[R-pkg-devel] Use of `:::` in a package for code run in a parallel cluster

David Kepplinger d@v|d@kepp||nger @end|ng |rom gm@||@com
Sun Sep 13 21:51:41 CEST 2020

Dear list members,

I submitted an update for my package and got automatically rejected by the
incoming checks (as expected from my own checks) for using `:::` calls to
access the package's namespace.
"There are ::: calls to the package's namespace in its code. A package
*almost* never needs to use ::: for its own objects:…" (emphasis mine)

This was a conscious decision on my part as the package runs code on a
user-supplied parallel cluster and I consider cluster-exporting the
required functions a no-go as it would potentially overwrite objects in the
clusters R sessions. The package code does not own the cluster and hence
the R sessions. Therefore overwriting objects could potentially lead to
unintended behaviour which is opaque to the user and difficult to debug.

Another solution to circumvent the R CMD check note is to export the
functions to the public namespace but mark them as internal. This was also
suggested in another thread on this mailing list (c.f. "Etiquette for
package submissions that do not automatically pass checks?"). I do not
agree with this work-around as the methods are indeed internal and should
never be used by users. Exporting truly internal functions for the sake of
satisfying R CMD check is a bad argument, in particular if there is a
clean, well-documented, solution by using `:::`.

I argue `:::` is the only clean solution to this problem and no dirty
work-arounds are necessary. This is a prime example of where `:::` is
actually useful and needed inside a package. If the R community disagrees,
I think R CMD check should at least emit a WARNING instead of a NOTE and
elaborate on the problem and accepted work-arounds in "Writing R
extensions". Or keep emitting a NOTE but listing those nebulous reasons
where `:::` would be tolerated inside a package. Having more transparent
criteria for submitting to CRAN would be really helpful to the entire R
community and probably also reduce the traffic on this mailing list.


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