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Vacation School 2017: 11-15 September

Principles and Practice of Data Analysis for Reproducible Research in R

Organised with the support of the Institute of Advanced Study.

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A week-long, free course for early-career researchers across the University:

  • Available to PhD students, postdocs and (if space is available) other Warwick staff
  • Funded jointly by the Institute of Advanced Study and the Department of Statistics
  • 5-day course includes optional half-day introduction to R, for those with relatively little experience of R
  • Led by one of the world's foremost R experts, Dr Heather Turner (see below), with contributions from other Warwick staff and postgraduates


The R software ecosystem is currently the most widely used platform for advanced, data-analytic research across all disciplines. R was originally developed by statisticians but is now influential across all of science, social science and the humanities, with many user-contributed R packages having been published for field-specific types of data and analysis. This intensive course will bring together early-career researchers (including PhD students) from across Warwick who wish to learn about key principles of modern Data Science, and details of their application in R.

Core objectives:

The main objectives of the course will be:

  • To give participants an overview of a modern computing environment for data analysis, including the handling and analysis of large-scale data.
  • To develop more advanced R skills for those who already have some experience of working with R.
  • To provide high-level understanding as well as some hands-on practice in some main areas of the use of R in research:
    • practical handling of data of different types
    • data visualisation and effective graphics
    • statistical modelling and interpretation
    • reproducible research and reporting (through modern tools such as R Markdown)
  • To give participants an opportunity to introduce, discuss with fellow participants and experts, and solve, specific data-analytic issues arising in their own research.

Novelty of training:

There are many commercial courses in R currently available, but these are typically not designed for researchers across a wide variety of disciplines. This course will be held at Warwick (Institute of Advanced Study), for the benefit of the Warwick research community exclusively.

Reproducibility will be an important emphasis in this course. Reproducibility is a key challenge for data-intensive research, and this course will provide useful tools and techniques to help ensure that research results are robust and replicable by others.

Target audience:

Warwick early-career researchers from any department or centre, including PhD students. Subject to availability of space, more established academic staff from any department may also take part. It is envisaged that there will be up to 40 participants.

This is not designed to be a beginner's course in R. Our previous experience is that some beginners, who are strongly motivated, will still be able to "get up to speed" in the early part of the Vacation School week, and can thereby gain a lot from the course. But anyone looking for a more gentle introduction to the basics of R should first find a beginners' course elsewhere, of which there are many (including a wide variety of online resources). Completing either or both of the following two tutorials, for example, should help to prepare a new user for the Vacation School:

Career development impact:

This course provides fundamental tools and understanding for data-based research. Skills in data analysis, and especially in R, are highly marketable outside academia (for example in business and government, all the way to journalism) as well as in academic research. As well as its individual benefits, this course will help to grow an interdisciplinary group of relatively expert R users at Warwick.

Format / schedule:

  • Classroom based, with participants using their own laptops for hands-on practical parts of the course. Registered participants will be advised before the start of the course about installing R. (See For participants)
  • First half day (Monday 11 Sept, morning): Introduction to R for those with relatively little prior experience. (Optional.)
  • Included in the programme will be a special session in which participants introduce their own data-analytic questions/problems, for discussion by the group, and leading to concrete solutions where feasible.
  • Detailed schedule to follow. Start time will be 0915 or 0930 on each day, and end time will be 1600 at the latest. Tea/coffee breaks provided; participants to make their own arrangements for lunch.


Zeeman Building (Mathematics and Statistics), University of Warwick

Course leader and guest lecturers

The Vacation School will be led by Dr Heather Turner, with WDSI Director Professor David Firth. Specialist guest lectures during the Vacation School week will be given by others from Warwick and elsewhere -- details to be confirmed, but likely to include Professor Thomas Nichols (Oxford, Big Data Institute), Dr Greg McInerny (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies), Dr Matt Moores (Statistics) and PhD student David Selby (Statistics).

Heather Turner is a freelance statistical consultant, and an Associate Fellow of the Department of Statistics at Warwick. She is a voting member of the R Foundation, and former Editor-in-Chief of the R Journal. Her international recognition includes the prestigious John M Chambers Statistical Software Award of the American Statistical Association. (For more information, see Heather's website.)


Please email Olivia Garcia-Hernandez <wdsi dot enquiries at warwick dot ac dot uk>.