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    July 26, 2018

Should R Consortium Recommend CII Best Practices Badge for R Packages? Latest Survey Results

Mark Hornick
Senior Director, Data Science and Machine Learning

Based on our Fall 2017 survey, where the R Consortium asked about opportunities, concerns, and issues facing the R community, the R Consortium conducted a new survey this past month to solicit feedback on using the Linux Foundation (LF) Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) Best Practices Badge Program for R packages. With your feedback, the R Consortium will base its recommendation for using the CII.  Your feedback will also help us and the Linux Foundation evolve the CII with the needs of the R Community, and FLOSS projects in general, in mind.

Introduction

With over 12,000 R packages on CRAN alone, the choice of which package to use for a given task is challenging. While summary descriptions, documentation, download counts and word-of-mouth may help direct selection, a standard assessment of package quality can greatly help identify the suitability of a package for a given need – commercial, academic, or otherwise. Providing the R Community of package users an easily recognized badge indicating the level of quality achievement would make it easier for users to know the quality of a package along several dimensions. In addition, providing R package authors and maintainers a checklist of “best practices” can help guide package development and evolution, as well as help package users know what to look for in a package.

The R Consortium has been exploring the pros and cons of recommending that R package authors, contributors, and maintainers adopt the Linux Foundation (LF) Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) Best Practices badge. This badge provides a means for Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) projects to highlight to what extent package authors follow best software practices, while enabling individuals and enterprises to assess quickly a package’s strengths and weaknesses across a range of dimensions. The CII Best Practices Badge Program is a voluntary, self-certification, at no cost to submit a questionnaire and earn a badge. An easy to use web application guides users in the process, even automating some of the steps.

More information on the CII Best Practices Badging Program is available: criteria is available on GitHubProject statistics, criteria statistics, and videos. The projects page shows participating projects and supports queries (e.g., you can see projects that have a passing badge).

What did we learn?

Will the CII Best Practices Badge Program provide value to the R Community’s package developers or package users? 90% of survey respondents say ‘yes’ with 77% saying it has benefit for both developers and users. Perhaps not surprisingly, 95% of respondents had never heard of the CII before, but 74% would be willing to try it. This is according to 41 respondents, 56% of whom have been developing R packages 4 years or more, and over 60% who have developed two or more packages.

Of the six categories covered by the CII – licensing, documentation, change control, software quality, security, code analysis – over 55% of respondents found all criteria to be somewhat or highly beneficial. Over 80% found documentation and software quality criteria to be somewhat or highly beneficial.

Using an open ended question, we asked respondents why the CII is good for the R Community? Here is a summary of the responses. The CII…

  • helps users discover and select R packages that adhere to software development best practices.
  • shows R developers through the badge criteria what is possible or desirable for FLOSS, especially if developers do not have a software engineering background.
  • provides an additional degree of assurance to the user community around package quality as well as provide a way for developers to assert more formally that they follow such best practices.
  • gathers and presents lessons learned from other FLOSS projects so developers don’t need to re-discover them.
  • creates an incentive to adopt a consistent set of practices throughout the R ecosystem.

If you’re a package developer, we hope you’ll join the package developers above and start your own CII Best Practices Badge. The survey will remain open to collect your feedback on the experience.

See an extended version of this blog post at the R Consortium blog for more survey result details.

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