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R Week: Introduction – How R has Transformed Our Work by This Week’s Authors

Hello, we are David Keyes, Eric Einspruch, Tom McKlin, Ava Elliott, and Dana Wanzer. We are a group of evaluators who have come to embrace the power of R. Throughout this week, we look forward to sharing some of the benefits of this incredibly powerful software (that also happens to be free!). To start things off, we thought it might be illustrative to share some examples of how R has transformed the work that each of us do. We hope these inspire you to read our posts this week … and to learn R!

David Keyes, Founder of R for the Rest of Us

R has transformed my work by enabling me to produce high-quality data visualization. The most popular R package for data visualization, ggplot, is used at the BBC, the Financial Times, the Urban Institute and many other places. What’s more, there are tons of additional packages that build onto ggplot to make pretty much any kind of data visualization you can imagine! 

Eric Einspruch, Principal of ELE Consulting, LLC

R has been my primary data analysis tool for the past few years. It is remarkably flexible and remarkably powerful, capable of handling both simple and complicated data cleaning, analysis, visualization, and reporting tasks. In addition, I find learning about R to be an enjoyable journey — as one example, learning and working with the nparLD package for nonparametric analysis of longitudinal data.

Tom McKlin, Executive Director of The Findings Group

It was important in my organization to determine where to start with R in order to establish some quick wins to test the value of R. The learning curve is steep and needed to have an accompanying payoff. R is potentially shifting the way we think of building reports by incorporating data cleaning, analysis, visualization, and narrative into one platform.

Ava Elliott, Senior Research Assistant at Public Profit

Despite being initially challenging, R has allowed us to work collaboratively and efficiently in order to meet constant deadlines in a busy evaluation consulting business. Previously, we were frequently switching between SPSS and Excel and often doing work manually as well. Now with R we can do all of our data work in one platform and we have reduced the amount of manual manipulation, leading to more replicability and less error. 

Dana Wanzer, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Evaluation at the University of Wisconsin-Stout

Rather than using multiple software for my data analysis and reporting, I have been able to consolidate nearly completely to doing everything in R. Although it took time for me to learn R and its unique quirks, it has enabled me to do far more than I ever could in the previous software I used. For example, I have written a journal article entirely in R, which when it came time to make revisions to the analyses and text was much easier than if I had used my previous workflow of SPSS, Excel, and Word. 

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating R Week with our R-forward colleagues who have contributed all of this week’s aea365 posts. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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