R software Training Makes for Better Data Analysis


Participants in the Introduction to Data Analysis with R training course.

Twenty-one participants attended a four-day training “Introduction to Data Analysis with R” organised by the Cryosphere initiative of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) held at ICIMOD headquarters 12 January to 15 January 2016. Attendees were from the Cryosphere Initiative’s partner institution Kathmandu University, Tribhuvan University, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), and the Water and Energy Climate Secretariat (WECS).  

Data analysis is an integral part of scientific research. The workshop introduced data analysis and graphing software known as ‘R’, basic programming techniques and coding skills to create robust workflows for reproducible scientific research. 

Hands on practice with real-world data. 

Datasets collected as part of the Norwegian-funded Cryosphere Program were used to practice importing datasets, calculating summary statistics, and to produce simple but effective plots. Fundamental concepts in glaciology and glacier hydrology were also taught. 

An open access software, R is a powerful data analysis tool with millions of active users. It contains thousands of statistical, mathematical, and graphical functions. There are online user forums for trouble-shooting issues using R. R creates high-quality graphics that can be used in manuscripts and reports. Scripts are easily automated, promoting reproducible research, and can be installed on any Windows, Linux or Mac system.  

This was the first such training organised by ICIMOD and it received a large number of inquiries. According to Joseph Shea, the ICIMOD Glacier Hydrologist who conducted the training, the amount of interest garnered by the training demonstrates the popularity of the software in scientific analysis and the demand for training in the region. 

The Cryosphere Initiative of ICIMOD is funded by Royal Norwegian Government and focuses on monitoring of glaciers, snow, and glacial lakes and glacio-hydrology with an emphasis on in-situ measurements, remote sensing, and modelling. Capacity building of its partner institution is also an integral part of the initiative. 

Joseph Shea, lead instructor, in action.