[R] R licensing query

Marc Schwartz marc_schwartz at me.com
Thu Jun 17 16:28:18 CEST 2010

On Jun 17, 2010, at 4:28 AM, McAllister, Gina wrote:

> I have recently started a new job at an NHS hospital in Scotland.  Since
> I took up this post 6 months ago I have had an ongoing dispute with the
> IT secutiry dept. who refuse to install R on my computer.  I previously
> worked in another branch of the NHS where R was widely used and yet
> there is nothing I can say which will persuade the IT dept here to even
> visit the website!  With some help from our head of department, they
> have now agreed to install R but only if they receive an email from 'R'
> ensuring that it is licensed for commercial use, is compaitable with
> Windows XP and will not affect the networked computer system here.  My
> only other option for data anlaysis is Excel, we have no money for
> S-plus or any other stats programme.  Can anyone suggest anything or
> send me a suitable email?
> Many thanks,
> Georgina

I don't know that you will get any official pronouncement from the R Foundation that R will not affect your computer network. It is certainly not designed to interfere with normal network operations. However, there are too many factors to consider and R does require network/internet access to perform certain functions, such as downloading CRAN packages and depending upon what you will be doing with R, accessing remote dataset files, remote database servers and the like. They are essentially asking someone with no knowledge of your particular environment or intended use to legally certify that the application will not, in some undefined fashion, affect network operation. That's like asking a physician to prescribe a drug for a patient that they have not seen and guarantee that the drug will not have any side effects.

With respect to commercial use:


R is licensed under the GPL, much like Linux. The GPL is specifically designed to preclude usage restrictions:


If they are using Linux based servers anywhere (eg. RHEL), they should be familiar with the GPL concept. The GPL does not restrict commercial use and only really comes into play when the issue of the distribution of software is relevant. FWIW, I have been using R in a "commercial" setting for almost 9 years. You might also want to point them to the e-mail domains of some of the folks who post on the list, who work for various large government agencies and for-profit commercial companies around the world. R is not just for academic use, although it's etiology is academic and the majority of the R Core developers are located at international academic institutions.

With respect to Windows XP, I would point them to the Windows FAQ:


and perhaps the current Windows README file:


R is compatible with Windows 2000 forward (XP, Vista and 7).

On a more general level, since you are in a healthcare setting, you might also want to point them to:


which might provide additional comfort that R is being used for regulated clinical trial activities.


Marc Schwartz

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