ResBaz research tools

ResBaz, or Research Bazaar, was hosted this year for the first time at the University of Melbourne and I got to attend this awesome conference (so did a couple of other QAECOlogists, check Saras Windecker’s blogpst for an impression). ResBaz is all about open science, sharing, collaborating and getting the message out there. To make this happen, the attending researchers were trained in digital tools such as R, MATLAB, Phython, mapping software and version control.

I only attended two streams, R and SQL (databases), but because of all the mingling with fellow researchers under the big bazaar tent (as well as twittering, lots of twittering!), I also got a good impression of all the other great stuff that’s out there. I have to say, it’s good to know what all the options are when doing your research. If you missed the conference, here’s a list of all the cool research tools you really want to know about:

Version control and other important things

Unix Shell What is it? The cornerstone of all programming.

Why do you want to use it? It makes life easier. Once you get over your fear of accidentally removing important files (we got warned about this a couple of times), it is incredibly useful for automating repititive tasks and linking existing programs together.

GitHub What is it? A version control tool for software.

Why do you want to use it? Because it makes it very difficult to lose stuff, it’s like you’ve got an undo button. It also makes collaborations much easier. Not convinced? Here is a post explaining exactly why you need it:

NeCTAR What is it? An online research cloud that is free for all Australian researchers.

Why do you want to use it? It allows you to run your analyses and simulations online on a remote computer (save time!) among other very good reasons. Damien Irving explains it really well in this post.

Data analysis tools

R What is it? Programming language for statistical analysis and making pretty graphs.

Why do you want to use it? It is free (yay!), it is used a lot (which means there is lots of help and support when R doesn’t do what you want it to do) and it is very powerful.

Phyton What is it? A snake A programming language used for many different applications.

What do you want to use it? It’s a well written, simple language with an English like syntax and there are lots of specialist libraries available.

I personally also like iPhyton Notebook because it let’s you share your analyses and code with others:

MATLAB What is it? A high-level technical computing language. Its basic data element is the matrix.

Why do you want it? Because it is really really good at data processing and also good at graphical output. It’s not so good at being a good programming language.

Mapping tools

For a detailed review of all the mapping tools at ResBaz check out Lizzy Lowe’s blog.

CartoDB What is it? A cloud-based mapping tool.

What do you want to use it? Because it is a simple yet powerful tool that lets you visualise data onto maps.

TileMill What is it? A mapping tool to quickly and easily design maps for the web using custom data.

Why do you want to use it? It is a more advanced tool that cartoDB and has many more options for map customisation, and also because of this:

AURIN What is it?It contains over 1300 Australian urban datasets on health, socio-economics, demographics and the built environment.

Why do you want to use it? It can be used to combine and analyse datasets to reveal patters in the urban environment.

NLTK, Authorea and SQL

Natural Language Toolkit for Python What is it? A platform to work with human language data / a text mining tool.

Why do you want to use it? To comment on features of the language in a large corpus of text, and because:

Authorea What is it?A new, collaborative writing tool that aims to change the way researchers write papers.

Why do you want to use it? It makes writing much more interactive and collaborative. It backs up every change that is made, people can work together and everything can be written in LaTeX.

Databases & SQL What is it?SQL is a language used to communicate with databases.Why do you want to use it?Spreadsheets can only do some many calculations before their use becomes limited. Databases pick up where spreadsheets leave off. They are faster, can work with much larger datasets and do lots of stuff spreadsheets can’t do.

Want more?

And that’s not even all of the stuff that was on offer at the bazaar! Check out their website for the full details of all the tools that were available. If you feel like studying straight away, Software Carpentry offers online lessons. Is your code not working and you want a human to help you? If you are Melbourne Uni, Parkville, you can come to Hacky Hour. This happens every Thursday 3pm at the Tsubu bar.

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