ACCESS Resource Providers Join NAIRR pilot

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The letters 'AI' white on a teal background, the profile of a face overlapping the 'I." Dots connected to each other with lines are all around the letters. This is meant to convey both the human-like aspects of AI, and the concept that the connections AI makes is similar to neurons in the brain.

AI advancements are coming so fast that it’s almost too difficult to keep up with the news. How these advancements are made and how they’ll impact society is understandably something that the general public has a strong interest in. Transparency and caution can go a long way in reassuring the public about these incredible achievements. The government recognized an urgent need to create a whole-of-government initiative designed to foster responsible AI development, and to that end, the National AI Initiative Act of 2020 was created. Congress directed the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), in consultation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to establish a task force to create a roadmap for a National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) – a shared research infrastructure that would provide AI researchers and students with significantly expanded access to computational resources, high-quality data, educational tools, and user support.

The task force was made up of a number of agencies led by NSF, and according to a White House press release, they produced a “roadmap for standing up a national research infrastructure that would broaden access to the resources essential to artificial intelligence (AI) research and development.” NAIRR Pilot, announced by NSF, will begin implementation of the recommendations from the task force’s final report. The pilot is “a first step towards realizing the vision for a shared research infrastructure that will strengthen and democratize access to critical resources necessary to power responsible AI discovery and innovation,” according to the NSF’s press release.

Several ACCESS Resource Providers have offered their resources and assistance to this project. 

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC)

PSC’s Neocortex AI system is among six national AI supercomputers chosen to participate in the NAIRR pilot to support novel and transformative AI research and education at a national scale. NAIRR will also utilize allocations software and procedures developed by PSC and its partners (NCAR and NCSA) in the NSF-funded ACCESS project.

“We’re excited to participate in such an important, multi-agency effort,” said Stephen Deems, ACCESS Allocations PI and a member of the NAIRR pilot’s Allocations Working Group that will coordinate scientists’ access to the program’s resources. “PSC is contributing access to its expert staff and Neocortex, as well as the software infrastructure for researchers and educators to request use of these federally funded computing resources.”

See PSC’s press release for more information.

National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)

Two NCSA resources will be allocated to this pilot, Delta, and DeltaAI, once it’s deployed and accepted by NSF. Delta, NCSA’s GPU-based supercomputer, is a leading resource to support AI development and applied AI. It’s also the largest such resource within the ACCESS portfolio. When DeltaAI comes online later this year, it will only add to Delta’s impressive power. 

“This is a very exciting time for advancing AI in the U.S.,” said John Towns, ACCESS Coordination Office PI and NCSA’s deputy director. “The advent of the NAIRR pilot will lead us toward a planned substantial investment in AI by the U.S. federal government when we reach the full NAIRR program in a couple of years. The NAIRR pilot will help refine what the full NAIRR program should look like and create opportunities for early advancements through access to NAIRR pilot resources.”

a picture of John Towns

See NCSA’s press release for more information.

Texas Advance Supercomputing Center (TACC)

The Texas Advanced Computing Center’s (TACC) Frontera and Lonestar6 supercomputers have been chosen to participate in the NAIRR pilot.

See TACC’s press release for more information

San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC)

San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) added substantial assistance 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.

See SDSC’s press release for more information.

Next Steps

NSF is partnering with a number of federal and private agencies to bring their vision to fruition. “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,” said 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.”

This is an important step in the advancement of AI. Bringing industry and non-profits together toward a common goal should help foster a conscientious approach to researching all the possibilities of AI. “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. The National AI Research Resource pilot will give researchers access to critical data and compute, catalyzing action to achieve America’s great aspirations,” said Arati Prabhakar, assistant to the president for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology.

For more information, see NSF’s press release and the NAIRR pilot website.

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