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NIST in the AI Arena: Understanding this Key Player

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) plays a pivotal role in the rapidly evolving field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This post provides a brief history of NIST's involvement in AI, its key responsibilities and activities, the current status, upcoming activities, and its interplay with related standards, including COBIT.

A Brief History of NIST in AI

NIST has been actively involved in AI, contributing to the research, standards, and data required to realize the full promise of AI as a tool that will enable American innovation, enhance economic security, and improve our quality of life. Much of NIST's work focuses on cultivating trust in the design, development, use, and governance of AI technologies and systems.

NIST's Role in the Recent Presidential Executive Order

On October 30, President Joseph R. Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) to build U.S. capacity to evaluate and mitigate the risks of AI systems to ensure safety, security, and trust, while promoting an innovative, competitive AI ecosystem that supports workers and protects consumers. NIST has significant responsibilities in the EO, including the creation of the U.S. Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute.

Key Responsibilities and Activities of NIST in AI

NIST's AI efforts fall into several categories:

  • Fundamental AI Research: Conducting research to advance trustworthy AI technologies and understand and measure their capabilities and limitations.

  • Applied AI Research: Applying AI research and innovation across NIST laboratory programs.

  • AI Measurement and Evaluation: Establishing benchmarks and developing data and metrics to evaluate AI technologies.

  • Technical Standards: Leading and participating in the development of technical AI standards.

Current Status and Upcoming Activities

NIST is launching a variety of new initiatives to advance critical guidelines, benchmarks, and tools to evaluate AI trustworthiness. It has launched the U.S. AI Safety Institute and a related consortium to empower a new measurement science. NIST also works with the AI community to identify the building blocks needed to cultivate trust and ensure that AI systems are accurate, reliable, safe, secure and resilient.

Interplay with COBIT

COBIT integrates and harmonizes a range of frameworks, standards, and regulations, providing a holistic approach to IT governance. NIST and COBIT have a symbiotic relationship where COBIT refers to the appropriate NIST publications at the process level, and NIST refers to COBIT practices as informative references. This allows for better mapping, reduced duplication, and a broader view of a cybersecurity program as a part of an overall governance of enterprise IT (GEIT) initiative.


NIST plays a crucial role in shaping the AI landscape through its research, standards, and data contributions. Its interplay with COBIT underscores the importance of a holistic approach to IT governance. As AI continues to evolve, NIST's efforts will be instrumental in ensuring the safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of AI.

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