NSF Building the Prototype Open Knowledge Network (Proto-OKN)

Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO). Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity.

Program Summary

This muti-agency translational research solicitation seeks to build a prototype version of an integrated data and knowledge infrastructure called the Open Knowledge Network (OKN). The solicitation identifies three themes associated with building the Prototype-OKN (Proto-OKN). Theme 1 focuses on the development of knowledge graphs to provide data-centric solutions to various societal challenges. Theme 2 focuses on the development of the interconnecting technical “fabric” needed to link the knowledge graphs developed by Theme 1 teams. Theme 3 focuses on the creation of educational materials and tools for a wide range of constituents who are expected to be interested in engaging with the Proto-OKN.

Open access to shared information is essential for the development and evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-powered solutions needed to address the complex challenges facing the nation and the world. Knowledge graphs, which represent relationships among real-world entities, provide a powerful approach for organizing, representing, integrating, reusing, and accessing data from multiple structured and unstructured sources using ontologies and ontology alignment. Currently, private-sector investments in knowledge graphs power numerous consumer applications including web search, e-commerce, banking, drug discovery, advertising, etc. Undertaking a similar but inclusive, open, and community-driven effort and making use of publicly available data holds the potential to create a platform that would empower government and non-government users — fueling evidence-based policymaking, continued strong economic growth, game-changing scientific breakthroughs, while addressing complex societal challenges from climate change to social equity.

Projects funded by this program will provide an essential public-data infrastructure to power the next information revolution similar to the Internet — transforming our ability to unlock actionable insights from data by semantically linking information about related entities.

This Proto-OKN solicitation will support research projects in the following categories:

Theme 1 – Proto-OKN Use Cases: Projects in this category will develop a knowledge graph or “node” of the Proto-OKN that will address specific use-case challenges using well-identified data sets and a user-centric design process to help ensure usability and sustainability of the effort. Theme 1 Use Case projects will work in close collaboration with Theme 2 OKN Fabric projects to deploy their use cases on a common implementation fabric.

Theme 2 – Proto-OKN Fabric: Projects in this category will develop and deploy the necessary technologies to provide an “interconnecting fabric” for the Proto-OKN, to help link knowledge graphs developed across Theme 1 projects. Theme 2 teams will possess a strong track record of successful collaborations with technical as well as non-technical partners and will have the technical expertise necessary for successful execution. Theme 2 projects will work in close collaboration with Theme 1 Use Case projects to facilitate use of the OKN interconnecting fabric that will be created.

Theme 3 – Proto-OKN Education and Public Engagement: A single award will be made in this category for creating educational materials and tools targeted to the range of constituents who are expected to be engaged with the Proto-OKN. This includes end-users, senior executives/decision-makers, technical developers, students at the graduate, undergraduate, and middle and high school levels, and the public at large. The Theme 3 team will possess the breadth of expertise and experience necessary to produce education and training materials and public engagement content for a broad spectrum of partners. The Theme 3 grantee will work in close collaboration with Theme 1 and Theme 2 grantees to develop the educational, training, and outreach materials.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST April 24, 2023

Sponsor Application Deadline: 5:00pm MT June 20, 2023

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Description (3 pages maximum): Please include 1) a title identifying the theme being pursued and describing the project in concise, informative language so that a scientifically- or technically literate reader can understand what the project is about; and 2) sections clearing outlining: Integrative Sociotechnical Research and Development, Partnerships and Engagement, Collaboration Plan, Deliverables and Management Plan, Evaluation Plan, Scalability, Extensibility and Sustainability Plan, and Data/AI Ethics Standards and Guidance. See the NSF solicitation for further details.
  • PI Curriculum Vitae
  • Budget Overview (1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6865/home


See the solicitation for full eligibility requirements.

Limited Submission Guidelines

An organization may serve as the lead organization on at most one proposal to this solicitation.

Award Information

Theme 1 proposals may request budgets up to $1.5 million with durations up to three years. The estimated number of awards is 8 to 10, subject to availability of funds.

Theme 2 proposals may request budgets up to $1.5 million with durations up to two years. The estimated number of awards is 1 to 2, subject to availability of funds. One or both Theme 2 projects can be potentially renewed for an additional two years for a budget up to $2 million, with a goal of creating one overarching OKN fabric.

Theme 3 proposals may request budgets up to $1.5 million with durations up to three years. The estimated number of awards is 1, subject to availability of funds.

Review Criteria

In addition to NSF’s standard criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts, note the solicitation specific criteria below. The internal review process will evaluate submissions following these criteria.

Data Management Plan: The Data Management Plan must not exceed two (2) pages. It should summarize how all the data and software products associated with the final deployed product, including the knowledge graph and other related data/software products, will be made available for continued access after the end of the project duration. While it is expected that all the aspects related to data and software access would already have been introduced and described throughout the main Project Description section, the Data Management Plan provides the opportunity to summarize the key issues related to persistence and access in a single location.

Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan: The Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan should reflect the goals and objectives of this translational research effort and, as such, what is expected to be different from a typical mentoring plan for a basic research effort.

In addition to the National Science Board merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to apply the following criteria when reviewing proposals submitted to this solicitation:

1. Impact on identified user community/ies

  • What is the potential for the proposed effort to profoundly impact one or more end user community/ies?
  • Will the activity provide a specific benefit(s) to the user community/ies and help them achieve their desired outcomes?

2. Partnership

  • Does the Project Description make a strong case that partners and end users from multiple sectors are poised to form a deep and diverse partnership that supports the use-inspired research proposed?
  • Does the proposed use case support and contribute to the mission of at least one identified end user federal agency?

3. Deliverables

  • Does the overall effort, as described in the Project Description, Collaboration Plan, and Deliverables and Management Plan indicate a high probability of deliverables within a 36-month period that will ultimately benefit society?
  • Are there clear, achievable goals and objectives provided for the 12-month alpha release, the 24-month beta release, and the final release at the end of the effort?

4. Use Case Integration

  • Is the proposed project appropriate, i.e., is there a close match to one of the Themes in this solicitation?
  • Is there convincing evidence of how the effort will contribute to the success of the Proto-OKN effort and support potential use case integration efforts?

5. Adherence to Data/AI Ethics Standards and Guidance