June 18, 2020

Introduction to R Projects and GitHub

Swellan Pinto, MA student, Melin Lab, UCalgary

Reproducibility is key to science. Many of our projects require us to write and use codes to retrieve our data or carry out our analyses. It can become difficult and messy to keep track of changes, especially when collaborating with others. Version control systems let us track changes and can allow for better collaboration, greater reproducibility, and increased transparency.

The online R Programming Workshop Series led by Dr. Mareike Janiak and HPI's own Shasta Webb (Melin Lab) has been a great way to learn how to work in RStudio during quarantine! These workshops are hosted on Zoom and recorded, so if you are interested in learning the basics of working in RStudio and would like a copy of any of the recordings, please reach out to Mareike or Shasta. This particular tutorial held on June 18th, 2020, focused on using R Projects and GitHub, and was the third installment in the series. We started by discussing simple forms of version control. Most of us have encountered some form of version control whether it be the "Undo" function in word processors or manually duplicating, updating, and renaming files. Here, we learned how to use the version control software Git with the online platform GitHub to track versions of an R Project. An R Project allows you to open up an independent RStudio window on your machine and helps users to more easily organize all the files related to a particular project. R Projects integrate with Git and GitHub to allow for easy version control through the creation of an online Git repository, a folder that tracks all the changes made to the files in an R Project. Mareike and Shasta shared their screens to demonstrate step-by-step how to set up a new Git repository on GitHub, create a new R Project, and sync files to that online Git repository. Questions were encouraged and the hosts helped participants troubleshoot throughout the tutorial.

While I have experience coding in R and RStudio, I had never used R Projects or GitHub before. I found this tutorial to be simple and easy to follow. I will definitely be using R Projects and GitHub in the future and I wish tutorials like these had been more available when I was starting to learn R. Thank you to Mareike and Shasta for hosting this wonderful workshop!

Dr. Mareike Janiak creating an R project in RStudio.