Over- packaging: The ecology & evolution of the R environment

presented by Matteo Marcantonio (Postdoc in Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, UC Davis Vet Med) and Diego Montecino (DVM & PhD candidate in Epidemiology).


The R computing language is used by researchers across disciplines. In R, many methods are implemented through packages. CRAN, the main R package repository, has grown exponentially over the past years and currently has ~12,000 packages, with about 30 new packages added weekly. Are there just too many R packages?

We will present data on the S-growth of R packages and conjecture on potential consequences for users. We will then use analogies borrowed from ecology to elaborate on potential catastrophic scenarios of the R “ecosystem” as a result of the ever-growing number of packages.

Using an ecological framework we ask:

  • Is the R “ecosystem” approaching its carrying capacity?
  • Will this uncontrolled growth lead to a collapse?
  • How can the R community become more sustainable?

We seek feedback from ecologists, R users, and programmers to expand upon (or challenge!) this analogy, and other case examples of controlled and uncontrolled software development. How can the R community evolve and persist?

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