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Shiny for Good: R Shiny Projects with a Positive Impact


Dashboards created in R Shiny generate insights that empower businesses to improve processes, initiatives, and innovations. But Shiny is not only a business intelligence tool. It can serve many goals and act as a tool for good.

Learn more about how Appsilon is using Data for Good.

Bespoke visualizations are critical for effective planning, monitoring, and policy making. Simply put, using Shiny you can create interactive and engaging visual tools that help you turn data into action. From machine learning applications to real-time habitat monitoring, the approachable nature and healthy open-source ecosystem of R and Shiny let researchers, policy-makers, and citizen scientists share and make sense of their data.

Below we’ve listed just a few interesting examples of the many existing R Shiny dashboards used to create a positive impact:


Examples of Shiny for Good Projects

Shiny can be used across every conceivable field, from Agriculture to the Life Sciences. It’s also used for enterprises, non-profits, NGOs, and government applications. The reason why is that data is everywhere and with this data comes handling, analysis, and reporting. R is good at handling big datasets and is relatively easy for beginners to get started with. Shiny was created to help those seeking to share their analyses without adding too much complexity or development cost in the process.

If you walked down the virtual halls of Appsilon’s offices you would find that most Shiny developers share a common story: they started in a separate field, began using R for stats or analysis, and then fell in love with how easy Shiny made the storytelling of their data. We want to show you that no matter your area of focus, Shiny can be used to enhance your project. And because it’s all open source, there’s no cost to start.

We believe data can be used for good, and we want to help others realize what we already know to be true – R and Shiny are great tools for the job.

Future Forests (Appsilon)

As part of our Data for Good (D4G) initiative, we collaborated with the Institute of Dendrology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and built a data visualization app to show how different climate scenarios will affect European forests. It provides a sobering look into the future, where parts of the continent become uninhabitable for some tree species.

Shiny Dashboard view of the Appsilon Data for Good Future Forests app

Explore the future of European forests and the impacts of changing climate.

In the Shiny app, users explore European tree species’ and shifting environmental conditions caused by the climate crisis. This can be explored in three different climate change scenarios – optimistic, moderate, and pessimistic.

Learn more about climate change and the future of European trees.

Peskas – Sustainable Fisheries Development

Fisheries-dependent data underpin scientific guidance of management and conservation of fisheries systems. PeskAAS, a flexible and scalable digital application that facilitates the collection, categorization, analysis, and visualization of small-scale fisheries catch and effort data, was built using open-source software components, including the Shiny R package.

Peskas is a web portal displaying data and insights on the fisheries of Timor-Leste. It is the official fisheries national monitoring system of Timor-Leste.

Peskas depends on a group of Timorese enumerators to gather information on fish catches from fishermen all throughout Timor-Leste. Data on catches and vessel location are linked to display fishing patterns over time and space. Peskas was created with the goals of being affordable, open source, accessible, and offering close to real-time insight.

Shiny Dashboard view of the PESKAS fishery app

See how small-scale fishermen of Timor-Leste, home to some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs, use data to improve livelihoods from fishing and reduce threats to biodiversity.

Automated analytics of the data informs the local fishermen, fishery managers, and researchers on factors that influence their livelihoods. This includes fishing efforts, fisheries status, catch rates, economic efficiency, and geographic restrictions that may influence management initiatives.

Learn more here.

Respiratory Disease App (Appsilon)

Here’s another example of a project created through Appsilon’s Data for Good (D4G) initiative. We created an app that better visualizes the correlation between human mortality rates and a common cause (poor air quality) on a global scale. Air pollution is one such detriment that doesn’t abide by borders and is, unfortunately, a consistent problem across the globe.

Shiny Dashboard view of the Appsilon Data for Good Respiratory Diseases app

You can explore the live Respiratory Disease App.

Have you heard about Shiny for Python? Pavel Demin explores the Shiny for Python alpha by recreating the Respiratory Disease App.

We decided to explore the relationship between the Particulate Matter (PM2.5) pollution index metric and the mortality rate (defined as deaths per 100,000) from respiratory illnesses. In order to properly visualize the effect, we chose to display the data over the years through map and graph visualizations.

You can learn more about the project and how our distributed team used appsprints to develop this Shiny project in 5 days!

