"Meetup" with the future of data science

If you are familiar with the world of open source data science then you are likely to have heard of NumFOCUS, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The mission of NumFOCUS is to promote sustainable high-level programming languages, open code development, and reproducible scientific research. They accomplish this mission through educational programs and events as well as through fiscal sponsorship of open source scientific computing projects. The goal is to increase collaboration and communication within the data science and scientific computing community.

PyData is an educational program of NumFOCUS. It provides a forum for the international community of users and developers of data analysis tools to share ideas and learn from each other. The global PyData network promotes discussions about best practices, new approaches, and emerging technologies for data management, processing, analytics, and visualization.

The PyData logo with a picture of Salt Lake City, Utah in the background

While NumFOCUS organizes PyData conferences all over the world, local community members are empowered to organize local PyData chapters and Meetups. In 2018, Quansight’s Founder, CEO/CTO Travis Oliphant and Emma Powell established the Salt Lake City PyData chapter. The chapter meets regularly in different venues around Salt Lake City to talk about PyData, NumFOCUS, Jupyter, and the NumPy ecosystem and applications. Discussions also include Python, R, Julia, and related languages for open-source data-science. Through the work of organizing these events, the path is being laid out for others to network and connect through the communities around these tools.

PyData SLC is held every third Wednesday of the month. At each Meetup, a keynote speaker shares ideas and projects on different topics. At the December 2018 meeting, Tyan Barns of Mountain American Credit Union spoke on the subject of fraud protection. By introducing community members to topics such as data-driven forensic analysis, they can begin to see potential in their own work or even glean insights that will get them excited to start new projects.

Organizing your local community chapter and Meetup is easier than you might think, though it does require a premium account in order to get the communication benefits that Meetup.com provides. The Meetup.com website has a straightforward interface to see if meetups for the particular kind of organization you want to promote exists in the area. Utah did not have a PyData meetup and so Travis coordinated with NumFOCUS to ensure the PyData SLC meetup could use the PyData brand by publishing and complying with the PyData code of conduct. Emma recalls, “We started by creating a Meetup group and emailing the link to people in the area”. Travis and Emma considered the community members which would likely be impacted by the Python data science environment such as University Professors of math, computer science, and statistics, Directors of IT at tech companies, and Owners of Meetup groups like PyLadies and Big Data Utah. The first meetup allowed the team to meet community members in person and network. Through networking, they not only grew their membership but also found new venues for future meetings. Emma finds speakers through the connections members have or members themselves. Though it took some time to get started, Meetups are now organized ahead of time and scheduled up to five months in advance.

A screenshot of the Meetup website showing the Salt Lake City PyData Meetup members tab

The Meetups are a unique opportunity to find other people who are also passionate or interested in the PyData ecosystem and related ecosystems. These forums allow people to solve complex issues by sharing experiences with others and can inspire you to do things in new ways that you had not considered before. The lifeblood of open source projects centers around the community; the users and contributors are the people who give the work a purpose. By bringing people together you also bring the work together.

Whether you are in Salt Lake or Santiago, there is an opportunity for you to gather people together and share the passion for data science. Start by searching for a chapter and Meetups that are already established in your area, you might be surprised to find that they are already there. To learn how to set up a local meetup, review the PyData Meetup guidelines here.

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