Be a Grant Reviewer

Reviewers Drive SARE Funding

From SARE’s inception, its program goal has been to support farmers, researchers, and educators as they explore practices that improve stewardship, profitability, and the social and economic health of farm communities.

One of the primary tools for achieving this goal is through grants, understood to be the chief lubricant in the development of new approaches and new ideas. An integral component of the grants program is the contribution of the reviewer. SARE relies on rigorous, engaged technical reviewers to review grant proposals. These reviewers, experts in their scientific fields and in their communities, provide important feedback and context in sustainable agriculture production and marketing practices that helps drive grant funding across the breadth of SARE’s grants portfolio.

Southern SARE invites members of the sustainable agriculture community (NGOs, for example), producers, academic researchers and Extension agents, government agency specialists, and ag industry professionals to participate in the review process and help shape sustainable agriculture across the Southern region.

Becoming a grant reviewer is voluntary, but there are several reasons supporters of sustainable agriculture should consider investing in reviewing proposals.

  • New to SARE? Being a grant reviewer affords those interested in the SARE program the opportunity to learn how the program is structured and how the grant process works. This experience helps new grant applicants more easily navigate through the grant application process.
  • An old hat with SARE? Researchers, Extension specialists and other professionals in the ag industry who are veteran grant awardees of the SARE program are strongly encouraged to review SARE proposals. Past grant recipients, particularly those who have received numerous SARE grants, are knowledgeable about the SARE granting process and have the expertise and experience to give back to the program. No one understands the importance of SARE funding better than our own project investigators.
  • Young researchers, fresh to the world of academia, are encouraged to review SARE grant proposals. The small size of the SARE program, coupled with the ease of our grant application process, easily introduces young, new researchers to the world of grants and the funding process, whether it’d be SARE grants or grants from another federal agency.
  • Being a SARE grant reviewer introduces researchers, Extension specialists, and others in the ag industry to sustainable agriculture and expands their portfolio of knowledge through the myriad of projects that SARE supports. In turn, a range of disciplines from technical reviewers is important to providing strong, applicable feedback for those applying for SARE grants.

So how does the grant review process work?

Once the proposal deadline of a particular SARE grant passes, outside technical reviewers are solicited, generally via e-mail, to review grant proposals. This is done on an annual basis. Technical reviewers are assigned proposals based on their area of expertise and access the proposals through the SARE Grant Management System. Depending on the type of grant being reviewed, technical reviewers rank the proposals as either high priority, fundable with revisions, marginal funding, or nonfundable, or via a weighted system with a maximum score of 100. The higher the score, the more fundable the project. They also write review summaries for each proposal.

Once the reviews are completed, they are handed down to the appropriate review committee on the Southern SARE Administrative Council, which reviews the rankings and comments and selects proposals to be recommended for funding. The Administrative Council ultimately votes on the slate of proposals put forward by the review committees and approves proposals to be funded. Although the Administrative Council makes the final funding decisions, its decisions are informed by the initial work of the technical reviewers.

Interested in being a technical reviewer?

Refer to the administrator listed in the Call for Proposal of the grant you are interested in reviewing, or email Sandra Blackwell at [email protected] Our grants that require technical reviewers include Research & Education Grants, Graduate Student Grants, Professional Development Program Grants, and On-Farm Research Grants. Please indicate your research area of expertise when contacting us. You will then be added to our reviewer list and contacted via email when reviewers are required.