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NSF and 5 other U.S. agencies launch program to build an integrated data and knowledge infrastructure

In collaboration with five other U.S. government agencies, the U.S. National Science Foundation today launched the Building the Prototype Open Knowledge Network, or Proto-OKN, funding opportunity, a $20 million initiative that will build a prototype version of an integrated data and knowledge infrastructure called an open knowledge network.

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 challenges. NSF will fund projects to prototype scalable, cloud-based technical infrastructure to address challenges across healthcare, space, criminal justice, climate change and many other fields.

"NSF is delighted to advance the vision of an open network that will harness the vast amounts of data generated in every sphere of life," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "The open knowledge network will transform the nation's ability to unlock insights from data and transform these data into useful, actionable information and knowledge crucial to address challenges for a more efficient and equitable future."

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Justice, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey will support the program by working closely with NSF and awardees to ensure that the Proto-OKN supports each agency's data strategy while addressing use case challenges associated with agency data.

The Proto-OKN can 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 tackling societal problems, driving evidence-based policies and developing novel AI capabilities. Projects funded by this program 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 funding opportunity will support translational research projects in the following categories:

  • Theme 1 – Proto-OKN Use Cases: Projects in this category will develop a knowledge graph or "node" to provide data-centric solutions to various societal challenges like equity, social care, justice, climate change, disaster management, health communications, supply chains and financial risk analysis.
  • Theme 2 – Proto-OKN Fabric: Projects in this category will develop and deploy the necessary technologies to provide "interconnecting fabric" to link the knowledge graphs developed by Theme 1 teams.
  • Theme 3 – Proto-OKN Education and Public Engagement: One awardee will create educational materials and tools for people or organizations interested in engaging with the Proto-OKN.

The Proto-OKN initiative follows investments through the NSF's Convergence Accelerator Track A: Open Knowledge Networks, as well as a yearlong Open Knowledge Network Innovation Sprint 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 NSF's new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships to advance key technologies — data and AI, in this case — while addressing pressing societal and economic challenges.

To learn more, read the Proto-OKN funding opportunity or join an introductory webinar on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at 3 p.m. E.T.