[R]...Why social scientists don't use R

Cliff Lunneborg cliff at ms.washington.edu
Wed Aug 18 21:16:21 CEST 2004

Berton Gunter has written in part:

> A few comments:

> First, your remarks are interesting and, I would say, mainly well
founded. However, I think they > are in many respects irrelevant,
although they do point to the much bigger underlying issue,
> which Roger Peng also hinted at in his reply.

> I think they are sensible because R IS difficult; the documentation is
often challenging, which is
> not surprising given (a) the inherent complexity of R; (b) the
difficulty in writing good
> documentation, especially when many of the functions being documented
are inherently
> technical, so subject matter knowledge (CS, statistics, numerical
analysis ,...) must be
> assumed;

My experience has been that the real challenge is not understanding the
documentation, but  finding it. Once I know the names of one or more
candidate functions I am happily on my way. One of the delights of
reading r-help is that one keeps discovering useful functions. In the
best of all possible worlds I could ask an intelligent agent to summon
up the k-nearest neighbor functions that would "do X." Not likely. Years
ago StatSci Europe published a handy little "Complete Listing of S-PLUS
Functions", categorized in some way. I found it useful. Something
similar for R would not go amiss. I know, it would want to be 420 pages
rather than 42.

Cliff Lunneborg, Professor Emeritus, Statistics &
Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle
cliff at ms.washington.edu

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