If you want to influence how federal research dollars are spent on Consumer Horticulture, you can volunteer to be a reviewer of Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) proposals.

Anyone who works in any aspect of horticulture, from production to end-use, from retail to tree care professionals, industry association representatives, or anyone engaged in the production, handling, processing, distributing or sale of specialty crops is eligible.

“The National Institute for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) is asking everyone in the industry to spend just a few hours of their time to review SCRI proposals. Doing so helps grow our industry and connect more people and plants, and you’ll also grow from the experience,” says Casey Sclar, Inaugural Chair of NICH.

Here’s how it works. Volunteers are given proposals covering topics closely related to their expertise to read, evaluate, and prepare brief comments on to determine its relevancy. When reviews are complete, the panel decides which proposals will be invited to submit a full application. No travel is required; email and conference calls are used.

“We need more people with expertise in Consumer Horticulture on these panels or proposals relevant to Consumer Horticulture won’t get through the pre-proposal initial stages,” says Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director of Urban Ag Council, who has participated. “If reviewers don’t feel the pre-proposal is relevant to them, it does not go forward.”

The review process involves 20-25 hours of volunteer time. “I guarantee you will find it interesting and exciting,” says Woodworth. “Movers and shakers participate on these panels, so the networking is good.” Ellen Bauske, NICH Co-Chair and a previous submitter to SCRI says, “your impact as a reviewer is far reaching. Every consideration is given to reviewers’ comments. Even when a pre-proposal doesn’t proceed, your comments help guide the next proposal.”

Woodworth promises that the process is very interesting. “If you are like me, someone who scratches your head when you see the topics of some research grants that are funded, this is your opportunity to influence how your tax dollars are spent! I strongly encourage members of the urban ag industry to participate in the grant reviews.  It’s a small amount of time commitment for potentially big investments in our industry!”

To sign up, visit this website: https://nifa.usda.gov/announcement/scri-relevance-review. You can also contact Dr. Tom Bewick, National Program Leader at tbewick@nifa.usda.gov.