NSF invests $26.7 million in building the first-ever prototype open knowledge network

18 multidisciplinary, cross-sector teams will create knowledge graphs, connections and educational materials for a trustworthy open knowledge network

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 18 Proto-OKN awardees will support translational research projects in the following three categories:

  • Theme 1 — Proto-OKN Use Cases: The 15 projects in this category will develop a knowledge graph, or "node," to provide datacentric solutions to various societal challenges related to equitable water distribution, social care, justice, carbon capture, the environment, health communications, supply chains, wildlife management, agriculture and homelessness.
    • Arizona State University: Supply and Demand Open Knowledge Network (SUDOKN)
    • Georgia State University: An Integrated Justice Platform to Connect Criminal Justice Data Across Data Silos.
    • Georgia Institute of Technology: CollabNext: A Person-Focused Metafabric for Open Knowledge Networks.
    • Insilica: BioBricks-OKG: An Open Knowledge Graph for Cheminformatics and Chemical Safety.
    • Purdue University: A Knowledge Graph Warehouse for Neighborhood Information.
    • Purdue University: Knowledge Graph Construction for Resilient, Trustworthy, and Secure Software Supply Chains.
    • Temple University: DREAM-KG: Develop Dynamic, REsponsive, Adaptive, and Multifaceted Knowledge Graphs to Address Homelessness With Explainable AI.
    • Temple University: Knowledge Graph to Support Evaluation and Development of Climate Models.
    • The University of Alabama: Creating a Cross-Domain Knowledge Graph to Integrate Health and Justice for Rural Resilience.
    • University of California, San Francisco: Connecting Biomedical Information on Earth and in Space via the SPOKE Knowledge Graph.
    • University of Cincinnati: The Water-Energy Nexus Open Knowledge Network (WEN-OKN)
    • University of Maine: Safe Agricultural Products and Water Graph. (SAWGraph)
    • University of Notre Dame: Exploiting Federal Data and Beyond: A Multi-modal Knowledge Network for Comprehensive Wildlife Management Under Climate Change.
    • The University of Texas at Arlington: Digging Into Soil Carbon With USDA: A Knowledge Graph Informing Soil Carbon Modeling.
    • University of Virginia: A Dynamically-Updated Open Knowledge Network for Health: Integrating Biomedical Insights With Social Determinants of Health.
  • Theme 2 — Proto-OKN Fabric: Two projects in this category will develop and deploy the necessary technologies to provide "interconnecting fabric" to link the knowledge graphs developed by the 15 Theme 1 teams.
    • Onai: SPIDER: Scalable Public Infrastructure for Distributed Entity Relationships.
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: FabRic Integrating Networked Knowledge (FRINK)
  • Theme 3 — Proto-OKN Education and Public Engagement: One awardee in this category will create educational materials and tools for people or organizations interested in engaging with the Proto-OKN.
    • Wright State University: An Education Gateway for the Proto-OKN.

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 program webpage: https://new.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/building-prototype-open-knowledge-network-proto.