[R] Size of R user base

Philippe Grosjean phgrosjean at sciviews.org
Tue Apr 20 10:47:06 CEST 2004

This question of the R-users is of course very interesting, but not from the
point of view of the absolute number of users (which has only a limited
interest). Here is what I see interesting:
1) What is the fraction of stat software users that use R (in particular R
versus S-PLUS, as it was the initial question)?
2) How this fraction fluctuates in time?
3) How this fraction changes according to the platform (Windows, Linux/Unix,

Ad even interesting, but even more difficult to assess:
4) Does R have an impact on the number of stat software users (i.e., do more
people use "serious" stat systems than Excel, for instance)? An example: I
teach biostats in a Belgium University. Before me, student had to use
Excel... a big mistake, of course. Now, they learn R... and some of them
become true R users (whatever the definition you give to it).
5) Does R have an impact on the quality of statistical analyses done (better
use of methods, and use of less common methods but appropriate for a study)?

All these questions need an estimate of the number of R users, of course.
Plus (4) and (5) are subjective, and difficult to evaluate at a large scale.
However, it is perhaps possible to do at the scale of a company, or of an
university. If someone has some experience in such kind of evaluation or can
point me to the right (not specialized, please!) documentation, I am

A last comment/question: would it be possible to add some code in R that
does the following:
1) it is triggered only if the software was used at least, let's say 10, or
20 times on the computer where it was installed,
2) then it checks if an update of R is available (just by looking if a given
link in a centralized web site -CRAN?- exists),
3) when it finds that link, it just warns the user of an update in a not
annoying way, for instance like that:

R : Copyright 2004, The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
Version 1.9.0  (2004-04-12), ISBN 3-900051-00-3

R is free software and comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
You are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions.
Type 'license()' or 'licence()' for distribution details.

R is a collaborative project with many contributors.
Type 'contributors()' for more information and
'citation()' on how to cite R in publications.

Type 'demo()' for some demos, 'help()' for on-line help, or
'help.start()' for a HTML browser interface to help.
Type 'q()' to quit R.

An update is available at http://cran.r-project.org.


4) it deactivate itself once the link is found.

The main role of this code would be, of course, to warn users that an update
is available. One side effect would be that it should be possible to monitor
access to the link in the centralized web site and to know:
1) How many people installed and used R at least 10 (or 20) times on their
2) On which platform?
3) Perhaps some more infos, like location of the machines?

Of course, this will only work with computers connected to the internet,...
but at least, it could be one way to evaluate the number of R users. Would
that be an infringment of Open Source, or any other rule of freedom? I don't
know, but it does seem to be quite widespread (at least for commercial
software). so, why an Open Source software would not be able to monitor the
number of users?


Philippe Grosjean

 ) ) ) ) )
( ( ( ( (   Prof. Philippe Grosjean
\  ___   )
 \/ECO\ (   Numerical Ecology of Aquatic Systems
 /\___/  )  Mons-Hainaut University, Pentagone
/ ___  /(   8, Av. du Champ de Mars, 7000 Mons, Belgium
 /NUM\/  )
 \___/\ (   phone: +, fax: +
       \ )  email: Philippe.Grosjean at umh.ac.be
 ) ) ) ) )  SciViews project coordinator (http://www.sciviews.org)
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