Re: [Rd] importing explicitly declared missing values in read.spss (foreign)

From: Prof Brian Ripley <>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2008 05:48:20 +0100 (BST)

I've put up an experimental version at

See the new 'use.missings' argument. It does what I think should happen in your example and the other one I tried, but more experience would be helpful.

On Mon, 4 Aug 2008, Jeroen Ooms wrote:

Please don't silently excise context -- see the posting guide for the rights of posters to be quoted fairly (and your usage of my posting fails to be fair).

> Prof Brian Ripley wrote:
>>> From the messages you get I do not believe this is a recent version of
> read.spss (message 2 no longer appears)...
> I am sorry you are right here, I was using an outdated version of foreign. I
> have updated my packages. My current version is now R version 2.7.1
> (2008-06-23) with foreign_0.8-28.
> I have experimented importing some spss datafiles, mostly from the sample
> data files that are included with SPSS. Most of these files do not generate
> any warnings, so I am not sure this is related to the missingness. However,
> the problem of read.spss() not returning any information on missingness
> persists in all of these datafiles.
> Prof Brian Ripley wrote:
>> All that is 'harmfull' is that you are not told that value labels NA and
>> NAP were to be regarded as 'missing' in SPSS. We've no idea whether if
>> would be a more or less egregious choice to map them to R's NA, and
>> certainly are not in a position to assert 'far less harmfull' in general.
> Of course the 'least harmfull' behavior of the function completely depends
> on the data and the user's intentions. I was explicitly suggesting making
> the mapping of missing values to <NA>'s optional, to give users who consider
> this appropriate, the option to replace these missings. I do not claim this
> to be the best default behavior, just a very useful feature.

Brian D. Ripley,        
Professor of Applied Statistics,
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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