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R code generator for reproducible covariance matrix for lavaan SEM models
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DESCRIPTION Added packages for code generation Oct 17, 2019
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semproducible - code generator for reproducible SEM models

semproducible is an R package that can easily make your SEM models reproducible by generating all the necessary data and R code, with just one line of code.

Benefits of semproducible

  • only one line of code is needed to get started
  • you can create reproducible models without making your raw data publicly accessible
  • the generated code can fit on a page in a journal article
  • other researchers can run your model and try out alternative model specifications

In short, semproducible offers a good balance between open science, reproducibility, and integrity.



How it works

  1. Give semproducible a data frame.
  2. Semproducible creates a covariance matrix of your data frame.
  3. Semproducible generates R code for both the covariance matrix and code necessary to run the SEM model using lavaan.


Let's use a toy example for demonstration purposes.


# We can only use numeric columns, so we exclude character columns.
df <- iris[, 1:4]

# Use the data frame with iris data and specify a lavaan model.
code <- semproducible(df, formula = "Sepal.Length ~ Sepal.Width + Petal.Length")

# Show the code that semproducible generated.

Generated code output:


# Number of observations.
observations <- 150

# Covariance matrix.
cov_mat <- tribble(~Sepal.Length, ~Sepal.Width, ~Petal.Length, ~Petal.Width,
              0.685693512304251, -0.0424340044742729, 1.27431543624161, 0.516270693512304,               
              -0.0424340044742729, 0.189979418344519, -0.329656375838926, -0.12163937360179,               
              1.27431543624161, -0.329656375838926, 3.11627785234899, 1.29560939597315,               
              0.516270693512304, -0.12163937360179, 1.29560939597315, 0.581006263982103)

# Convert data frame to matrix (that lavaan can handle).
cov_mat <- as.matrix(cov_mat)

# Rows should have names too.
rownames(cov_mat) <- colnames(cov_mat)

# SEM model in lavaan syntax.
model <- 'Sepal.Length ~ Sepal.Width + Petal.Length'

# Fit SEM model.
fit <- lavaan::sem(model, sample.cov = cov_mat, sample.nobs = observations)

# Show results.

Now, let's run the generated code above.

Output when using the covariance matrix in lavaan:

lavaan 0.6-5 ended normally after 19 iterations

  Estimator                                         ML
  Optimization method                           NLMINB
  Number of free parameters                          3
  Number of observations                           150
Model Test User Model:
  Test statistic                                 0.000
  Degrees of freedom                                 0

Parameter Estimates:

  Information                                 Expected
  Information saturated (h1) model          Structured
  Standard errors                             Standard

                   Estimate  Std.Err  z-value  P(>|z|)
  Sepal.Length ~                                      
    Sepal.Width       0.596    0.069    8.677    0.000
    Petal.Length      0.472    0.017   27.849    0.000

                   Estimate  Std.Err  z-value  P(>|z|)
   .Sepal.Length      0.109    0.013    8.660    0.000

The code seems to work, but how does it compare to the original dataset?

Let's run a model on the original data and compare its output:

fit_original <- lavaan::sem("Sepal.Length ~ Sepal.Width + Petal.Length", iris[, 1:4])


As you can see if you run the code, the output is identical to the previous one, and we have successfully reproduced the model.


Why not get the covariance matrix directly from lavaan?

You can get the observed sample statistics using the lavInspect() method, like so:

fit <- lavaan::sem("Sepal.Length ~ Sepal.Width + Petal.Length", iris[, 1:4])
lavInspect(fit, what = "sampstat")

Which will output the following:

             Spl.Ln Spl.Wd Ptl.Ln
Sepal.Length  0.681              
Sepal.Width  -0.042  0.189       
Petal.Length  1.266 -0.327  3.096

However, $cov only gives you the covariance matrix of the fitted model, not all possible models that you could have run with all the data.

How do I save my code to a file?

Use the save_code() function:

save_code(code, "my_file.r")

If my_file.r already exists, the function will not continue. You need to explicitly add the overwrite = TRUE parameter to overwrite existing files:

save_code(code, "my_file.r", overwrite = TRUE)

Do I need to specify all columns?

The default behavior is that semproducible requires you to specify which columns that will be used in the covariance matrix.

Look at the iris dataset, for example:

  Sepal.Length Sepal.Width Petal.Length Petal.Width Species
1          5.1         3.5          1.4         0.2  setosa
2          4.9         3.0          1.4         0.2  setosa
3          4.7         3.2          1.3         0.2  setosa
4          4.6         3.1          1.5         0.2  setosa
5          5.0         3.6          1.4         0.2  setosa
6          5.4         3.9          1.7         0.4  setosa

The column Species is a factor, which means that you will get an error if used with semproducible.

However, use the drop_non_numeric = TRUE to automatically drop columns that is not numeric:

code <- semproducible(iris, drop_non_numeric = TRUE)

The column Species is now dropped, which a message informs you of:

Dropped 1 non-numeric column(s): Species 

How do I control the width of the code?

If you have a large data frame you want to fit into the appendix of a journal article, you can control the number of values per line of the generated code with vars_per_line = 2 for two variables/values per line.

You can also set digits = 4 to round the number of decimals to four (default behavior is as many decimals as your current R session uses).

semproducible(iris, drop_non_numeric = TRUE, vars_per_line = 2, digits = 4)



# Covariance matrix.
cov_mat <- tribble(~Sepal.Length, ~Sepal.Width, 
~Petal.Length, ~Petal.Width, 

0.6857, -0.0424, 
1.2743, 0.5163, 
-0.0424, 0.19, 
-0.3297, -0.1216, 
1.2743, -0.3297, 
3.1163, 1.2956, 
0.5163, -0.1216, 
1.2956, 0.581)


Can I use semproducible in a tidyverse pipeline?

Yes, semproducible can be used together with pipes (the %>% operator):


iris %>%  
    select(Sepal.Length, Sepal.Width, Petal.Length) %>% 
    semproducible(formula = "Sepal.Length ~ Sepal.Width + Petal.Length") %>%

How do I know that my generated code is correct?

Add the eval = TRUE argument and the generated code will automatically run and evaluate.

code <- semproducible(iris[, 1:4], formula = "Sepal.Length ~ Sepal.Width + Petal.Length", eval = TRUE)

If the code fails, you will get an error message.

If the code runs successfully, semproducible will simply inform you of so and return your code (note: semproducible does not evaluate model fit or model convergence).


Run ?semproducible in the R console to view the documentation.


Report problems or request a new feature by submitting a new issue.


You can help with:

  • Test semproducible in your project and report any bugs.
  • Read the documentation and verify that it corresponds to actual behavior.



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