26 Package End of Life Policy

The Bioconductor project strives to provide a software repository that is stable and relevant to users across the community. Each year about 100-150 new software packages are added to the repository; as of Spring 2021 over 2000 packages are hosted. The Bioconductor Build System (BBS) installs, builds, and checks each software package every 24 hours. Regular execution of example, vignette, and unit test code ensures the package is operating as expected and all required dependencies are available. The build system provides a detailed report for each package across three platforms: Linux, Windows, and Mac.

In an effort to maintain a high quality repository we have adopted a one-year end of life (EOL) process for packages that no longer pass build or check and do not have an active maintainer. Packages are assessed for EOL deprecation prior to each Bioconductor release; the EOL policies apply to software, annotation, workflow, and experiment data packages.

26.1 Criteria for package deprecation by Core Team

  1. R CMD build or check errors on one or more platforms

    The package must build and check without error on all platforms (exceptions to cross-platform builds are available under limited circumstances) at each Bioconductor release. All efforts will be made to keep a package in the repository if the maintainer is actively attempting a fix.

    If a package is broken for an extended period of time the maintainer will be given a final 2 week notice. If the package is not fixed by the end of the 2 weeks, End of Life will be started.

  2. Inactive maintainer

    The maintainer listed in the DESCRIPTION file must be responsive to questions on the support site, package-related email from users and Bioconductor team members, package-related errors in the build system, and requests for bug fixes. The email in the DESCRIPTION must also remain a valid, active email.

26.2 User Requested Deprecation

Alternatively, a package maintainer may request package deprecation. The maintainer may have any number of reasons for deprecating their package. Some common reasons include:

  1. They no longer wish to maintain their package

  2. The package functionality has been superseded by other packages

  3. The package material has become out-of-date and it makes sense to retire the package.

  4. Significant changes to the underlying technology e.g., a web API, have made the package unmaintainable.

We ask that maintainers wishing to deprecate their package send an email notification to bioc-devel mailing list. The core team will ensure all necessary steps and notifications can occur.

26.3 End of Life process

Step I: Deprecation

Packages to be deprecated will be marked with a deprecation warning and the package name will have a strikethrough on the build report. The warning is emitted when the package is loaded, and is reported on the package ‘landing page’. The message alerts users that the package currently fails the minimal build and check criteria, and that the package will likely be removed from Bioconductor in the next release.

If at any time in this 6 month period the required criteria are met (e.g., the package returns to active maintenance, perhaps after ‘adoption’ by a third party) the warning is removed.

Step II: Defunct

When a package has gone through one development cycle as ‘deprecated’ without remedial action, the package is marked as ‘Defunct’. The package is removed from the nightly build system, is no longer available through ‘BiocManager::install()’, and does not have a current ‘landing page’.

The package remains available in the git archive, and in previous versions of Bioconductor.

Defunct packages cannot re-enter the Bioconductor repository except through review as a ‘new package’.


A package identified for deprecation during Bioconductor release 3.2 / devel 3.3 would make the following transitions:

- deprecate in devel 3.3
** Bioc Release **
- deprecate in release 3.3 (i.e., no change in release status)
- defunct in devel 3.4
** Bioc Release **
- defunct in release 3.4
- gone in devel 3.5
** Bioc Release **
- gone in release 3.5

26.4 Implementation detail

  1. Notify the bioc-devel mailing list and maintainers of packages Depending, Importing, or Suggesting the package that the package will be deprecated. If appropriate, indicate that a new maintainer is welcome to take over.

  2. Add the following code chunk to the ‘devel’ version of the package in a file R/zzz.R, adjusting the Bioconductor version to the version after the current devel version.

    .onAttach <- function(libname, pkgname) {
        msg <- sprintf(
            "Package '%s' is deprecated and will be removed from Bioconductor
             version %s", pkgname, "3.4")
        .Deprecated(msg=paste(strwrap(msg, exdent=2), collapse="\n"))
  3. Add the following annotation to the package DESCRIPTION file.

    PackageStatus: Deprecated

  4. The package remains deprecated in the ‘devel’ branch for up to 6 months, after which time Bioconductor core team members remove the package from the ‘devel’ package manifest.

26.5 Reversing End of Life Status

A deprecated package can be un-deprecated and removed from the End of Life process if it is fixed before the next Bioconductor release. To have a package un-deprecated, please contact . If a package is already in the defunct stage; the package will mostly likely be requested to go through the new package submission process again.

26.6 ‘Orphaned’ packages

An ‘orphaned’ package is a Bioconductor package with an inactive and non-responsive maintainer. As described above, Bioconductor makes multiple efforts to reach out to package maintainers to fix broken packages. If there is no response from a maintainer to the emails sent out from the core team, the package is considered ‘orphaned’. Occasionally, members of the Bioconductor community reach out to take over maintenance of an ‘orphaned’ package. The interested replacement maintainer is asked to email the original maintainer and , to formally request permission to take over. Unless there is an explicit request for a package to be retired, Bioconductor will grant access to the interested replacement maintainer in accordance with open source software licenses that Bioconductor packages require and package naming policy that maintainers agree to upon submission.