In the realm of space exploration and scientific research, collaboration is key to advancing knowledge and understanding. NASA’s Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT) has recognized this and actively seeks partnerships with private, non-federal entities to push the boundaries of scientific exploration even further. One such collaboration with International Business Machines (IBM) has resulted in the development of INDUS, a groundbreaking suite of large language models (LLMs) tailored to specific scientific domains such as Earth science, biological and physical sciences, heliophysics, planetary sciences, and astrophysics.

The Power of INDUS: A Closer Look

At the core of INDUS are two types of models: encoders and sentence transformers. Encoders play a crucial role in converting natural language text into numeric coding that can be processed by the LLM. The INDUS encoders were meticulously trained on a vast corpus of 60 billion tokens, spanning various scientific disciplines including astrophysics, planetary science, Earth science, heliophysics, biological, and physical sciences. What sets INDUS apart is its custom tokenizer, developed through the IMPACT-IBM collaboration, which enhances the recognition of scientific terms and ensures the models are finely tuned to the specific domains of study.

By leveraging domain-specific vocabulary and cutting-edge training strategies, the IMPACT-IBM team has achieved superior performance with INDUS in comparison to open, non-domain specific LLMs. INDUS excels in tasks such as biomedical benchmarking, scientific question-answering, and Earth science entity recognition tests. This heightened performance is attributed to the diverse linguistic capabilities of INDUS, enabling it to process researcher questions, retrieve relevant documents, and generate precise answers. Moreover, the team has developed smaller and faster versions of the models to cater to latency-sensitive applications, further demonstrating their commitment to innovation and efficiency.

Real-World Applications and Impact

The impact of INDUS extends beyond theoretical advancements, as evidenced by its integration into practical applications within NASA and beyond. By partnering with NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division, INDUS has facilitated the development of a chatbot that enhances data search capabilities and streamlines the curation process. Moreover, at the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES-DISC), INDUS has been instrumental in categorizing and retrieving publications referencing GES-DISC data, thereby enhancing the user experience and improving data accessibility for researchers.

INDUS represents a significant leap forward in empowering researchers with advanced access to specialized knowledge and insights. Its ability to understand complex scientific concepts, extract relevant information, and support a variety of scientific applications underscores its value in accelerating scientific exploration. Aligned with the principles of open and transparent artificial intelligence, the INDUS models are openly accessible on platforms such as Hugging Face, enabling broader engagement and collaboration within the scientific community.

The collaborative efforts between NASA’s IMPACT team and private partners like IBM exemplify the immense potential of combining expertise and resources to drive innovation in scientific research. The case of INDUS serves as a compelling example of how strategic collaborations can revolutionize the landscape of space exploration and pave the way for new discoveries and breakthroughs in the realm of science and beyond.


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