[R] Is R good for not-professional-statistician, un-mathematical clinical researchers?

Jacob Wegelin jawegelin at ucdavis.edu
Thu Aug 19 08:45:05 CEST 2004

Alternate title: How can I persuade my students that R is for them?

Alternate title: Can R replace SAS, SPSS or Stata for clinicians?

I am teaching introductory statistics to twelve physicians and two veterinarians
who have enrolled in a Mentored Clinical Research Training Program.  My course is the
first in a sequence of three.  We (the instructors of this sequence) chose to teach
R rather than some other computing environment.

My (highly motivated) students have never encountered anything like R.  One frankly

"Do you feel (honestly) that a group of physicians (with two vets) clinicians will
be able to effectively use and actually understand R? If so, I will happily call this
bookstore and order this book [Venables and Ripley] tomorrow."

I am heavily biased toward R/S because I have used it since the first applied statistics
course I took.  But I would love to give these students some kind of objective information
about the usability of R by non-statisticians--not just my own bias.

Could anyone suggest any such information?  Or does anyone on this list use R who is
a clinician and not really mathematically savvy?  For instance, someone who doesn't
remember any math beyond algebra and doesn't think in terms of P(A|B)?

Or have we done a disservice to our students by choosing to make them
learn R, rather than making ourselves learn SAS, Stata or SPSS?

Thank you for any ideas

Jake Wegelin

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