4.2 Why learn R?

  • R is free, open-source, and cross-platform. Anyone can inspect the source code to see how R works. Because of this transparency, there is less chance for mistakes, and if you (or someone else) find some, you can report and fix bugs. Because R is open source and is supported by a large community of developers and users, there is a very large selection of third-party add-on packages which are freely available to extend R’s native capabilities.

  • R code is great for reproducibility. Reproducibility is when someone else (including your future self) can obtain the same results from the same dataset when using the same analysis. R integrates with other tools to generate manuscripts from your code. If you collect more data, or fix a mistake in your dataset, the figures and the statistical tests in your manuscript are updated automatically.

  • R relies on a series of written commands, not on remembering a succession of pointing and clicking. If you want to redo your analysis because you collected more data, you don’t have to remember which button you clicked in which order to obtain your results; you just have to run your script again.

  • R is interdisciplinary and extensible With 10,000+ packages that can be installed to extend its capabilities, R provides a framework that allows you to combine statistical approaches from many scientific disciplines to best suit the analytical framework you need to analyze your data. For instance, R has packages for image analysis, GIS, time series, population genetics, and a lot more.

  • R works on data of all shapes and sizes. The skills you learn with R scale easily with the size of your dataset. Whether your dataset has hundreds or millions of lines, it won’t make much difference to you. R is designed for data analysis. It comes with special data structures and data types that make handling of missing data and statistical factors convenient. R can connect to spreadsheets, databases, and many other data formats, on your computer or on the web.

  • R produces high-quality graphics. The plotting functionalities in R are endless, and allow you to adjust any aspect of your graph to convey most effectively the message from your data.

  • R has a large and welcoming community. Thousands of people use R daily. Many of them are willing to help you through mailing lists and websites such as Stack Overflow, or on the RStudio community. Questions which are backed up with short, reproducible code snippets are more likely to attract knowledgeable responses.