Easier Error Handling in R with try()

In a previous post, we looked at error handling in R with the tryCatch() function and how this could be used to write Java style try-catch-finally blocks. This time we’ll look at what can be done with the try() function and how we can easily process warning and error messages to take appropriate action when something goes wrong.

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Basic Error Handing in R with tryCatch()

The R language definition section on Exception Handling describes a very few basics about exceptions in R but is of little use to anyone trying to write robust code that can recover gracefully in the face of errors. In fact, if you do a little searching you will find that quite a few people have read through the ?tryCatch documentation but come away just as confused as when they started. In this post we’ll try to clarify a few things and describe how R’s error handling functions can be used to write code that functions similarly to Java’s try-catch-finally construct.

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Standard Dates

One of the big jokes among people who manage scientific datasets goes like this:

The great thing about standards is … there are so many to choose from!

Ba-dum-bum crash!

While this one liner may never make it to late-night TV, there is much truth to it.  Many “standards” exist, and many more are invented each month to accommodate the special needs of new types of data or new software for processing data.

One standard, however, stands far above other options and should always be adopted: ISO 8601– the international standard for representing dates and times.

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The world of scientific data management, analysis, visualization and public access is changing so rapidly it can be difficult to keep up with developments even in one’s own field.  Staying abreast of progress in all areas of science, let alone business, is an impossibility.

Then there are big picture questions about how the whole scientific endeavor is changing:

  • Does the long tradition of intellectual property rights with respect to science data apply in today’s cut-and-paste world?
  • How can scientists and policymakers use on-line tools to collaborate across the vast divide that separates them?
  • What role does the interested, intellegent layman play in the the dissemination and analysis of scientific data?
  • How can better delivery of data and analysis products improve the utility of publicly sponsored, publicly owned data?

These are the types of questions that occupy us every day at Mazama Science.  We spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about them ourselves and seeking answers from others in our broad community of contacts.

In this blog we hope to distill some of that group knowledge in the hopes that it may be useful or inspiring to those attempting to do similar work — supporting a data-focused, scientific approach to society’s pressing issues.

Happy Exploring!

— Jon