Fossil Fuel Tracker

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, a global NGO working to phase out coal, oil and launched a first-of-its-kind tool to hold governments accountable for the fossil fuels they produce — The Fossil Fuel Policy Tracker.

Shiny Dashboard view of the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty app

The Fossil Fuel Policy Tracker is an open-source tool that allows the monitoring of fossil fuel policies in all countries globally and showing which countries are leaders or laggards.

The Tracker provides data to ensure a just transition, a transition in which countries who benefitted most from the burning of fossil fuels help those who contributed the least – but – carry the biggest burden of the climate crisis today.

Learn more about the treaty here.

Mbaza Shiny App (Appsilon)

Mbaza AI is an open-source, free-use application for biodiversity conservationists. Appsilon created this tool for change, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Stirling and The National Parks Agency of Gabon (ANPN), as part of our Data for Good initiative.

Mbaza AI automatically, accurately, and rapidly classifies animal species in camera trap images or videos. And it does so using a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) model.

Shiny Dashboard view of the Appsilon Data for Good Mbaza Shiny app

Together with the AI model, the Mbaza Shiny App helps accelerate effective biodiversity conservation in Gabon, by speeding up the data analysis process.

Complementing the Mbaza AI algorithm is an interactive data explorer interface – Mbaza Shiny App. The Mbaza Shiny App intakes the data from the AI model and allows for analysis and visualization in an interactive dashboard. Shiny Dashboards are an excellent tool for telling data-centric stories.

Health Equity Assessment Toolkit (HEAT)

HEAT is a free, interactive dashboard for comparing health inequalities within countries. Built by the WHO, it uses the WHO Health Inequality Monitor data repository to showcase reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health data in visualizations from interactive graphs, maps, and tables.

This dashboard is a great example of taking large datasets with many variables across temporal and spatial extents without overloading users. Users can engage, build and customize reports with relative ease.

Shiny Dashboard view of the WHO HEAT app

The HEAT dashboard helps policy-makers satisfy global-scale societal goals of monitoring inequalities, turning data into actionable good by influencing policies and practices.

You can read through the dashboard’s user manual here.

View the dashboard here.

Posit featured: Visualizing Biodiversity in National Parks

A Shiny App by Alessio Benedetti, “Biodiversity in National Parks” lets you visualize Kaggle’s biodiversity dataset. Using the National Park Service database of animal and plant species, the application showcases insightful data with maps and charts.

Shiny Dashboard view of the Biodiversity in National Parks app

From the left navigation panel, you’ll be able to access the maps, data, and charts. Here you can explore the US National Parks and their resident species.

You can view the dashboard here and learn more about the submission here.

Discover what it means to be a Posit (formerly RStudio) Full Service Certified Partner and how we can help you.

How to get started with R Shiny in your Data for Good project

If you’re looking to accelerate your biodiversity monitoring and conservation efforts with an R Shiny dashboard, check out Appsilon’s free-use Shiny Dashboard Templates. Simplify and speed up your Shiny dashboard build with our ready-to-use templates. The bundle contains several beautiful and easy-to-use templates with a range of features and tech stacks. The best part is – it’s entirely free!

Also, consider checking out more from the R and Shiny communities. Sites like R-bloggers and R4DS are a wealth of information for all skill levels. Or subscribe to Shiny Weekly, a newsletter where we share the latest and greatest Shiny topics from the community. This includes Shiny app showcases, unique tutorials, and CRAN updates on related packages.

If you have an exciting Shiny project you’d like to share with the greater Shiny community, submit your talk to the ShinyConf 2023! It’s the best place to network, learn, and engage.

Bonus round! – GLEAM 3.0

There are so many interesting projects and use cases of Shiny being used for good, it’s hard to just pick a few.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’s GLEAM dashboard is another great example of Shiny being used for good and we think it deserves a spot here as well.

GLEAM is a geospatial framework for quantifying the production of livestock across the globe and helps policymakers identify their environmental impacts. You can learn more about the model here.

Dashboard view of the GLEAMv3 Shiny dashboard from FAO UN

Are you using a dashboard for an environmental or social impact project? Let us know on Linkedin. We’re always excited to see new uses and interesting projects.