Looking at Data with R

One of the tools that statisticians often use to visually explore, analyze, and present data is the free open-source product called R. Like several of the tools that statisticians use, it requires a fair amount of training to learn R, but once you’ve learned it, you have a great deal of power and flexibility at your fingertips.

A friend and infovis colleague, Hadley Wickham of Rice University, contacted me yesterday with the news that he and two colleagues from Iowa State University—Di Cook and Heike Hofmann—will be teaching a two-day workshop this summer in Washington, DC on this topic titled Looking at Data: Learning to Explore Data with Graphics. Anyone wanting to develop good visual analysis and presentation practices using R could save themselves a great deal of time and effort by attending this hands-on workshop. You can read all about it at the registration site.

One Comment on “Looking at Data with R”

By Neil Dulohery. March 11th, 2009 at 7:32 pm


Worth mentioning in relation to R is a project that Phil Rack of Minequest.com has been working on. Phil is developing software that he calls a “Bridge to R.” He appears to be creating a low cost alternative to SAS by combining WPS, a SAS language emulator (http://www.teamwpc.co.uk/products/wps), with R so that the two tools are integrated into a single development environment. Both are fourth generation programming languages, which enable one to invoke powerful functions with a few lines of instructions.

The idea is that WPS will provide the heaving lifting data access, ETL, and data manipulation capabilities of base SAS–using the SAS language. R will provide advanced statistical modeling and data visualization. Many statiticians and scientists in the work force now are familiar with at least one of these languages.

The licensing costs of WPS is a small fraction that of SAS, and R is free. For existing SAS shops or anyone who wants full flexibility and advanced analytics, WPS+R appears to be a viable alternative to a whole suite of SAS modules. No doubt strong support, extended capabilities, and historical development investments will keep many customers loyal to SAS.

I have no affiliation with Minequest or WPS, but I believe that they are making advanced ETL and analytics available to many who could not otherwise have afforded it.