Big plans for new online resources

Post by online resources coordinators: Dominic Bennett and Simon Dellicour.

Hi everyone!

As part of the SIG reboot we’re planning to expand the help docs to include more computational guides (despite the recent name change). The idea for these guides will be three-fold:

  1. Raise awareness in the ecological world of the latest computational tools and techniques
  2. Provide a resource of inter-linked guides for commonly run computational analyses in ecology
  3. Support and encourage good programming and code sharing with a view to improving reproducibility

It’s that last reason where will be focussing our initial efforts because reproducibility and repeatability are fundamental, they’re cornerstones of scientific research. And yet, have you ever downloaded a script from the supplementary materials of a publication and failed to understand it? Have you ever looked at its source code and found a series of one-lettered variables get manipulated by a series of one-lettered functions? Or managed to run the script only to find that it depends on out-of-date packages? Software tools and techniques are being produced all the time that can help avoid these problems. To start, we’ll be writing some guides that will cover a few of these, namely:

  • Version control
  • Coding styles
  • GitHub
  • Reproducible analysis pipelines
  • Package creation

To begin with, we’ll also be gathering and/or compiling guides on how to perform GIS analyses using tools (programs, packages, etc) that are freely available.

Our issues we hope to cover are:

  • ‘What’s Hadley Wickham doing?’ – r man keeps producing new packages, RStudio updates, guides and video tutorials. We think it’s quite important to see what he’s up to next.
  • Introductions to other programming languages – yes, there’s more than just R!
  • Big data – help, support, advice and ideas for handling large, heterogeneous datasets.
  • Coding philosophies – ideas on how best to program e.g. how to name, object-oriented programming
  • Tech happenings – what useful tools we have come across to help scientists with reviews

We don’t want to be writing these in isolation from the community, so we will be presenting a an online platform of guides and asking people to contribute their expertise. So if you have any ideas, suggestions or want to help out, please get in touch!

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