NSF picks former OSTP policy adviser for new AI role

Tess deBlanc-Knowles will serve as the agency’s special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence while continuing her work as strategic adviser for technology policy and strategy within NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.
(Getty Images)

The National Science Foundation has selected a former White House Office of Science and Technology Policy senior adviser as its new special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence.

Tess deBlanc-Knowles, who recently completed a more than two-year stint with OSTP, will be charged at NSF to lead within the agency’s Office of the Director on the implementation of President Joe Biden’s executive order on AI. 

In addition to her new responsibilities, deBlanc-Knowles will continue in her current role as strategic adviser for technology policy and strategy within NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.

“Tess deBlanc-Knowles is a recognized leader with expertise that is critical to coordinating the NSF’s efforts to continue advancing cutting-edge research that expands our understanding of AI,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “I am thrilled that she will contribute her knowledge and experience in AI-related activities to represent the vast and comprehensive work NSF is leading to ensure safe, secure, and trustworthy AI for all.”


With OSTP, deBlanc-Knowles served as senior policy adviser in the National AI Initiative Office, leading policy efforts to bolster AI innovation, co-chairing the National AI Research Resource Task Force and guiding the development of the National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan.

“This is an exciting time for AI,” deBlanc-Knowles said in a statement, “and I am honored to be working with the NSF leadership team to help harness AI for good and support the Foundation’s critical role in assisting our nation to realize AI’s myriad benefits while mitigating its substantial risks.”

NSF has so far approved the use of publicly available, commercial generative AI that is “explicitly for the use of public information,” an agency spokesperson told FedScoop. But the agency also produced guidelines last week detailing how generative AI should be used in its merit review process.

Dorothy Aronson, NSF’s chief data officer, was also tapped last month to serve as the agency’s chief AI officer. “My focus has been the past couple of years on improving the quality of NSF’s data and our ability to leverage data,” Aronson told FedScoop at the time. “Data fuels AI.”

Matt Bracken

Written by Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken is the managing editor of FedScoop and CyberScoop, overseeing coverage of federal government technology policy and cybersecurity. Before joining Scoop News Group in 2023, Matt was a senior editor at Morning Consult, leading data-driven coverage of tech, finance, health and energy. He previously worked in various editorial roles at The Baltimore Sun and the Arizona Daily Star. You can reach him at

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