[R] Re: diamond graphs
ihaka at stat.auckland.ac.nz
Wed Aug 27 23:46:40 CEST 2003
Alvaro Muñoz wrote:
> Drs. Harrell and O'Keefe,
> Although it is at odds with your beliefs, University staff working on
> licensing and technology transfer believe that a patent may be a vehicle to
> achieve a wide use. The audience of the proposed methods would be the end
> users who are not sophisticated programmers and, therefore, the hope is that
> it would be available in widely used software which is not the case of the
> high end software (e.g., R). The proposed graph of 2D equiponderant display
> of two predictors is just a display procedure, not an inferential tool. The
> sophisticated analyst has little or no need for the proposed method. It does
> overcome the pitfalls of 3D bar graphs and, therefore, has the potential of
> improving the way we communicate our findings. Needless to say, were the
> predictions of Dr. Harrell to be on target, we will change course as the
> staff working on the licensing have planned from the start.
Perhaps I can add some personal experience, as opposed to "belief".
After Robert Gentleman and I had made some initial progress in
implementing R, we had to make some decisions about what we would do
with it. We looked at a number of options ranging from "something
commercial" to "free software". After some research, personal
introspection and prompting from others (hi Martin :-) we decided to
release under GPL.
For me personally this turned out to be far harder than I thought it
would be. My institution has a particularly diabolical policy on
intellectual property, especially on software. While we could have
quietly released the software and just said "oops" later on, I chose to
get approval for free release of my work. This took a number of years,
several threats of resignation and a couple of salary cuts.
The reason I mention this is not as a part of a personal campaign for
sainthood, but rather because it has utimately turned out to have been
far more than worth the effort. The effect of making R free has been
see it picked up and vastly improved and extended by a very talented
group of researchers. We've now reached a point which Robert and I and
other early R adopters and contributors couldn't have anticipated in our
wildest imaginings. It's truly amazing to see this software being used
for all sorts of cool things. What we are seeing represents the best of
what being an academic is all about - the free exchange of ideas with
researchers collaborating and building on each other's work.
On the other hand, I'm currently writing what will possibly become a
book on visualization and graphics (publication mechanism uncertain).
The techniques discussed in the book are implemented in a certain dialog
of a particular computer language developed at Bell Labs. I intend to
include code libraries for all the graphical techniques discussed. The
fact that you have sought to patent your idea means that, whatever its
merits, it's pointless for me to even mention it because I can't
distribute code for it.
I'm sure the licensing gnomes at your institution have expounded on how
patenting will help achieve wider use, but in reality they are simply
thinking "revenue stream". The likely real effect of of constraining
access to your work in this way will be to have it sink into obscurity.
Take it from one who's been there, the payoff from free dissemination is
Ross Ihaka Email: ihaka at stat.auckland.ac.nz
Department of Statistics Phone: (64-9) 373-7599 x 85054
University of Auckland Fax: (64-9) 373-7018
Private Bag 92019, Auckland
More information about the R-help