[R-pkg-devel] Submission to CRAN when package needs personal data (API key)

Duncan Murdoch murdoch@dunc@n @ending from gm@il@com
Fri Sep 7 02:16:28 CEST 2018

On 06/09/2018 10:32 AM, Hadley Wickham wrote:
> On Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 3:03 PM Duncan Murdoch <murdoch.duncan using gmail.com> wrote:
>> On 05/09/2018 2:20 PM, Henrik Bengtsson wrote:
>>> I take a complementary approach; I condition on, my home-made,
>>> R_TEST_ALL variable.  Effectively, I do:
>>> if (as.logical(Sys.getenv("R_TEST_ALL", "FALSE"))) {
>>>      ...
>>> }
>>> and set R_TEST_ALL=TRUE when I want to run that part of the test.  You
>>> can also imagine refined versions of this, e.g. R_TEST_SETS=foo,bar
>>> and test scripts with:
>>> if ("foo" %in% strsplit(Sys.getenv("R_TEST_SETS"), split="[, ]+")[[1]]) {
>>>      ...makes no assumption
>>> }
>>> That avoids making assumptions on where the tests are submitted/run,
>>> may it be CRAN, Bioconductor, Travis CI, ...
>> This is the right way to do it.
> I would like to gently push back on this assertion: if CRAN set an
> environment variable we would have one single convention that all
> packages could rely on.

When packages delete tests just for CRAN, the quality of the repository 
suffers.  Users should be able to check an install by running the tests 
that passed on CRAN and seeing them pass on their system as well.

  The current system relies on each package
> author evolving their own solution. This makes life difficult when you
> are running local reverse dependency checks: there is no way to
> systematically assert that you want to run tests in a way as similar
> as possible to CRAN.

Most packages don't need to evolve anything:  the CRAN tests are sufficient.

> I know that the CRAN maintainers already have a very large workload,
> and I hate to add to it, but setting CRAN=1 in a few profile files
> doesn't seem excessively burdensome.

It would be easy to do that, but then CRAN wouldn't be testing the same 
things that users would test.  A user might see a test failure that 
didn't happen on CRAN, and suspect that there was something wrong with 
their install, when in fact it was an author trying to hide a deficiency 
in their package from CRAN.

>> This discussion has come up before.  If you want to submit to CRAN, you
>> should include tests that satisfy their requests.  If you want even more
>> tests, there are several ways to add them in addition to the CRAN tests.
>>    Henrik's is one, "R CMD check --test-dir=myCustomTests" is another.
>> Rainer's package is unusual, in that from his description it can't
>> really work unless the user obtains an API key.  There are other
>> packages like that, and those cases need manual handling by CRAN:  they
>> don't really run full tests by default.  But the vast majority of
>> packages should be able to live within the CRAN guidelines.
> 10 years ago, I would have definitely supported this statement. But I
> am not sure it is still correct today, as there are now many packages
> that require a connection to web API to work (or depend on a package
> that uses an API). Additionally, CRAN only allows a limited amount of
> compute time for each check, so there are often longer tests that you
> want to run locally but not on CRAN. CRAN is a specialised testing
> service and it does have different constraints to your local machine,
> travis, and bioconductor.
> A quick search of the CRAN mirror on github
> (https://github.com/search?q=org%3Acran+skip_on_cran&type=Code)
> reveals that there are ~2700 tests that use testthat::skip_on_cran().
> This is obviously an underestimate of the total number of tests
> skipped on CRAN, as many packages don't use testthat, or use an
> alternative technique to avoid running code on CRAN.

That's not so obviously an underestimate, as packages that use that 
technique use it many times, not just once per package.  (A sample I 
looked at averaged 15 calls per package, but I don't know if that's 

But in any case, the skip_on_cran() function implements a version of 
Henrik's approach.  The name of the function is misleading, it doesn't 
attempt to distinguish between CRAN and a regular user.

Duncan Murdoch

More information about the R-package-devel mailing list