ICON Science does R (and other things)

During the dark times of early 2020, the ICON Science Hacky Hour team decided to take our weekly meetings to the next level!

For those not familiar with the concept, a “hacky hour” is a relaxed opportunity to workshop different problems, share knowledge and ask for help. ICON Science’s Hacky Hour has been running since November 2019, and offers us a regular opportunity to touch base on all things statistics and R (the programming language lots of us use for data analysis).

When the Australian national COVID-19 lockdown hit we moved our weekly meetings to Microsoft Teams and started to run a range of bi-weekly structured workshop/discussion sessions .

The ICON Science Hacky Hour group enjoys a good meme

ICON members took it in turns to lead the sessions, some taking the format of a paper discussion, others a skills-share. Over the last year we covered a heady mix of topics, from data visualisation and creating web-pages in R right through to reproducible research and differences in epistemology. We have even been lucky to snag a few guest-lecture sessions from folks in our wider network!

We kicked our workshop sessions off with an intro to Reproducibility and Open Science (using R), which we built up over a few weeks – you can read a summary of the info & resources we collected here. We were also lucky to hear from Dr Hannah Fraser (University of Melbourne), an expert in how to recognise and avoid Questionable Research Practices!

As an interdisciplinary group, before taking on some topics it was important for us to take a few things back to basics. We started with “why do we even care about statistics and other questions”, presented by Holly and Roshan. This was followed by a great overview of descriptive stats from Katherine.

See Katherine’s slides here!

For those of us raised as “classically-trained ecologists” it was great to have a discussion of different research philosophies, especially as Conservation Science has a strong social component. Emily masterfully introduced different ontologies and epistemologies, helping us to see where our different practices sat and leading us to this excellent “Guide to Understanding Social Science Research for Natural Scientists” from Moon & Blackman (2014). It was only natural to follow this with a comprehensive run-down of qualitative research methods from Matthew and Marco!

You can access Marco and Matthew’s slides here

It wouldn’t be a true Hacky Hour without occasionally dipping into the knitty-gritty of getting things done in R. In 2020 we solved a few problems, wrote some functions, cleaned a lot of data and had some lively discussions about whether “for” loops are the Best Thing Ever. Holly gave a full demonstration of R’s plotting abilities, including where to find a dreamy selection of ready-made colour palettes and a comparison of base R and ggplot2. You can find her slides here and also the R code she used to generate the demo plots.

Hacky Hour is still going strong in 2021, and so far we still haven’t run out of things to talk about yet!

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