Building the Prototype Open Knowledge Network (Proto-OKN)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

This program supports the creation of a prototype Open Knowledge Network — an interconnected network of knowledge graphs supporting a very broad range of application domains. 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.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 1. Interested applicants from within Duke should contact as early as possible.

Deadline: June 20, 2023

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

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 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 – 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 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 – 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.

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.

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations located in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activities.
  • For-profit organizations: U.S.-based commercial organizations, including small businesses, with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education and a passion for innovation.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 1. An organization may serve as the lead organization on at most one proposal to this solicitation. If an organization exceeds this limit, the proposal with the earliest date and time will be accepted, and the remainder will be returned without review.

Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 10 to 13

Estimated number of awards for Theme 1 is 8 to 10 awards at $1.5 million for three years, for Theme 2 is 1 to 2 awards at $1.5 million for 2 years, and for Theme 3 is 1 award at $1.5 million for three years 3. Theme 2 projects can be potentially renewed for an additional two years for a budget up to $2 million. The number of awards is dependent upon available funding, quality of proposals received, and the degree to which proposals meet the solicitation goals, NSF merit review criteria, and solicitation-specific review criteria.


Anticipated Funding Amount: $20,000,000

The anticipated funding amount indicated above is for a given fiscal year and is subject to the quality of proposals received and availability of funds.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

June 20, 2023