'Start using R' for health scientists 2018-2019

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. Participants will be asked to engage in self-study (2 hours/week).


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


Added Value

This course will offer the unique 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.  Participants will be asked to engage in self-study (using the book “R for dummies”). Exercises related to health sciences will be discussed.


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 obtained a “Master in Biomedical Sciences” and a” Master of Statistical Data Analysis”, both at Ghent University. Since 2012 she has been working at the Biostatistics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine and Health sciences as a statistical consultant. 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

    • 25 April + 2 + 9 + 16 + 23 + 28 May, 2019 from 14h till 16h30. Participants will be asked to engage in self-study (2 hours/week).


    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


    • Thursday April 25, 2019 (Roos Colman) 

    Exploring R and Rstudio
    Constructing and working with vectors
    Importing SPSS datasets

    • Thursday May 2, 2019 (Roos Colman) 

    Getting help
    Reading Excel and csv datasets
    Data manipulation: creating variables, creating subsets, sorting and ordering

    • Thursday May 9, 2019 (Roos Colman) 

    Summarizing data
    Basic statistical tests in R

    • Thursday May 16, 2019 (Joris Meys)

    Modern data-handling using tidyverse

    • Thursday May 23, 2019 (Joris Meys)

    High quality graphs using ggplot2

    • Tuesday May 28, 2019 (Roos Colman)

    Automatic reporting: Introduction to R Markdown


    Registration link: https://eventmanager.ugent.be/rhealth

    If the course is fully booked, you can send a request to

    Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

    Participants are required to be present and participate actively during at least 5 out of 6 sessions.

    Registration fee

    The course is free of charge for members of the Doctoral Schools of UGent.


    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.