[R] Are you experienced in SAS and R as well? Which of these would you recommend me?

Jonathan Baron baron at cattell.psych.upenn.edu
Fri Nov 23 14:02:09 CET 2001

>From: "micha fuchs" <michafuchs at hotmail.com>
>Subject: [R] Are you experienced in SAS and R as well? Which of
these would you recommend me?
>Disapointed about SPSS I have to choose another statistic program. And 
>altough I sympathise with the idea of a non-commercial software-project like 
>R and I like the spirit of the R community (and of course I am not keen on 
>paying 150$ to SAS for a one-year students license), I will probably buy 
>SAS, because people I will work with use SAS and I want a close cooperation 
>with them. Besides I guess that SAS is still much more powerful than SAS.
>But: can ´t you convince me to choose R? I would appreciate
that very much, 
>because my sympathy is with the r-project. Maybe the syntax of both programs 
>is quite similar, so I will still be able to exchange a lot of experience 
>with my SAS-using future collegues!? Or I could even convince the newcomers 
>to swap to R!?
>If you know some arguments, I should consider for my decission, I am looking 
>forward to hear (or read) of you!

First, thanks for sending text only, without the html (at least
the second time).

In my department, many people use SAS, and I have used it myself
(although I'm not an expert).  We have it on our Unix server,
which avoids having to pay the annual license fee.

It seems to me that, in some ways, R and SAS are complementary,
and it is good to know, and use, both, if you live in a world
where people use SAS.  SAS seems to be used for maintaining large
databases that many people work on.  It also has routines that
aren't available (yet) for R.  It is used by people who have big
grants, big labs, etc.  It works differently - more compiled
code - and is thus faster for some tasks.

R is (really) easier to use.  The help is better.  It is easier
to get to the "hello world" stage.  It can do things easily that
are done with difficulty on SAS, such as simulations.  The
graphics are excellent.  You get results quickly, and can correct
your errors faster.  There are probably contributed packages for
R that do things that SAS cannot do, although I don't know of
any.  When I see people use SAS, what impresses me is how little
exploration they do, compared to what I do when I use R.  It is
as if each analysis is a big deal, like the old days when SAS
worked with (literally) punched cards.  I don't know if this is a
necessary part of using SAS, but that is just my impression.

The syntax is NOT that similar, but the real difficulty that most
people have is in learning to use ANY syntax.  In a way, then,
the lack of similarity will make it easier to keep them separate,
and you will still get the benefits of positive transfer from the
idea of writing a program.

Best of all, both programs deal well with ascii data in standard
formats, so you can use both on the same data.

So, my recommendation - which I make to students here too - is to
learn R, and use SAS too if your colleagues use it.

Jon Baron (Prof. of Psychology, U. of Penna.)

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