[R] What is R - A Summary

John Maindonald john.maindonald at anu.edu.au
Sat Sep 25 01:59:52 CEST 1999

I wonder whether there is any comment on the following.  It is a 
summary of a 10 minute contribution that I made to a biostatistical
workshop help yesterday in Sydney.  My aim was to highlight the
benefits of the Linux/R development model, in a session with the
title: "How can statistical packages be improved?"

The R Statistical Language

R is a public domain dialect of the S/S-PLUS language. 
Criticism, bug fixes and contributions of code or 
documentation are invited from anyone willing to expose 
their offerings for critical evaluation.  Many of the 
well-known statistical computing specialists are actively 
involved in developing R.  Contrast the R approach with 
commercial statistical software developers.  Typically 
they do not post details of known bugs, they fix only the 
most blatant bugs, and they are remarkably resistant to user 
input.  (Stata and Genstat are honourable exceptions.)  The 
development model is similar to that followed for the
development of the Linux operating system.

Most of the independent developers of S-PLUS libraries have 
made their code available for porting to R, or have actually
ported the code themselves. While R base graphics is good, 
trellis graphics is at present unavailable.  Due to the present 
fixed memory model, R may not run very large problems well as 
well as S-PLUS. An interface to a point and click system is at 
an early stage of development.

The ANU Statistical Consulting Unit co-operates with CSIRO
Mathematical and Information Sciences to offer a series of 
block courses on statistical methodology for researchers.
The aim is understanding and awareness, not to train
participants in the use of statistical software.  I use R
for most of the calculations which I demonstrate.
Praticipants can take my scripts and run them on their office 
or home PC or Linux machine. There has been a strong demand
to borrow the floppy disk copies of R which I take to the

R sources and binaries, and information on history, contributors,
and ongoing development, are available from the Comprehensive R
Archive Network mirror sites.  The Australian mirror site is:

John Maindonald               email : john.maindonald at anu.edu.au        
Statistical Consulting Unit,  phone : (6249)3998        
c/o CMA, SMS,                 fax   : (6249)5549  
John Dedman Mathematical Sciences Building
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200
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