Tuesday, 2 September 2014

How do you teach everything.

I'm trying to plan a way to introduce the scientific tool chain. I'm starting to realise that most people don't love programming for it's own sake like I do. They see programming as a means to an end and want to get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. Like going to the dentist or doing their taxes.

I think LaTeX and Bibtex might be the gateway.  Especially with PhD candidates, their time is precious and they are only willing to put effort into something if it directly benefits them right now. At least with LaTeX I can show them something that will make the job of writing their thesis easier. I assume most people use 'Word' currently. 'Word' is woefully inadequate to write a multichapter piece of writing. LaTeX on the other hand, was made for this.

LaTeX Notes: Structuring Large Documents

Add version control so changes can be tracked and a section that was discarded three weeks ago as irrelevant, but is now exactly what is needed, can be restored with little effort.
Other reasons for a PhD candidate to use Git are given here - git-latex-workflow

From LaTeX, the concept of Knitr in R is approachable. Analysis will need to be done, so why not do it in R with RStudio? The analysis and writing are then both under version control. Add to that bibtex for referencing and a task that was a huge organisational nightmare is manageable.

I'm hoping that the lure of easy thesis writing might be the right bait for scientists to learn modern coding practice.