September 26, 2023 – In collaboration with five other U.S. government agencies, the U.S. National Science Foundation has invested $26.7 million in 18 projects through its Building the Prototype Open Knowledge Network (Proto-OKN) program. An open knowledge network is a publicly accessible, interconnected set of data repositories and associated knowledge graphs that will enable data-driven, artificial intelligence-based solutions for a broad set of societal and economic challenges.
“From secure supply chains to chemical and biomedical safety to soil health, these inaugural Proto-OKN projects will not only advance the state of the art in data and artificial intelligence, but they will also have tremendous positive impacts on the societal and economic opportunities that we see before us,” said Erwin Gianchandani, assistant director for NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). “Proto-OKN projects are poised to work closely with nearly two dozen federal and state agencies to collaboratively build a trustworthy open knowledge network, enabling researchers across sectors and disciplines to come together to use and transform data into actionable insights that will drive U.S. competitiveness.”
NSF-funded projects will pursue data validation procedures, processes and metrics that will in turn ensure that the underlying data are accurate, complete and meet specified criteria. They will also prototype scalable, cloud-based technical infrastructure to address challenges across health care, space, criminal justice, the environment and many other fields. NASA, NIH, the National Institute of Justice, NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey are partnering with NSF on this effort and will work closely with the awardees to ensure that Proto-OKN supports each agency’s data strategy while addressing use cases associated with agency data. An additional 15 U.S. federal and state agencies have shown interest in collaborating with the 18 awardees.
The resulting Proto-OKN will benefit a broad range of people and organizations — including government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, researchers and others — by providing access to integrated information for a variety of uses, such as pursuing societal and economic opportunities, driving evidence-based policies and developing novel AI capabilities. Proto-OKN will provide an essential public data infrastructure to power the next information revolution, transforming the nation’s ability to unlock actionable insights from data by linking information about related entities.
The Proto-OKN initiative follows investments through the NSF Convergence Accelerator Track A: Open Knowledge Networks and a yearlong Open Knowledge Network Innovation Sprint, which was conducted by NSF and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2022. The Innovation Sprint engaged nearly 150 subject matter experts, end users and constituents from government, industry, academia, nonprofits and other communities and culminated in an Open Knowledge Network Roadmap that outlined a path to an open knowledge network and informed this funding opportunity.
The Proto-OKN initiative also constitutes an investment by the TIP Directorate to advance key technologies — data and AI, in this case — while addressing pressing national, societal and geostrategic challenges, as authorized by the “CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.”
Learn more about Proto-OKN on the NSF program webpage.