The National Science Foundation Leads the AI Charge with Its NAIRR Pilot Program

NSF will work in partnership with other federal agencies and companies including Intel, AMD, NVIDIA to promote US AI development.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced it will be leading 10 other federal agencies and 25 other organizations in a pilot program it has dubbed National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) — seeking to ease access to everything researchers and educators need to work with cutting-edge AI, it says.

"The breadth of partners that have come together for this pilot underscores the urgency of developing a National AI Research Resource for the future of AI in America," claims NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "By investing in AI research through the NAIRR pilot, the United States unleashes discovery and impact and bolsters its global competitiveness. To continue leading in AI research and development, we must create opportunities across the country to advance AI innovation and strengthen educational opportunities, empowering the nation to shape international standards and igniting economic growth. NSF is proud to lead this effort with our current and future partners."

The program is being led by the NSF along with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the US Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs, plus the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — everyone, it could be argued, whose remit covers a field affected by the growth of interest in artificial intelligence technologies.

As well as these federal partners the NSF has named 25 private sector, non-profit, and philanthropic partners including Amazon Web Services, AMD, Google, IBM, Intel, NVIDIA, Meta, and Microsoft, plus AI-specific companies including Anthropic, Hugging Face, and OpenAI.

"This pivotal step towards democratizing AI research resources aligns with our commitment to advancing the field of artificial intelligence in a way that is inclusive and beneficial for all," says OpenAI's Anna Makanju of the company's involvement. "By providing broader access to essential tools and data, we are opening doors for a diverse range of talents and ideas, furthering innovation and ensuring that AI development continues to be a force for the greater good."

The pilot program is to be split into four segments: NAIRR Open aims to provide access to "diverse AI resources" for open AI research efforts; NAIRR Secure, which will be co-led by the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Energy, will focus on AI research which requires privacy and secrecy; NAIRR Software will promote the interoperability of AI software, platforms, tools, and services; and NAIRR Classroom will take an proactive approach to education, training, and user support.

"Today's announcement makes progress on President Biden's goal to advance responsible AI so that everyone in America can benefit from this powerful technology," says Arati Prabhakar, assistant to the president for science and technology, in reference to a commitment made in an Executive Order last year. "The National AI Research Resource pilot will give researchers access to critical data and compute, catalyzing action to achieve America's great aspirations."

More information on the pilot program is available on the NAIRR website; applications are now open to receive computing resources through the NAIRR Open arm.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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