SAS/IML available to all students through SAS Analytics U

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When spontaneous applause broke out during Dr. Jim Goodnight's presentation at the opening session of SAS Global Forum 2014, I was one of the people cheering the loudest.

The SAS CEO had just announced free software for students and professors at universities around the world. The SAS University Edition will provide access to several core SAS products, including Base SAS, SAS/STAT, SAS/ACCESS for PC File Formats, and SAS/IML software.

This academic program is called SAS Analytics U. Not only does it include free access to software and a programming environment that runs in Web browsers, but SAS has also set up a virtual community for the academic users, called the SAS Analytics U Online Community.

Why did I cheer so loudly?

  • I am passionate about education, and the free SAS University Edition will enable students and adult learners to develop mathematical and computational skills for analyzing data.
  • I am passionate about online communities that bring SAS users together. The SAS Analytics U Online Community provides a site where faculty and students can interact, share best practices, and ask and answer programming questions.
  • I am passionate about SAS/IML software. Students can use matrix computations to implement formulas and algorithms that are found in textbooks. Professors and advanced students will be able to compute statistics that extend the capabilities of SAS software. Adult learners can study an advanced programming language that might not be available at their workplace.

There is an old proverb:

Tell me, I’ll forget.
Show me, I’ll remember.
Involve me, I’ll understand.

At SAS Global Forum 2014, Dr. Goodnight told people about SAS Analytics U and the availability of SAS/IML software. In my blog, I show people how to program in the SAS/IML language. The SAS University Edition will involve students in learning data analysis and programming.

As the proverb says, involve them and they will understand. Well done, SAS! Here comes the next generation of SAS/IML programmers.

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About Author

Rick Wicklin

Distinguished Researcher in Computational Statistics

Rick Wicklin, PhD, is a distinguished researcher in computational statistics at SAS and is a principal developer of PROC IML and SAS/IML Studio. His areas of expertise include computational statistics, simulation, statistical graphics, and modern methods in statistical data analysis. Rick is author of the books Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software and Simulating Data with SAS.

13 Comments

  1. Is Dr Goodnight mostly concerned about the rise of R with students and academics which subsequently strengthens the case for adoption of R within industry? Perhaps free web based SAS for datasets < 10k rows would be a simpler and cheaper to administer solution?

  2. As a student finishing up my time at university, I have to say it's too late for any impact. SAS was mandatory for one semester using the math lab computers, but after that I nor anyone else used it again. I am avoiding any jobs that use SAS and am interviewing for positions that allow the use of free, open source, tools such as R and Python. The most interesting part is that I would not change anything if given the chance to go back in time and learn SAS.

    • @ rob...I don't know if you're working in the public health field or not, but SAS is alive and well there. This news is HUGE for public health informatics! Of course other software are being used more, but there will always be a place for SAS in this industry.

      • @Rob is probably right - there will always be a place for SAS in most industries. However, every SAS customer I have spoken to wants to reduce their SAS license bill and is ultimately open to the idea of other solutions. As an experienced SAS programmer there is vested interest in keeping it going and salaries high. As a graduate leaving university and looking at a career spanning the next 30 years I might be more wary of tying my future to an unsustainable commercial model in the light of open source alternatives like R. [Disclosure: I work for Tibco Spotfire]

  3. The high price of SAS does a good job at constraining the supply of SAS programmers. This has the effect of keeping their salaries at a higher level than a "free" market would. In the short run, this is great for SAS and its user community, but in the long run the likes of Datacamp and R will grind SAS down. SAS is in the same position that the music industry was in 10 years ago. It will follow the music industry's revenue and profitability trajectory. Downward.

    I invested 4 months and a few thousand dollars in a SAS certificate program at NYU a couple of years ago. Great program, but when it ended, with my access to SAS cut off, it became impossible for me to develop or even maintain my skills. Graham's suggestion that SAS offer a web-based version for datasets < 10k rows is a good one. I would have been happy with even 2K rows, but now I’m moving on to R.

  4. Khalid Riaz on

    Over the years SAS licensing policy, especially for academic institutions, has been a disaster. Academics thrive by building on each others ideas and work. Academics developing statistical and econometric methods are increasingly turning to R. Thats where interactions are taking place more freely.

    User communities of SAS do not have a lot to offer in terms of codes for implementation of recently developed methods. For example, SAS has dedicated module ETS, and also the panel procedure. But it is behind R and STATA in offering timeseries and panel estimation methods and tests. Latest tests are not available in SAS, nor the users communities show much interest in the topics. The reason is that users are implementing them in other softwares.

    If SAS has now realized the importance of academic market then this is to be welcomed. But it needs to think more strategically about this and make serious effort. If SAS prices itself out of the academic market, it cannot thrive in the corporate market either. This is the writing on the wall, and I think SAS should read it. Right

    SAS is longer at the bleeding edge as far as the implementation of new statistical methods is concerned. Somehow it has to get back there. It has the potential, but I am not sure it has the vision and the will to want to be there.

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