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Panelist Recruitment and Training

NIFA and your community request your assistance in identifying panelists and ensuring our peer review panels have the required expertise while remaining inclusive, representative, and diverse.

NIFA convenes peer review panels comprised of research, education, extension, and other subject matter experts to review competitive grant proposals. Panelist duties include reviewing proposals; drafting and submitting individual ratings and written reviews; and attending and participating in a panel meeting. During the panel meeting, panelists discuss and reach a group consensus on proposal rankings. Panels may be conducted via teleconference or in-person meetings.


NIFA uses a Peer Review System (PRS) to collect volunteer information. If you are interested in serving on a peer-review panel, you can provide your contact information by visiting NIFA Peer Review System and clicking on the “Panelist Recruitment” link in the “Volunteer” section. You will be asked to provide your contact information and expertise.

Depending on your previous involvement with NIFA, please follow the steps in the appropriate option below:

Never an Applicant or PanelistApplicant but Never a PanelistReturning Panelists
  • Visit PRS
  • Complete "Panelist Recruitment"
  • NIFA staff will review your submission and create an account
  • "Activate Account" via PRS; must use same email from application
  • Complete PRS questionnaire
  • Log into established PRS account
  • Update PRS questionnaire


Once registered, please alert via email the program staff listed in the Request for Applications for the program you are interested in serving, don’t forget to attach your CV/resume.

In addition, a voluntary questionnaire will appear that is used to gather race, ethnicity, gender, and other information. NIFA collects this information from everyone who participates in USDA activities to allow us to evaluate participation and improve processes in accordance with applicable equal opportunity and civil rights laws. The information you provide will not be used to determine your eligibility to participate in this program. The use of this information will help USDA/NIFA to:

  • Improve the operation of NIFA programs
  • Design additional opportunities for program participation
  • Monitor enforcement of laws that require equal access to NIFA programs for eligible persons

PRS has been modified to work on multiple browsers. Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari have all been verified as compatible with PRS as of June 2021. If you have difficulty accessing PRS on one of these browsers, please contact the program staff listed in the Request for Applications for the program you are interested in serving.

Panelist Selection and Notification

Once your submission has been received, it will be evaluated by NIFA staff. Peer reviewers (panelists) are selected based on their expertise, credentials, and NIFA panel needs. Please keep in mind that volunteering may not always result in your participation in a panel due to recruitment requirements and expertise needed at the time. For more information, contact the program staff listed in the Request for Applications for the program panel on which you are interested in serving.

You are not eligible to review for a program if you are a Project Director, Co-Project Director, Collaborator or are substantially involved in an application submitted to the same program in the same year. Also excluded are all individuals receiving any form of financial compensation or other benefit (such as salary, subaward, consulting fee, honorarium) from any proposal being reviewed by the same panel in the same year.

Panelists (excluding federal employees) may be provided a modest honorarium for their time and effort; please refer to your employer’s policy and procedures when accepting the honorarium.

Selected panelists are notified and provided with all relevant planning and travel information (if applicable). Please do not make travel plans prior to speaking with a NIFA representative.

Panelist Roles

Panelists are integral to the peer review process. Panelists are responsible for reviewing proposals and entering individual rating scores and comments into NIFA’s online system prior to the meeting. They participate in panel discussions to reach a group consensus on proposal rankings. Panelists also submit written summaries of the discussion.

If you have any questions about panelist roles and responsibilities, please contact the program staff listed in the Request for Applications for the program panel on which you are interested in serving.

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Panel Manager Orientation

As a temporary NIFA employee, panel managers are required to complete a training package. Tackle these trainings as the first task on your list.

Learn more

Reasonable Accommodation

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is committed to ensuring that its programs and services are accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any NIFA event, please contact the appropriate Program staff no later than 10 days prior to the event. To find Program staff by event, please visit the NIFA Calendar of Events. NIFA Language access services, such as interpretation or translation of vital information, will be provided free of charge to limited English proficient individuals upon request. If you need interpretation or translation services please visit NIFA Language Access Services or contact Lois Tuttle, Equal Opportunity Specialist, at or (443) 386-9488 no later than 10 days prior to the event.

This content is available in Spanish. Esta información disponible en Español.

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