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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Awards UK Statistician’s Open Software to Advance Biomedical Research

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 14, 2020) — The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has funded a University of Kentucky open source software project aimed at advancing scientific and biomedical research.

Derek Young, associate professor in the Dr. Bing Zhang Department of Statistics in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of the award from CZI’s Essential Open Source Software for Science (EOSS) program. He will use the grant to significantly modernize and enhance his two R packages, titled “mixtools” and “tolerance.”

“R” refers to the programming language and free software environment for statistical computing, widely used by statisticians around the world.

“I maintain both packages regularly, however, I simply have not had the resources to modernize them as I would like,” Young said. “This grant will afford me that opportunity. Since the initial releases of both of my packages (2006 and 2009), the programming landscape has significantly changed.”

Open source software is crucial for researchers to build on what is currently available and fold it into larger projects. It fosters the ability to innovate and develop products that are for the greater good. This is particularly crucial in biomedical research, where new challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, need to be addressed through novel and effective software products.

“Through this grant, my hope is that the potential of both packages is realized through engagement with the biomedical research community,” Young said. “Both packages have become widely used by biomedical and health researchers, as evidenced by not only my research products, but also the types of publications citing my packages. The end-users are always in need of more focused analytical tools and impactful visualizations. My goal is to work closely with the end-users so that my packages serve them as best as possible.”

Funds from the grant will also be used by Young to develop trainings on each package, which will be delivered at some of the most prominent domestic statistics conferences. 

As part of the third cycle of the EOSS program, CZI awarded a total of $3 million for 17 new grants, including Young’s. View the full list of grantees here.

“Hundreds of software packages, libraries, and applications have become essential tools for research — so much so that many researchers could not continue their work if such software were to disappear,” said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann. “We’re proud to support these critical open source projects to ensure the work of software maintainers is visible, recognized, and fundable.”

Read more about the award here:

About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core initiative focus areas of science, education, and justice and opportunity, CZI pairs engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, visit

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