The Open Teach-R Project

#mozsprint 2017 Interview Series

Marcos (@marcosvital) is a professor at the Federal University of Alagoas in Brazil. He was selected to join the current round of Mozilla Open Leaders where he combines his love for teaching and his passion for R and open science in The Open Teach-R Project.

I interviewed Marcos to learn more about The Open Teach-R Project and how you can help June 1–2 at #mozsprint.

What is The Open Teach-R Project?

The project is about sharing hands-on resources for those who want to teach an R based course for Biological Sciences. The idea is to gather ready-to-go courses on several themes and scopes, with examples, slides, scripts and everything needed, so anyone willing to teach R can just grab it, study, adapt and spread the knowledge.

Why did you start The Open Teach-R Project?

I’m currently a lecturer in a Federal University here in Brazil, and I absolutely love teaching! Since I teach Biostatistics courses for grad and undergrad Biological Sciences students, and being a Biologist myself, I know that learning R and Statistics is often very frightening for those who do not have an inclination towards math and exact sciences. So teaching it in a friendly and appealing way is a challenge and even a mission for me, especially because R is an open tool. So, this project was born because I felt that we should have more people teaching R and its awesome features. It is a way to share what I know, to learn from others, and to spread it to more and more people.

In the biological sciences, what kind of formal programming training do students receive?

Usually, none at all, at least here in Brazil (but I guess this is widespread in the world). This is a problem, of course, since programming skills are useful in so many different ways for scientists in any research field! Now, over the last 10 years or so, R has steadily become the most popular software for data analysis among biologists (especially among ecologists). It can be used as a gateway for coding among life sciences researchers and students. You can start using it for data exploration without any programming knowledge. Then you are slowly dragged (in a good way, haha) to coding as you try to understand some functions or even write your own.

What problems have you run into while working on this project?

So far, no big problems: we just need more contributors. ;)

What kind of skills do I need to help you?

One can help from different starting points:

  • Those with some experience in teaching R can help with the material. Either creating new lessons or remixing from courses that are already built.
  • Anyone, even with not so much R knowledge, can help look the existing material and check that it is clear, easy to use, and complete. Also, it would be awesome if someone is willing to give the material a test drive and come back with feedback!
  • Finally, those with web design knowledge can help us create a good looking and easy to use website that can host the project resources as we gather more courseware.

How can others join your project at #mozsprint 2017?

You can just drop by the project repo at GitHub and say hi over the “welcome” issue or at our Gitter chat room. I’m currently building a few sets of simple courses to share, but anyone bringing more material, ideas, or just excitement about the project is welcome.

What meme or gif best represents your project?


Join us wherever you are June 1–2 at the Mozilla Global Sprint to work on The Open Teach-R Project and many other projects! Join a diverse network of scientists, educators, artists, engineers and others in person and online to hack and build projects for a health Internet. Get your tickets now!