The US National Science Foundation – in cooperation with the US Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate; US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; The National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Technology established this Accelerating AI innovation through capacity building and partnerships Program. ExpandAI aims to increase the participation of institutions serving minorities in artificial intelligence research, education and human resource development through capacity development projects and partnerships within the NSF-led national AI research institutes ecosystem.
“Working closely with our federal partners and with the AI Institutes program, the NSF is introducing ExpandAI to enable an even broader community of researchers to advance the nation’s AI capacity in terms of scientific output and workforce,” said Margaret Martonosi, NSF Associate Director of Computer and Information Science and Technology. “We hope for a more diverse, inclusive participation of talented innovators from across our country who are driving AI research and innovation that continue to expand our nation’s leading AI capabilities and workforce development.”
ExpandAI directly addresses the strategies defined in The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan: 2019 Update, which defines priority areas for federal investment in AI research and development to “better understand national needs for the AI R&D workforce and expand public-private partnerships to to accelerate advances in AI”. As the largest non-defense government funder of AI research, the NSF invests over $600 million annually in AI research and education. More than $360 million has been invested in establishing 18 AI institutes, and other grants have funded research in critical areas of fundamental AI research. ExpandAI seeks to further expand the circle of those engaged in AI research.
“We are pleased to be working with other federal agencies in this effort. We envision that this program will not only expand the participation of institutions serving minorities in AI research and education, but also stimulate 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 co-lead of the program.
According to NSF program director James Donlon, program director of both the National AI Research Institutes program and the new ExpandAI initiative: “AI institutes have proven to be effective hubs for engaging a broad community in AI research and education. This early momentum inspired the NSF to initiate the ExpandAI program to invite many more institutions serving minorities to take leadership roles in AI. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic reception this program has received from our institutes.”
The ExpandAI program consists of two tracks:
- Track 1: ExpandAI Capacity Building Pilots (CAP). This track focuses on capacity building for institutions that serve minorities do not have existing AI programs.
- Track 2: The ExpandAI partnership (PARTNER). This track is an opportunity for institutions serving minorities to expand already established AI research and education programs and to initiate and leverage new collaborations with AI institutes.
Institutions that serve minorities are an important source of talent and diversity that will be critical to future AI innovations. This program is a new funding opportunity for a broad spectrum of institutions that serve minorities that serve communities that have historically been underrepresented in AI, including but not limited to African American/Black American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native, Hawaiian Native and Pacific Islander .
Diverse participants in AI research will be critical to advancing the field, conducting responsible AI research through a more inclusive participatory design, and fostering positive societal outcomes of AI innovation. Where some institutions serving minorities are not yet significantly engaged in AI research and education, there is tremendous untapped potential to increase talent development and collaboration through government-sponsored AI research. This program is making important investments to develop capacity for new AI programs in institutions that serve minorities and in partnerships between institutions that serve minorities and AI institutes.
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