[Rd] aggregate(as.formula("some formula"), data, function) error when called from in a function

Paul Bailey pdbailey at umd.edu
Wed Jan 26 20:04:14 CET 2011

I'm having a problem with aggregate.formula when I call it in a function and the function is converted from a string in the funtion

I think my problem may also only occur when the left hand side of the formula is cbind(...)

Here is example code that generates a dataset and then the error. 

The first function "agg2" fails

> agg2(FALSE)
do agg 2
Error in m[[2L]][[2L]] : object of type 'symbol' is not subsettable

but, if I run it have it return what it is going to pass to aggregate and pass it myself, it works. I can use this for a workaround (agg3) where one function does this itself.

I'm confused by the behavior. Is there some way to not have to use a separate function to make the call ?

# start R code
# idea: in a function, count the number of instances
# of some factor (y) associated with another
# factor (x). aggregate.formula appears to be
# able to do this... but I have a problem if all of the following:
# (1) It is called in a function
# (2) the formula is created using as.formula(character)
# calling aggregate with the same formula (created with as.formula)
# outside the function works fine.
agg2 <- function(test=FALSE) {
  # create a factor y
  dat <- data.frame(y=sample(LETTERS[1:3],100,replace=TRUE))
  # create a factor x
  dat$x <- sample(letters[1:4],100,replace=TRUE)
  # make a column of 1s and zeros
  # 1 when that row has that level of y
  # 0 otherwise
  lvls <- levels(dat$y)
  dat$ya <- 1*(dat[,1] == lvls[1])
  dat$yb <- 1*(dat[,1] == lvls[2])
  dat$yc <- 1*(dat[,1] == lvls[3])
  # this works fine if you give the exact function
  agg1 <- aggregate(cbind(ya,yb,yc)~x,data=dat,sum)
  # and fine if you accept
  fo <- as.formula("cbind(ya,yb,yc)~x")
  if(test) {
  cat("do agg 2\n")
  agg2 <- aggregate(fo,data=dat,sum)
ag <- agg2(TRUE)

agg3 <- function() {
  ag <- agg2(TRUE)

# end R code
Paul Bailey
University of Maryland

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