Thoughts on UseR! 2009

July 12, 2009
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The fifth international conference for R users, UseR! 2009, has come and gone, and by all accounts was a smashing success. I’d hoped to give a detailed account of all the talks, but it quickly became apparent that that would be difficult: with over 200 talks and lectures it’s impossible to see and hear everything. (The fact that British Airways and Air France conspired to make me miss the whole first day of the conference didn’t help, either.) But I wanted to jot down a few quick impressions:

  • There is a lot of interest in R, and it’s growing. I’d kind of expected this would be a slower year for UseR!, given the economy and the somewhat out-of-the-way location, but with over 450 attendees (more than at last year’s event in Dortmund) it’s clear the R phenomenon shows no signs of abating.
  • Interest in R has spread well beyond academics. Many of the attendees were from commercial institutions like banks, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing companies, Web 2.0 companies, and other kinds of businesses that are using R for some very cool applications. (Did you know that Thomas Cook uses R to automatically price 250,000 holiday packages every day, keeping planes full while optimizing

The fifth international conference for R users, UseR! 2009, has come and gone, and by all accounts was a smashing success. I’d hoped to give a detailed account of all the talks, but it quickly became apparent that that would be difficult: with over 200 talks and lectures it’s impossible to see and hear everything. (The fact that British Airways and Air France conspired to make me miss the whole first day of the conference didn’t help, either.) But I wanted to jot down a few quick impressions:

  • There is a lot of interest in R, and it’s growing. I’d kind of expected this would be a slower year for UseR!, given the economy and the somewhat out-of-the-way location, but with over 450 attendees (more than at last year’s event in Dortmund) it’s clear the R phenomenon shows no signs of abating.
  • Interest in R has spread well beyond academics. Many of the attendees were from commercial institutions like banks, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing companies, Web 2.0 companies, and other kinds of businesses that are using R for some very cool applications. (Did you know that Thomas Cook uses R to automatically price 250,000 holiday packages every day, keeping planes full while optimizing revenues, in less than 90 minutes?)
  • A commercial ecosystem is building around R. It was impressive to see the array of exhibitors lined up in the corridor outside the lecture halls. Springer showed a huge range of R books. R consultants Mango Solutions were there. Netezza had a lab showing their appliance hardware and a booth with some neat giveaways (thanks for the T-shirt!). Tibco showed their link between Spotfire/S+ and R. Our own REvolution Computing booth had a steady stream of visitors (and on a personal note, thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat and/or take a look at REvolution R).
  • While the talks covered a broad range of topics, two areas in particular rose to prominence. There was great interest in processing large amounts of data in parallel, with talks on Biocep, bigmemory, foreach and SQL to name just a few. The other was visualization, with an array of buzz-generating talks about graphics and graphics devices in R.   

All in all, it was a great event and well worth the trip. My congratulations go out to the organizers for putting on such a smooth, informative and entertaining conference. 

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