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U.S.: Including More Under-represented Communities in AI Research

The Expanding AI (ExpandAI) Innovation through Capacity Building and Partnerships programme was established by the United States government. Through capacity development projects and partnerships within the NSF-led National AI Research Institutes ecosystem, ExpandAI aims to significantly increase the participation of minority-serving institutions in artificial intelligence research, education, and workforce development.

This programme is a new funding opportunity for a wide range of minority-serving institutions that serve historically underrepresented communities in AI, such as African Americans/Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

The United States National Science Foundation initiated the ExpandAI project in collaboration with the United States Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate; the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and the United States Department of Defence, Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Research and Engineering.

“NSF is launching ExpandAI in close collaboration with our federal partners and the AI Institutes programme to enable an even broader community of researchers to advance the Nation’s AI capacity in scientific power and workforce,” NSF assistant director for computer and information science and engineering Margaret Martonosi said.

Minority-serving institutions are an essential source of the talent and diversity needed for future AI innovation. Diverse AI research participants will be critical to moving the field forward, conducting responsible AI research through more inclusive participatory design, and promoting positive social outcomes of AI innovation.

There is enormous untapped potential to increase talent development and collaboration through federally supported AI research, where some minority-serving institutions still need to be significantly engaged in AI research and education. Therefore, this programme invests heavily in developing capacity and partnerships for new AI programmes at minority-serving institutions and AI Institutes.

“We are thrilled to be working with other federal agencies on this project. We hope this programme will increase minority-serving institutions’ participation in AI research and education. And (the programme will) also inspire culturally relevant AI research activities that address the unique needs of these institutions and their communities,” said Abiodun (Abby) Ilumoka, NSF Program Director and programme co-lead.

Martonosi hopes to see more diverse, inclusive participation by bringing in more varied, talented innovators across the United States. As a result, she hopes the programme will drive AI research, innovation, capabilities, and workforce development in the United States.

The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan: 2019 Update is directly addressed by ExpandAI. The plan outlines the priority areas for federal investments in artificial intelligence research and development to “better understand the national AI R&D workforce needs and expand public-private partnerships to accelerate AI advances.”

As the largest non-defence federal funder of AI research, the NSF invests more than US$600 million in AI research and education each year. Over US$360 million has been invested in establishing 18 AI Institutes, with additional grants funding research in critical areas of foundational AI research. ExpandAI aims to broaden the scope of AI research.

NSF Programme Director James Donlon believes that AI Institutes are effective nexus points for bringing together a diverse community to engage in AI research and education. Donlon oversees the National AI Research Institutes programme and the new ExpandAI initiative. The early momentum prompted the NSF to launch the ExpandAI programme will invite many more minority-serving institutions to take the lead in AI.

The ExpandAI programme is divided into two tracks:

Track 1: Pilots to Increase AI Capacity (CAP). This track focuses on building capacity for minority-serving institutions that do not currently have AI programmes.

Track 2: The ExpandAI Collaboration (PARTNER). This track provides an opportunity for minority-serving institutions to scale up existing AI research and education programmes and initiate and leverage new collaborations with AI Institutes.


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