[R] How do I get my IT department to "bless" R?

Murray Cooper myrmail at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 2 04:29:58 CET 2009

I was about to post a similar reply.
Stavros's reply was very eloquent and should be taken to heart!

Murray M Cooper, Ph.D.
Richland Statistics
9800 N 24th St
Richland, MI, USA 49083
Mail: richstat at earthlink.net

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stavros Macrakis" <macrakis at alum.mit.edu>
To: <r-help at r-project.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2009 6:11 PM
Subject: Re: [R] How do I get my IT department to "bless" R?

> Though there are certainly some *ir*rational reasons for IT
> departments' behavior, there are also many rational reasons that IT
> departments try to control the software running in their
> organizations.
> Condescendingly assuming that the IT department is run by idiots whose
> decisions are ruled by emotional attachments (as one correspondent
> suggested), or that they are irrationally prejudiced against free/open
> source, and that it is obvious and irrefutable that you know better
> than them (as was implied by some correspondents), may make you feel
> better, but probably won't help much.
> It also won't help much if you don't explain clearly and calmly *why*
> exactly you need to use R for your work.  You can use many kinds of
> arguments, including technical (functionality, efficiency, capacity),
> economic (no license fees), scientific-community (widely used in the
> statistics community), and so on.
> It *will* help to think a bit about some of the concerns that the IT
> department may have. Many of these concerns apply both to free/open
> software and to commercial software:
> 1) Security. They probably don't want you to install software which
> risks exposing company data to the outside world either intentionally
> or unintentionally.  For example, they probably don't want you to run
> code that mirrors your disk drive on an external server, even if it
> claims to be secured cryptographically etc.  Some companies will be
> more careful, wanting to vet any software that can open a TCP
> connection (which most non-trivial software systems, including both
> Excel and R, can).
> 2) Protection against malware (also a security issue). Some software
> which appears innocuous may contain a variety of malware.  I'm pretty
> sure that R+CRAN is free of malware, but I don't know what measures
> are taken to ensure that.
> 3) Support and maintenance. Not only do they not want to be in a
> situation where they're asked to support software they don't know,
> they certainly don't want to be responsible for bad *interactions*
> between your add-on software and the standard software.
> 4) Licensing.  Besides the question of proper use of commercial
> licenses, some licenses (notably GPL) have "contagion" clauses which
> affect other software which is linked to them.  Though this doesn't
> affect the vast majority of users of R (because they neither modify R
> nor redistribute it), your company's legal department will probably
> want to know what's going on.
> 5) Interoperability, maintainability, and continuity.  What happens
> when the user of a particular non-supported software package leaves
> the company or takes a vacation?  Who is going to take over the work
> he was doing?  If s/he's developed programs/scripts on a non-standard
> infrastructure to solve business problems, do the solutions leave as
> soon as he's out of the building?
> Even if the IT department *is* behaving irrationally, responding
> irrationally yourself probably won't help your cause.
>              -s
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