Money talks: Linux Foundation pours funds into R language

With $200,000 in grant money, the Linux Foundation launches several projects to push development for R, the math-and-stats language

Money talks: Linux Foundation pours funds into R language
flickr/David Goehring (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

The Linux Foundation-backed R Consortium, created to support the math-and-statistics-centric R language, will soon put its money where its mouth is.

The consortium is prepping several new projects designed to advance the language, its implementations, and the culture of development around it. In addition to defining standards and practices for R, this includes funding R-related projects the consortium believes will be a boon to the community.

Seven projects got the thumbs-up from the consortium to receive a total of $200,000 in grant funding. Most prominent among them is a project to develop a unified framework for distributed computing in R -- a common method to run R applications across compute clusters.

"Many big data platforms expose R-based interfaces that lack standardization and are therefore difficult to learn," stated the Linux Foundation in its press release.

Based on that wording, one possible benefactor would be Apache Spark. The big data project has the SparkR submodule that allows Spark applications to be written in R, but it currently doesn't provide the breadth of coverage for Spark features seen in the Scala and Java modules.

In the same vein is a project to improve access between R apps and databases, "so that porting code is simplified and less prone to error," and a simpler access layer for modern geospatial data. The latter is a key component for many statistical applications, whether written in R or not, to make apps location-aware.

Another major project is localization proposal RL10N, an initiative to translate R packages into languages other than English. Though the language is used globally, "very few R packages are available in languages other than English," according to the Linux Foundation. English remains the default language for scientific work worldwide, but it makes sense to allow non-English speakers to work with R in the language of their choice.

Other grant recipients include organizers of various workshops and training courses for new and current R users.

Microsoft recently pumped up the R language, with promises of closer integration with its product line and assurances that users of the Revolution Analytics edition of R will remain free and open source. However, these initiatives come from the organization responsible for R in all its contexts, academic as well as commercial.

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