Who or what is R? Is it Reason? Is it Revolution? Is it a Robot?
I was introduced to R last year, a few months after the start of my PhD. I had heard about R before, but we never met face to face. Now I could find out for myself whether R would really work miracles for a humble PhD student like me.
R is Reason. R is a programming language. It allows you to put your reasoning into hard code. If you run the code, it reasons about data, statistics, visualisation, or anything else you want it to do.
R is a Revolution. R is open source software that offers a very wide range of statistical analysis and visualisation techniques, spanning the whole range of what is called “Data Science” nowadays. If you know R, you can analyse your data and create awesome graphics all in one program.
R is a Robot. The best part is: once you have written your script, it can be re-used over and over again, by you or by others. If your data or model changes a little, you can re-do the analysis and re-make the graphs all with the push of a button.
Why is R better than Excel? Much nicer graphs and easier data handling / sorting / selection. Why is R better than Matlab? Matlab is great, but R is open source – you can install and use it anywhere you want. Why is it better than SPSS? R is less “black-box” – you can inspect how your data is being transformed at each step. Read more comparisons on Google.
However, it does take time to get to know R. I’ve been using R for about a year now, and learned new things every week. The picture at the top was created with R, as were the graphs for a poster I presented at the EGU 2014 conference. Now I regularly help colleagues to get their graphs exactly the way they want them.
If you need help with R (and preferably work in the neighborhood), don’t hesitate to ask!
Reference material I use most often:
- Google, but then often select a stackoverflow search result
- R cookbook (very well structured and covers most of the basic problems you’ll run into)
- Lots of links to get introduced to R (pick and choose the ones relevant to your background)
All posts by David Bijl
About David Bijl
David Bijl has been working as PhD student at Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences, since March 2013. With a BSc in Mathematics and MSc in Policy Analysis, he has a very broad view on complex transdisciplinary issues, and the ability to investigate these further using computer models. Currently David is building models for long-term worldwide demand for Food, Water and Energy and the links between these resources. (uu profile, linkedin, twitter)