The R Project: 2015 in Review

By David Smith

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

It’s been a banner year for the R project in 2015, with frequent new releases, ever-growing popularity, a flourishing ecosystem, and accolades from both users and press. Here’s a roundup of the big events for R from 2015.

R continues to advance under the new leadership of the R Foundation. There were five updates in 2015: R 3.1.3 in March, R 3.2.0 in April, R 3.2.1 in June, R 3.2.2 in August, and R 3.2.3 in December. That’s impressive release rate, especially for a project that’s been in active development for 18 years!

R’s popularity continued unabated in 2015. R is the most popular language for data scientists according to the 2015 Rexer survey, and the most popular Predictive Analytics / Data Mining / Data Science software in the KDnuggets software poll. While R’s popularity amongst data scientists is no surprise, R ranked highly even amongst general-purpose programming languages. In July, R placed #6 in the IEEE list of top programming languages, rising 3 places from its 2014 ranking. It also continues to rank highly amongst StackOverflow users, where it is the 8th most popular language by activity, and the fastest-growing language by number of questions. R was also a top-ranked language on GitHub in 2015.

The R Consortium, a trade group dedicated to the support and growth of the R community, was founded in June. Already, the group has published best practices for secure use of R, and formed the Infrastructure Steering Committee to fund and oversee commuinity projects. Its first project (a hub for R package developers) was funded in November, and proposals are being accepted for future projects.

2015 was the year that Microsoft put its weight behind R, beginning with the acquisition of Revolution Analytics in April and prominent R announcements at the BUILD Conference in May. Microsoft continues the steady pace of open-source R project releases, with regular updates to Revolution R Open, DeployR Open and the foreach and checkpoint packages. Revolution R Enterprise saw updates, and new releases of several Microsoft platforms have integrated R, including SQL Server 2016, Cortana Analytics, PowerBI, Azure and the Data Science Virtual Machine.

Activity within local R user groups accelerated in 2015, with 18 new groups founded for a total of 174. Microsoft expanded its R user group sponsorship with the Microsoft Data Science User Group Program. Community conferences also boasted record attendance, inclusing at useR! 2015, R/Finance, EARL Boston, and EARL London. Meanwhile, companies including Betterment, Zillow, Buzzfeed, the New York Times and many others shared how they benefit from R.

R also got some great coverage in the media this year, with features in Priceonomics, TechCrunch, Nature, Inside BigData, Mashable, The Economist, opensource.com and many other publications.

That’s a pretty big year … and we expect even more from R in 2016. A big thanks go out to everyone in the R community, and especially the R Core group, for making R the standout success it is today. Happy New Year!

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