[R] Comparison of SAS & R/Splus

Mike Prager Mike.Prager at noaa.gov
Thu Sep 4 22:47:43 CEST 2003

Paul, David A wrote:

>I am one of only 5 or 6 people in my organization making the
>effort to include R/Splus as an analysis tool in everyday work -
>the rest of my colleagues use SAS exclusively.
>Today, one of them made the assertion that he believes the
>numerical algorithms in SAS are superior to those in Splus
>and R -- ie, optimization routines are faster in SAS, the SAS
>Institute has teams of excellent numerical analysts that
>ensure its superiority to anything freely available, PROC 
>NLMIXED is more flexible than nlme( ) in the sense that it 
>allows a much wider array of error structures than can be used 
>in R/Splus, &etc.  
>I obviously do not subscribe to these views and would like 
>to refute them, but I am not a numerical analyst and am still 
>a novice at R/Splus.  Do there exist refereed papers comparing the 
>numerical capabilities of these platforms?  If not, are there 
>other resources I might look up and pass along to my colleagues?

I suspect it will be difficult to find the answer to your colleagues'
assertions without doing your own studies.  How important is it to you
to settle this disagreement?

One could always name the many leading statisticians who contribute to
R, but I don't think that name dropping settles anything.

Nonetheless, even if SAS were faster, that would be only part of the
issue.  As you know, R offers vastly better exploratory graphics, better
graphics overall, far more flexible programming, user extensibility, and
more natural programming access to the results of previous
computations.  So even if your colleagues were right in their
assertions, they would be overlooking many capabilities of the S
language that are not readily available in SAS.

IMO, SAS shines in its ability to read files in almost any format, to
handle gigantic data sets without burping, and to produce formatted
cross-tabulations and other highly structured text reports.  However, if
your colleagues work at all in data exploration, they are ignoring
important tools by not exploring R or S-Plus.

Michael Prager, Ph.D.
NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research
Beaufort, North Carolina  28516
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are personal, not official. N...{{dropped}}

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