Han Had Yoda. We Have Our Science Advisory Council

We all need someone we can go to for wise and insightful counsel, and straight talk on how to achieve our goals. Han Solo had Yoda. Rocky Balboa had Mickey. NGRA has our Science Advisory Council.

The Council was formed in 2019 as a way to formalize our relationship with some of our longest-standing technical advisors and grape research advocates. It will help us to:

• Establish and evaluate our research priorities and key initiatives
• Build alignment and transparency with leading scientists regarding grape industry research needs and priorities
• Facilitate and operationalize open, ongoing, two-way dialog with government agencies and academic institutions regarding required research infrastructure, common challenges and future opportunities
• Understand the policies and procedures related to the operation and administration of government agencies and academic institutions
• Foster a sense of community among scientists, administrators and industry stakeholders interested in advancing grape research
• Underscore NGRA’s unique role in bringing together industry and the research community

Judy St. John

Currently, our Science Advisory Council is comprised of three highly respected senior leaders:

Judy St. John was our first inductee, in June 2019. Upon her retirement in 2011, Judy was Associate Administrator – Office of National Programs for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). She worked for USDA for nearly five decades, learning firsthand how valuable inter-industry cooperation could be. She was instrumental in the creation of NGRA (then, NGWI) as a national, industry-led coalition, and our founding in 2004. She ensured buy-in from ARS, even securing some rare seed funding from the agency to help recognize NGRA as the leading coordinated voice for the grape and wine industry, nationwide.

Sally Schneider

In February 2020, Sally Schneider was inducted into the Council. Sally worked closely with Judy as a member of the ARS National Program staff, where she had direct responsibility for grape research. Sally retired from ARS in 2017 as Deputy Administrator – Natural Resources & Sustainable Ag Systems. Like Judy, Sally served as a strong advocate for our industry during her tenure at ARS. Just prior to her retirement, she made official the plan for a water research unit to be established in California with grapes as a focus–a critical addition to the agency’s Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network. Together, Judy and Sally helped establish the biannual ARS Grape Industry Workshop with NGRA for the agency’s scientists and industry stakeholders to exchange ideas. Even in retirement, they remain ardent supporters of NGRA, attending Board meetings and making themselves available to provide guidance as needed.

Deborah Golino

Deborah Golino, Director of Foundation Plant Services (FPS) at UC Davis, also was inducted in February. She has served on the NGRA Board of Directors since our inception in 2004, foreshadowing the role of and her part in the Science Advisory Council. Deborah’s oversight of FPS and leadership role with the National Clean Plant Network make her a leading advocate for grape research and one of the top grape research and extension administrators in the country. She has helped to shape NGRA’s research priorities and our understanding of and interface with academic institutions.

The Science Advisory Council may function collectively as a mentor, muse, secret weapon or sounding board. Whatever you call it, the Council and its three founding members are invaluable to me and to our Board of Directors and committees. Additional Council members may be appointed over time. But as the Council is composed now, they’re the M (Judi Dench version) to our James Bond.