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NAIRR Pilot Takes Flight with First Call for AI-Related Research Proposals

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Members of the U.S. research community have the opportunity to request access to advanced computing resources for projects focused on forwarding safe, secure and trustworthy AI. With the recent launch of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) Pilot, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have issued an initial call for researchers to submit proposals for access to a set of advanced computing resources. The call—open until March 1, 2024—is expected to be followed by an open call for allocations in spring 2024.

According to the NSF and DOE criteria, early project requests should be aimed at, but are not limited to,  the following research goals:

  • Testing, evaluating, verifying and validating AI systems;
  • Improving accuracy, validity and reliability of model performance, while controlling bias;
  • Increasing the interpretability and privacy of learned models;
  • Reducing the vulnerability of models to families of adversarial attacks; and
  • Advancing capabilities for assuring that model functionality aligns with societal values and obeys safety guarantees.

Other projects that align with these research themes may also be considered for allocation, including projects related to healthcare, environment and infrastructure sustainability, AI education and projects in other areas of AI research and domain applications.

San Diego Supercomputer Center and NAIRR

Researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego have been anticipating the NAIRR Pilot for some time. Former SDSC Director and UC San Diego Distinguished Professor of Physics Michael Norman was one of the 12 NAIRR Task Force members who, at the request of the Biden Administration in 2021, worked to develop a blueprint for a national approach to AI. The NAIRR Task Force submitted its final report/implementation plan in January 2023.

For the launch of the NAIRR Pilot’s initial call for proposals, the SGX3 Center of Excellence for Science Gateways, led by Michael Zentner, director of SDSC’s Sustainable Scientific Software Division (S3D), developed the NAIRR Pilot portal using the Hubzero® framework.

“This is a first step on the path to the nation’s full implementation of the NAIRR. Portals that ease access to AI resources will enable a broad spectrum of researchers to create impact. The team at SGX3 and SDSC are excited to be part of this first step and look forward to participating in this vision for the future,” said Zentner.

In the longer term for SDSC, the pilot marks the beginning of a multi-year program that will roll out increasingly more sophisticated services, including data services, science gateways, cloud credits and experimental AI architectures—areas of leadership for SDSC.

“We are very excited about the potential of this pilot program, especially as it adds curated AI-ready data sources and cloud credits as part of the allocation mechanism—allocations on experimental systems like Voyager and the National Research Platform, and AI resources for educational programs,” said SDSC Director Frank Würthwein.

According to SDSC’s Chief Data Science Officer Ilkay Altintas, who directs the center’s Cyberinfrastructure and Convergence Research and Education (CICORE) Division, “NAIRR has the potential to be a game changer for anyone working in AI to have equitable access to data and resources. We are looking forward to the opportunities and impact this resource will bring to enrich our efforts at SDSC for AI collaborations and discovery for science and society.”

Representatives from federal agencies, academia and the private sector gathered in early November 2023 at the NSF to kick off a collaborative process to design a pilot program for NAIRR to connect U.S. researchers and educators to computational, data and training resources needed to advance AI research and research that employs AI. Federal agencies are collaborating with government-supported and non-governmental partners to implement the pilot as a preparatory step toward an eventual full NAIRR implementation.

In the meantime, proposals submitted during this initial call of the NAIRR Pilot will be reviewed on a biweekly basis—with responses communicated on the same basis—until resources available for this initial call are exhausted. Questions about the call for proposals and allocations onto specific resources can be directed to: help@allocations.nairrpilot.org.

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