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Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to Support Bold Artificial Intelligence Researchers

3/5/2014

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to Support Bold Artificial Intelligence Researchers

3/5/2014

SEATTLE, Wash. – March 5, 2014 – The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced today a call for proposals for the next round of funding under the Allen Distinguished Investigators (ADI) program. Since 2010, the Foundation has supported and empowered select high-risk, high-reward scientists who are positioned to take on the unconventional and unexpected through the ADI program. This first round of funding for the ADI program in 2014 will focus on three fundamental artificial intelligence topics: machine reading, diagram interpretation and reasoning, and spatial and temporal reasoning. The Foundation expects to award five to eight investigators or teams with roughly $1 to $2 million each for a total of $8 million. Proposals will be accepted until May 30, 2014.

Support for early stage research is essential to achieving world-changing breakthroughs, and the ADI program makes research at the cusp of knowledge possible. By supporting innovative and cutting-edge scientists, the Foundation is working to answer big, open questions of science that may be too risky or bold for traditional sources of funding. The Foundation also looks to give these scientists enough funds to truly gain momentum in their respective fields. As part of this competitive grant program, ADIs advance the state of human knowledge, push the boundary of scientific inquiry and collectively move the needle.  

“We don’t shy away from the untried or untested. Instead, we look for the curious and the bold,” said Jody Allen, co-founder and president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “We are looking for researchers that are driven by this same passion – to look for a cutting-edge approach that will pioneer and expand science and result in breakthroughs that will help change the world.”

The focus on artificial intelligence (AI) for this round of funding is part of the larger goal of the ADI program to advance areas of science that have great promise, but face significant challenges and are in need of innovation. Additionally, the AI challenges in the ADI call for proposals are related to the focus areas of the recently launched Allen Institute for AI (www.allenai.org). The Foundation is requesting that proposals address AI challenges with novel and ambitious approaches in each of these subfields:

  • Machine reading – While much current work has focused on entity linking and fact extraction, computers can construct richer semantic representations from language to better support automated reasoning, such as answering questions or performing a task.
  • Diagram interpretation and reasoning – Diagrams play a fundamental role in communicating knowledge, especially concepts that are difficult to express in words, yet for machines, they remain difficult to interpret or to understand deeper symbolic meaning.
  • Spatial and temporal reasoning – Common sense reasoning about time and space is fundamental to human intelligence – we are able to interpret meaning from configurations of objects, motion, spatial transformation, spatial actions, temporal relations and even qualitative language – but this remains a very challenging area for AI.

Through this round of grants, the Foundation is aiming to advance the state of science and understanding in these AI topic areas and to have a lasting impact on the direction of AI research.

About the ADI AI Request for Proposals

The Foundation is accepting applications and nominations from all accredited academic and research institutions and may also additionally solicit proposals directly from researchers. Proposals should explain how the project has the potential to catalyze knowledge in the indicated AI subfields. ADIs are often scientists who are in the beginning stages of their career and need momentum to build their innovative research or scientists who are more established but whose methods or approach are not  aligned with traditional funders. Further information on the selection process and application requirements and can be found on the Foundation’s website. Questions can be directed to aiadi@pgafamilyfoundation.org.