Project Development and Reporting - Scope and Approval Process
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The Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station operates primarily under the provisions of the federal Hatch Act and McIntire-Stennis Act. Although the station has considerable autonomy, the Hatch Act and McIntire-Stennis Act define the scope of research that can be supported by these federal appropriations. Hatch funds can be used to support research on all aspects of agriculture. Discipline areas include plant and animal production, protection and health; soil and water conservation and use; forestry; environment and natural resources; processing, distribution, safety, marketing and utilization of food and agricultural products; fisheries and aquaculture; home economics and family life; human nutrition; rural and community development; resource economics and policy; tourism; and biotechnology. McIntire-Stennis funds can only be used to support research in forest resources, which includes management for timber and related products; forest watershed management, management of forests for improvement of food and habitat for wildlife, management of forest lands for outdoor recreation; protection of forest land against fire, insects, diseases and other destructive agents; use of wood and other forest products; and policy development for forest lands and marketing forest products. The primary mission of the station is to conduct research for Maine and its citizens consistent with the above scope of work. Additional information about the Hatch Act and McIntire-Stennis Act can be found on the USDA site.
Annual appropriations under the Hatch and McIntire-Stennis Acts, in combination with University of Maine funds, provide the base funding for research programs of the station. A one-to-one match of state (university) to federal dollars is required before the station is eligible to receive the federal funds. Under current regulations, 25% of Hatch expenditures must be in support of projects conducted jointly by two or more stations (termed multistate projects) and 25% must support integrated research and extension activities. Other major requirements include obtaining stakeholder input when setting research priorities and scientific peer reviews for projects.
Station projects are led by faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture. Initiation of new research begins with faculty development of an approved project. Faculty should consider several mission-oriented factors when identifying new or potential research topics:
- The mission of the station and the scope of allowable research.
- Relevance of the proposed research to the needs of the people of Maine.
- Relevance of the proposed research to the needs of underserved individuals, groups, or communities in Maine.
A key question during the project approval process is whether the proposed research topic is the highest priority research for Maine that the principal investigator is qualified to pursue. Other major considerations are the current state-of-the-art of research in the problem area, the feasibility of successful completion of the project, and the opportunity for external funding and collaboration.
While faculty members have considerable latitude in choosing research topics or areas, it is recommended that they consult with their unit administrator, faculty colleagues, other scientists, extension educators, clientele groups, and other professionals in resource policy or management. The station works with two stakeholder advisory groups when developing research priorities: (1) Board of Agriculture and (2) Forest Resources Advisory Committee. The Board of Agriculture was created by the Maine legislature in 1998 to advise the university on agricultural research and extension programs in the station and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The Forest Resources Advisory Committee advises the dean/director on research and academic issues in the college and station.
The station’s Research Council, a multidisciplinary group of senior faculty members in the college, makes recommendations to the Director on project approval. Steps involved in the approval process are listed below.
- Principal investigator (PI) submits progress report for the current project and a pre-proposal for a new project.
- Council meets with PI and unit administrator to discuss the progress report and pre-proposal.
- PI is notified pre-proposal has been approved. A Council member is assigned oversight for the proposal.
- PI develops a full proposal and submits it for peer review.
- Full proposal is sent to oversight to see that it is appropriate for external review.
- Oversight’s comments, if any, are forwarded to PI for a revised proposal.
- Proposal and scientific peer review form are sent to individuals for external review.
- Reviews are sent to unit administrator and PI.
- PI submits a letter summarizing their response to reviews and a final (revised) proposal.
- Final proposal and review response summary are sent to oversight for recommendation.
- Project approval letter is sent to PI.
- PI completes CRIS forms to initiate project.
- CRIS forms and electronic copy of final proposal are submitted to USDA for approval.
- PI and unit administrator are notified proposal has been approved by USDA.