New NSF program seeks to engage minority serving institutions in artificial intelligence research

The US National Science Foundation — in collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate; US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; National Institute of Standards and Technology and US Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering — established the Expanding AI Innovation through Capacity Building and Partnerships program ExpandAI aims to significantly expand the participation of minority serving institutions in artificial intelligence research, education and workforce development through capacity development projects and partnerships within the National AI Research Institutes led by NSF ecosystem

“In close collaboration with our federal partners and with the AI ​​Institutes program, NSF is launching ExpandAI to enable an even broader community of researchers to advance the Nation’s AI capacity in scientific power and workforce.” said Margaret Martonosi, NSF’s deputy director for Computing and Information Science and Engineering. “We hope to see a more diverse, more inclusive participation of talented innovators from across our nation, driving AI research and innovation that continues to build our country’s leadership skills and workforce development.”

ExpandAI directly addresses the strategies defined in The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan: 2019 Update, which defines the priority areas for federal investments in AI research and development to “better understand the national AI R&D workforce and expand public-private partnerships to accelerate advances in AI.” As the largest non-defense federal funder of AI research, NSF invests more than $600 million annually in AI research and education. More than $360 million dollars have been invested in the establishment of 18 AI Institutes, and more grants have funded research in critical areas of fundamental AI research. ExpandAI seeks to further expand who is involved in AI research.

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“We are excited to partner with other federal agencies in this effort. We anticipate that this program will not only broaden the participation of minority-serving institutions in AI research and education, but also inspire culturally relevant AI research activities that address the specific needs of these institutions and their communities,” said NSF Program Director Abiodun (Abby) Ilumoka, who is also the program co-leader.

According to NSF Program Director James Donlon, program manager for both the National AI Research Institutes program and the new ExpandAI initiative, “AI Institutes have proven to be effective nexus points for engaging a broad community in AI research and education. This early momentum inspired NSF. to initiate the ExpandAI program as a means to invite many more minority institutions to lead in AI. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic reception this program has received from our Institutes.”

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The ExpandAI program consists of two tracks:

  • Track 1: ExpandAI Capacity Building Pilots (CAP). This track focuses on capacity building for minority serving institutions that no have existing AI programs.
  • Track 2: The ExpandAI Partnership (PART). This track is an opportunity for minority serving institutions to expand already established AI research and education programs, and to initiate and leverage new collaborations with AI Institutes.

Minority serving institutions are a vital source of the talent and diversity that will be critical for future AI innovation. This program is a new funding opportunity for a wide range of minority serving institutions that serve communities historically underrepresented in AI including, but not limited to, African Americans/Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. .

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Diverse participants in AI research will be critical to advancing the field, conducting responsible AI research through more inclusive participatory design, and promoting positive social outcomes from AI innovation. Where some minority serving institutions are not yet significantly engaged in AI research and education, there is tremendous untapped potential to increase talent development and collaboration through federally supported AI research. This program makes significant investments to develop capacity for new AI programs at minority-serving institutions, as well as partnerships between minority-serving institutions and AI Institutes.

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