[R] Citing R/Packages Question

Achim Zeileis Achim.Zeileis at wu-wien.ac.at
Sun May 10 01:08:02 CEST 2009

On Sat, 9 May 2009, roger koenker wrote:

> I've had an email exchange with the authors of a recent paper
> in Nature who also made a good faith effort to cite both R and the quantreg
> package, and were told that the Nature "house style" didn't allow such
> citations so they were dropped from the published paper and the
> "supplementary material" appearing on the Nature website.

Interesting. Software manuals with an ISBN are not good enough for the 
Nature "house style"? I wonder what the problem with that could be...

> Since the CRAN website makes a special effort to make prior versions of 
> packages available, it would seem to me to be much more useful to cite 
> version numbers than access dates.

Definitely, yes. Current versions of R with current versions of quantreg 
for example yield:

   Roger Koenker (2009). quantreg: Quantile Regression.
   R package version 4.27. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=quantreg

Even if 4.27 is not current anymore it will be available under the 
"archive" link at the above URL. So an access date is not necessary. 
Pointing this out to the journal editors might help. If not, providing the 
access date (while keeping all other information) won't do any damage.

> There  are serious questions about the
> ephemerality of url citations, not all of which are adequately resolved
> by the Wayback machine, and access dating, but it would be nice to
> have some better standards for such contingent citations rather than
> leave authors at the mercy of copy editors.  I would also be interested in
> suggestions by other contributors.

I wouldn't be aware of good generally applicable standards of citing 
software. The default output of citation() has been chosen because 
repository+package+version uniquely identify which package was used 
(not unsimilar to journal+volume+pages). Also, using the URL
has the advantage that it is independent of the physical location on CRAN. 
So in case the structure of the package pages on CRAN changes in the 
future, the URL will still point to the relevant page with all necessary 


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