rOpenSci Dev Guide 0.3.0: Updates

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As announced in February, we now have an online book containing all things related to rOpenSci software review. Our goal is to update it approximately quarterly – it’s time to present the third version. You can read the changelog or this blog post to find out what’s new in our dev guide 0.3.0!

Updates to our policies and guidance


We’ve introduced an important change for anyone thinking of submitting a package. We ask authors to select a category in our Aims and Scope under which to submit. We found that the “reproducibility” category was confusing, as almost any R package can be related to reproducibility. We split “reproducibility” into four new categories that fit the narrower topics it previously included. They are:

  • data validation and testing: Tools that enable automated validation and checking of data quality and completeness as part of scientific workflows.

  • workflow automation: Tools that automate and link together workflows, such as build systems and tools to manage continuous integration.

  • version control: Tools that facilitate the use of version control in scientific workflows.

  • citation management and bibliometrics: Tools that facilitate managing references, such as for writing manuscripts, creating CVs or otherwise attributing scientific contributions.

For discussion and changes see ropensci/software-review-meta#81 and ropensci/dev_guide#184.


rOpenSci’s Jeroen Ooms has built out a new way for rOpenSci packages to improve documentation for their packages. Many of you have likely been building package documentation websites with pkgdown. There were ways to automate the building of these documentation pages – but nothing as easy as we have now. Docs for each rOpenSci package are now built automatically and can be found at{package}, where {package} is the package name, e.g., the page for the bowerbird package is Read Jeroen’s post for more details Introducing the new rOpenSci docs server and see the developer guide section Automatic deployment of the documentation website.

We’ve changed our guidelines regarding README’s and vignettes. If you have chunks shared between the README and any vignettes, then we suggest using Rmarkdown chunks. Related issues: ropensci/dev_guide#159 and ropensci/dev_guide#161.

Last, we’ve removed our recommendation about using the roxygen2 development version because the latest stable version has what is needed regarding tags and the rev contributor role. (thanks again Hugo Grusonropensci/dev_guide#165)

CRAN checks

We’ve added explanations of CRAN checks to the packaging section, including that they can use the CRAN checks API, in particular see rodev::use_cchecks_badge() for adding a badge to your README to let users know the status of your CRAN checks.

R helpers

usethis is a helper package for R package maintainers. We’ve added to the guide recommendations for usethis functions to use for adding testing or vignette infrastructure.

Built on usethis, the rodev package is a new helper package, maintained by Maëlle. The goal of rodev is to help rOpenSci package developers with common tasks, and to promote best practices. We’ve added mentions of rodev functions throughout the guide where appropriate.

New section: Changing package maintainers

We’ve added a new section to the book on dealing with changing package maintainers. Part of the reason for rOpenSci to exist is sustainability of important R packages. Where possible, we strive to find new maintainers for packages when the current maintainers need to walk away. To help the rOpenSci community (including rOpenSci staff), we’ve added this section with tips and guidance for people wanting to give up the maintainer role, take over that role, and for staff that are involved in helping.


We’ve updated JOSS submission instructions at (see ropensci/dev_guide#187). Instead of submitting with your Zenodo DOI, submit to JOSS with your rOpenSci Github repo URL. In addition, add a comment that the package has been reviewed by rOpenSci.


We’d like to have fleshed out the security chapter more, but in the meantime, we’ve added a link to an rOpenSci community call on Security for R, where you can find lots of resources and discussion on security in R packages.

Other changes

  • Matt Fidler amended our section on Console messages ropensci/dev_guide#178. We previously said to only use print() and/or cat() in your print.* methods; now the language suggests to use those two functions in either print.* or str.* methods.

  • We previously briefly mentioned “git flow”. We now expand that a bit to discuss two aspects of “git flow”: keep master shippable, and use branches because they’re cheap.

For editors

We’ve added a book release guide – a guide for shepherding a new version of the developer guide – which culminates in this blog post!

Guide tweaks

The developer guide now lives at, its very own subdomain!

We fixed formatting of Appendices B-D in the PDF version of the book (see PDF button in the navbar) with an issue by Indrajeet Patil.

For book contributors, we’ve update instructions in the README for rendering the developer guide locally (

Hugo Gruson helped us with a number of things: added a note for package maintainers about the importance of GitHub recognizing your repository as the language R, and helped us update links to https from http.


In this post we summarized the changes incorporated into our book “rOpenSci Packages: Development, Maintenance, and Peer Review” over the last four months. We are grateful for all contributions that made this release possible. If you have any feedback about the book, head to the issue tracker! We are already working on updates for our next version, such as documenting R6 objects, guidance on package citations, and adding more content for the security chapter. Check out the the issue tracker if you’d like to contribute.

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