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Dan Weld, a leading AI researcher, will work on AI2’s Semantic Scholar program. (Photo via AI2)

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence research organizations, has hired yet another prominent researcher.

Dan Weld, an endowed professor at the University of Washington, is joining the institution as a senior researcher working on AI2’s academic search engine, Semantic Scholar. His addition is the latest in a series of high-profile AI moves in Seattle as organizations fight for talent in the growing field.

In an email to GeekWire, said he will split his time between his position at UW and his new one at AI2. “Indeed, I see many great possibilities for collaboration between the two,” he said.

His position won’t be unique: AI2 is led by CEO Oren Etzioni, who is also a professor in the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. In June, AI2 hired fellow Allen School professor Yejin Choi to lead its $125 million “common sense for AI” initiative.

Weld said his experience in academia led him to have an interest in Semantic Scholar’s work.

“As an academic researcher, staying on top of the firehouse of research results has been one of the biggest challenges, and it’s getting harder and harder. It’s a socially important problem, and a solution will make the world a better place,” Weld said.

He added that the work meshes well with two of his areas of expertise: human-in-the-loop computing and information extraction and crowdsourcing. That second area could be an interesting path for the future of Semantic Scholar.

“With today’s natural language technology, we can’t build a fully autonomous AI program that perfectly understands these research papers. I think an interesting question is whether we can get people to help train the machine,” Weld said.

“Of course, the need for training data affects all systems based on machine learning and crowdsourcing is one way to get it,” he said. “In particular, Semantic Scholar has millions of unique monthly users and we are working on ways to get a fraction of them enlisted in helping train the system’s AI.”

Weld has worked on AI research for three decades, almost as long as modern artificial intelligence has been around. He earned his PhD at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1988 and was a founding editor of the Journal of AI Research, among other academic accomplishments.

Weld also co-founded a number of startups, three of which were acquired, and is a venture partner at the Madrona Venture Group.

As AI becomes an increasingly important part of technology writ large, Seattle’s artificial intelligence talent market has become heated. Facebook, Amazon, the University of Washington and even Microsoft have seen prominent changes in AI leadership or talent in the past year.

AI2 was founded by Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder who passed away in October, alongside his institute for brain science.

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