[R] R in Industry

Jim Lemon jim at bitwrit.com.au
Fri Feb 9 11:08:17 CET 2007

Ben Fairbank wrote:
> To those following this thRead:
> There was a thread on this topic a year or so ago on this list, in which
> contributors mentioned reasons that corporate powers-that-be were
> reluctant to commit to R as a corporate statistical platform.  (My
> favorite was "There is no one to sue if something goes wrong.")
> One reason that I do not think was discussed then, nor have I seen
> discussed since, is the issue of the continuity of support.  If one
> person has contributed disproportionately heavily to the development and
> maintenance of a package, and then retires or follows other interests,
> and the package needs maintenance (perhaps as a consequence of new
> operating systems or a new version of R), is there any assurance that it
> will be available?  With a commercial package such as, say, SPSS, the
> corporate memory and continuance makes such continued maintenance
> likely, but is there such a commitment with R packages?  If my company
> came to depend heavily on a fairly obscure R package (as we are
> contemplating doing), what guarantee is there that it will be available
> next month/year/decade?  I know of none, nor would I expect one.
> As R says when it starts up, "R is free software and comes with
Hi Ben,
This is a good point, and one that has been made many times. One aspect 
of the "price" of R is that it is user-determined. If you want to take 
the time to check that your particular analysis is doing what you think 
it's doing, that costs you something. For the user who just wants to 
push the button and pass the buck to the software company if anything 
goes wrong, R is not ideal. If you want to go beyond just using R, you 
can report problems, share your knowledge with others, and maybe 
contribute a bit here and there to the project. Perhaps even decide to 
take over maintaining an obscure package if it is of sufficient value to 
you. All this costs you something. It may pay you back, for the 
knowledge you gain from being involved in a cooperative project is worth
something, too. While I have tried to contribute what I can, I think 
that what I have gained from R is much more than I have given. However, 
if the great majority of R users feel that way, it is a pretty good 
example of overall benefit from cooperation. You don't pay any money, 
but you do take your chances.


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