[R-SIG-Mac] Data Editor

David Airey david.airey at vanderbilt.edu
Wed Mar 12 13:43:03 CET 2008


I agree with John Walker. Well said.


On Mar 12, 2008, at 2:53 AM, r-sig-mac-request at stat.math.ethz.ch wrote:

> Message: 4
> Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 10:44:48 -0600
> From: John Walker <john.s.walker at uchsc.edu>
> Subject: [R-SIG-Mac] Data editor
> To: r-sig-mac at stat.math.ethz.ch
> Message-ID: <47D6B700.8070508 at uchsc.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> Thank you for the responses to my email. I'd like to further the
> discussion a little because I think it may be productive.
> I'll take major points from the responses and deal with them one by  
> one
> although not necessarily in order.
> With regard to my colleague's willingness to learn a command line
> program. She is an extremely intelligent person and has learned  
> Latex to
> typeset her documents - no question she is able to learn. But she
> requires some evidence that the program is worth learning. To her mind
> and to mine, simple things should be simple to do and complex things
> made easier by any software. My point here is that entering in data  
> via
> the data editor failed. Whether or not that is the best way or the  
> right
> way is irrelevant. R offers an option to enter small data sets via an
> editor - the edit function. In the X11 interface and the Windows
> interface to the edit function, the functionality is present. In the  
> mac
> editor it is not. I agree that the GUI interface to the command line  
> is
> nice and functional and the programmers are to be applauded. The fact
> remains that the data editor in the Mac interface is inadequate.  When
> someone tries a program for the first time and a simple function fails
> then there is no incentive to go further.
> As regards the best way to enter data.  I think statisticians are used
> to investigators coming to them with very precious post processed  
> data.
> Consequently data entry is handled using programs that emphasize data
> integrity, security and organisation. Hence the use of Excel  
> (sic!!!) to
> handle data for export to R.
> In reality in lab work, data abounds. The scientist  performs ad hoc
> experiments daily and tries to see what is going on. Sometimes, as in
> this case, he/she wants to find out if a rough <preliminary>  
> experiment
> is showing a difference. For the scientist, the ability to enter data
> quickly and see if the difference they think they are seeing is real
> <is> important. When the experiments have settled into a routine and
> data collection becomes part of a protocol, the data should and does  
> go
> into a data entry program ( a database with data entry front end or a
> spreadsheet). That is the data the statistician sees and has been
> collected with great care and expense, but it is not the only kind of
> data the scientist deals with
> Yes the t-test could be done on a calculator, but few scientists in  
> the
> biomedical sciences actually use a calculator for a t-test. They all  
> use
> a computer based stats program. To my mind, if they do it in R, two
> things are accomplished; a broader adoption of R and the preliminary
> data are in R to be added to and if difficulties arise to be handed to
> an analyst who also uses R. (Please don't go off topic and tell me  
> they
> should have seen a statistician before starting; a.) I know the  
> reasons
> and b.) it isn't always necessary)
> Mathematical statisticians regard data as holy. Scientists who collect
> the data know it to be dirty, unkempt and often scribbled on pieces of
> paper or on the margins of notebooks -especially when the experiments
> are just getting started. Not all data are important. Many experiments
> simply confirm that there is no difference due to a treatment. The
> ability to quickly enter small data sets and check to see if there
> really is a difference is important to investigators. Fisher knew  
> that,
> so did Student/Gosset hence the development of small sample  
> statistics.
> I'm suggesting that if 'R' wants to address the needs of scientists, a
> method for entry of small data sets is important. The command line is
> fine. I use it and I am happy with it. But R <offers> a data editor.
> Those who want to use it should be able to. This does not mean a full
> blown spreadsheet interface. I agree that would be stupid. All I am
> suggesting is that the Mac data editor be functional. The Unix and
> Windows ones already are.
> -- 
> John Walker
> Assistant Professor of Cardiology
> Department of Medicine
> University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
> 4200 E. Ninth Ave B130
> BRB Rm 351
> Denver CO 80262
> ph 303 315 0103

David C. Airey, Ph.D.
Pharmacology Research Assistant Professor
Center for Human Genetics Research Member

Department of Pharmacology
School of Medicine
Vanderbilt University
Rm 8158A Bldg MR3
465 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37232-8548

TEL   (615) 936-1510
FAX   (615) 936-3747
EMAIL david.airey at vanderbilt.edu
URL   http://people.vanderbilt.edu/~david.c.airey/dca_cv.pdf
URL   http://www.vanderbilt.edu/pharmacology

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