, R-Ladies, and R-Hub benefit from this support. I learned about the wider scope of R language projects that the R Consortium was funding and identified trends that show the future of R.

Current and future users of R will be able to take advantage of improvements in licensing, teaching, package management, validation, collaboration, and involving women in R. If you want to apply for a grant for your R language project, you can send the R Consortium a proposal.

The R Consortium is in a unique vendor-neutral role to comment on R trends and identify projects that help the larger community. The goals of the consortium are to promote R, support the R Foundation, fund projects to support R language and the R language community, enable the use of R enterprise scale environments and foster collaboration between companies using R.

In my discussions with Joseph Rickert about R community technology and strategic trends, I dug more into his presentation at useR! to help identify areas where R is evolving.

Here’s a partial list of the projects that the R Consortium supports with financial grants.

Project Amount Funded by R Consortium
Catalyzing R-hub adoption through R package developer advocacy $46,050
Developing Tools and Templates for Teaching Materials $10,000
An Earth data processing backend for testing and evaluating stars $5,000
Forwards Workshops for Women and Girls $25,000
Future Minimal API: Specification with Backend Conformance Test Suite $10,000
Joint Profiling of Native and R Code $11,000
Licensing R – Guidelines and tools $6,000
Maintaining DBI $26,500
Next-generation text layout in grid and ggplot2 $25,000
Ongoing infrastructural development for R on Windows and MacOS $62,400
Preserving and Transferring Algorithmic Knowledge $4,000
R Validation Hub $4,000
Refactoring and updating the SWIG R module $10,000
serveRless $10,000
Strengthening of R in support of spatial data infrastructures management : geometa and ows4R R packages $20,000
Symbolic Formulae for Linear Mixed Models $6,000
A unified platform for missing values methods and workflows $10,000

In addition to the data on grants that Joseph provided, he also shared information on how the R Consortium provided support for physical R community gatherings to exchange insights and techniques. In the first half of 2019, the R Consortium provided $60,000 in sponsorship for events like SatRday Chicago, New York R Conference, R Cascadia, BioConductor, and useR!

SEE MORE: Behind the code: Language designers, scripting the 21st century developer playbook

Interactive web apps, fixing missing data and AI for Good are hot in 2019

Keynote talks at useR! 2019 also provided direction on R language innovation.

Joe Cheng spoke about combining reproducibility with interactivity using Shiny, an R package to build interactive web apps, embed R in Markdown documentation, or build dashboards. Many of talks and tutorials at useR! 2019 included Shiny, showing the growing trend to make data analysis interactive.

Julie Josse gave a keynote talk about R-miss-tastic, a project sponsored by the R Consortium that helps people manage missing data. Julie presented her work on “guessing” the best ways to infer missing data.

Julien Cornebise gave a talk on “AI for Good” and touched on projects done jointly with Amnesty International to detect burned villages on satellite imagery in conflict zones or studies on abuses against women using Twitter data.

Validation, standardized, inclusion and code quality trends

Validation and standardization

Joseph gave another talk on “The Power of Collaboration: ISC Working Groups.” Part of the presentation explained the R Validation Hub which seeks to validate and standardize R Packages. It will be free to use and provide a platform for sharing tests and links to relevant QA information.

R language

Source / Joseph Rickert’s slide deck from his talk The Power of Collaboration: ISC Working Groups

R community diversity and inclusion

The R community is making efforts to support diversity and inclusion. In the short-term, the group is focused on defining and publicizing best practices for R community events. At useR! 2019, there was a prominent code of conduct definition. The stated goal is to provide “a harassment-free conference experience for everyone regardless of gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof)… Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks, workshops, conference events, Twitter and other online media.”

Code Coverage Tool for R language

Another interesting working group is the Code Coverage Tool for R. In addition to developing a tool to determine R code coverage when a test suite is executed, the group also promotes the use of code coverage throughout the R ecosystem.

SEE MORE: How microservices are transforming app development


The useR! 2019 conference was a great place to get an overview of R trends in 2019. The conference served as a way to gather together a large number of advanced R users and get them to explain real problems they are solving. I gained insight on bigger R trends from the R Consortium’s grants to key projects, UseR keynote topics, and Joseph’s talk on R Consortium working group activities covering validation, licensing, teaching, as well as working groups focused on diversity and code coverage.

R language

Jesse Casman

Jesse Casman is a software marketing executive with extensive experience in early-stage startups in Silicon Valley and Japan. He works with great companies like IBM, RICOH, and the Linux Foundation to leverage open source, open communities and open APIs to build strong developer communities that benefit community members and companies alike. He has been learning about R for the past 2 years and is interested in any comments about R Language.

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