EARL 2020 Conference Summit

Since I have started my journey with Data Science last year, one of my goals was to participate in my first conference. Even though the reality is not gracious those days, my dream came true last week – I had an awesome time at the Enterprise Applications of the R Language (EARL) Conference (held remotely).

What is EARL?

The Enterprise Applications of the R Language Conference is a cross-sector conference focusing on the commercial usage of the R programming language. EARL has been hosted on Zoom – popular platform for online video calls. All participants could ask questions directly to the workshop hosts and presenters by using their microphone or typing a question. What needs to be mentioned, all profits from EARL 2020 were donated to ‘Data for Black Lives’.

What have I enjoyed the most?

The conference kicked off with a keynote by Annarita Roscino, Head of Predictive Analytics from Zurich UK. She gave an inspiring presentation about her journey from data practicioner to data & analytics leader. Luckily, I had a great opportunity to ask her a question – “What advice would you give your younger self on the beginning of your career path?”. Annarita ensured me about the direction I have chosen as a beginner Data Scientist and advised that the most important thing in learning Data Science is self-awareness.

Then dr Lisa Clark (Data Science Manager, Virgin Media) has drawn on direct examples from industrial projects using R from 3 perspectives – business, managers and data scientists. It was great to see how we can use R in a working environment to make both high revenue gains and cost saving measures. What is more, those from us, who would like to become managers one day, had also received a best recipe for good team growth (based on value definition) and learned some tricks how to get the team engaged. “Give a Data Science team space and time with the right tools” – Dr Clark’s engaging manner, energy, and enthusiasm was a great start to the day.

It was fascinating to see where the utility of R as a decision making support is going thanks to Owen Garrity from The Very Group who has given the speech about identifying gaps between financial targets and most likely scenerios given historical data.

Dr Adriana De Palma has confirmed my conviction about the broad variety of R applications. Her project led by the Natural History Museum (with database of 3.25 milion species measurements from 100 countries!) aims to better understand how Earth’s biodiversity is impacted by humans. Thanks to Dr De Palma the participants had possibility to learn how to handle such large datasets using {foreach}, {doParallel} and {data.table} R packages and how to build robust models for predicting biodiversity change using {lme4} and {gamm4}.

The vast majority of presentations has emphasized {shiny} and {plotly} packages as excellent tools for communicating our results to business and the public.

What else could you also experience there?

At the conference you could also learn how to use R to:

  • build an engaging email marketing campaign. What time of day are people most engaged? Which “click-through” links have received the highest-level engagement? Which links are most likely to lead to a purchase? Jeremy Horne with his broad experience in customer analytics has described how to use a machine learning model to determine the type of content each person is most likely to engage with;
  • study banking regulation, acquiring and analysing unstructured data coming from various sources like web scraping and pdf documents (Eryk Walczak, Bank of England).
  • make the use of UAS (User-Agent Strings) embeddings in supervised and unsupervised learning applications (Dr Sergey Mastitsky, Aviva);
  • visualise the data to facilitate different stakeholders with different analysis to make important decisions in healthcare (Harshitha Ravindra, Vitaccess);
  • deploy an application in a hospital and work with patient data. Emma Vestesson, a Senior Data Analyst at the Health Foundation, has shared her experiece about building build a Bayesian estimation shiny app that predicts when a drug has left the body to be used in clinical practice;
  • bring together disparate tax return data, creating the definitive database, in order to support 3.4 million self-employed during COVID-19 people (Joe Fallon & Gavin Thompson, HMRC);

Final reflections

Summing up, the conference was a great way to hear from and meet R users who are finding applications for it in a business setting. All of the speakers were engaging, had a great perspective on their topics. The event was exciting and well organized. Full marks to Mango Solutions for organizing it! EARL is the conference that you don’t want to miss.

My only hope is that to have a chance to participate one day in EARL in person. Tracking the presentations online is for sure comfortable and the event has been organized so nicely but experiencing those emotions on a live event and meeting other participants seem to bring the event to the next level. 🙂

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