R was recently the subject of a feature article in the prestigious science magazine Nature: Programming tools: Adventures with R.
Besides being free, R is popular partly because it presents different faces to different users. It is, first and foremost, a programming language — requiring input through a command line, which may seem forbidding to non-coders. But beginners can surf over the complexities and call up preset software packages, which come ready-made with commands for statistical analysis and data visualization. These packages create a welcoming middle ground between the comfort of commercial ‘black-box’ solutions and the expert world of code.
The article highlights many of the packages you can use for scientific analysis with R, and also mentions several scientific projects based on R, including BioConductor and ROpenSci. The article also noted that the use of R has increased rapidly in a number of scientific disciplines, as measured by the rate at which R is cited in published articles.
The article also includes quotes from R's co-creator Robert Gentleman ("I can write software that would be good for somebody doing astronomy, but it’s a lot better if someone doing astronomy writes software for other people doing astronomy") and Bob Muenchen, who tracks the popularity of statistical software ("Most likely, R became the top statistics package used during the summer of this year.").
Mashable isn't in the same authoritative league as Nature, but it's read by a lot of people. So it's great that R also got a mention in the recent article, So you wanna be a data scientist?.
"On an average day, I manage a series of dashboards that tell our company about our business — what the users are doing," says Jon Greenberg, a data scientist at Playstudios, a gaming firm. Greenberg is a manager now, so he's programming less than he used to, but he still does his fair share. Usually, he pulls data out of Apache Hadoop storage and runs it through Revolution R, an analytics platform and comes up with some kind of visualization. "It may be how one segment of the population is interacting with a new feature," he explains.
The article also describes the experiences of other data scientists and gives some salary statistics on "2015's Hottest Profession": Data Science.