'Start using R' for health scientists 2021-2022

Target group

Engaged researchers and students, willing to learn the R programming language. Students who are interested in performing reproducible research through automatic reporting and in creating high quality graphs.


Beginners level.


Biostatistics Unit, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Roos Colman


Added Value

This course will offer the opportunity for PhD students to get familiar with R progressively with expert guidance. The sessions will be highly interactive and practical, making it possible for the participants to use R in their research studies in the most efficient way. Furthermore, students are introduced to automatic reporting, a key ingredient of reproducible research.


All sessions will be highly interactive. The sessions will start with a short introduction, followed by exercises where students are encouraged to write their own code, with the support of the lecturers.  Exercises related to health sciences will be discussed. Participants will be asked to engage in an online assignment that will take about 3 hours.


The course will be offered through six interactive sessions. Programming in R will be learned progressively through a combination of intense guidance by statistical experts and by self-study. 

During the first sessions, we will learn to import and manipulate data and to perform some basic statistical analyses.  Once we have mastered the basics, we will use the ggplot2 package to discover the excellent graphical capabilities of R. Moreover we will see some introductory applications of RMarkdown to set our first steps in automatic reporting, a key ingredient for reproducible research.

Examples will be largely from health sciences.


 Roos Colman and Joris Meys

 Roos Colman is a statistical consultant at the Biostatistics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine and Health sciences. She provides statistical advice and support to researchers and students and is involved in several statistical trainings.

Joris Meys is statistical consultant in the Biostatistics Department at the University of Ghent. He is the co-author (with Andrie de Vries) of 'R for Dummies' (Wiley, 2015).

Joris Meys is an accomplished R programmer, and produces R packages both for specific research projects and, via R-Forge, for more general applications. Joris has statistical expertise in ecotoxicology, analysis of environmental data, clinical research and meta-analysis.


The specialist course will take place on 22 Oct + 29 Oct  + 9 Nov + 19 Nov (optional) + 26 Nov + 3 Dec (2021) from 9:30 till 12:00.

Participants will be asked to engage in an online assignment (period: 9 Nov – 26 Nov) that will take about 3 hours .


UZ campus - K3 (entrance 42), first floor- PC room 1.1 - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium




22 October, 2021

(Roos Colman)

9h30-12h: online

Exploring R and Rstudio

Constructing and working with vectors

Importing SPSS datasets

Getting help

29 October, 2021

(Roos Colman)

9h30-12h: on campus; PC room 1.3, 1K3

Reading Excel and csv datasets

Data manipulation: creating variables, creating subsets

Introduction to R Markdown

9 November, 2021

(Roos Colman)

13h-15h30: on campus; PC room 1.3, 1K3

Modern data-handling using tidyverse

summarizing data

Basic statistical tests in R

19 November, 2021

(Roos Colman)

9h30-12h: online Q&A session (optional)


Optional Q&A session to discuss the assignment

26 November, 2021

(Joris Meys)

9h30-12h: on campus; PC room 1.3, 1K3

High quality graphs using ggplot2



3 December, 2021

(Roos Colman)

12h-14h30: on campus; PC room 1.3, 1K3

Automatic reporting: R Markdown

Illustration: Linear regression



Registration link: https://webappsx.ugent.be/eventManager/events/startR

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

Participants are required to be present and participate actively during at least 4 out of 5 sessions (optional session not included).

Registration fee

The course will be free of charge for members of the Doctoral Schools of UGent. Please read our cancellation policy: cancellation policy courses


The sessions will be in English except when all attendants are Dutch-speaking.

Number of participants

A maximum number of 18 participants can subscribe to allow highly interactive sessions in a pc room.