29 Apr 2015
Sue Grimbly joined SCI in 2008. She was elected as Secretary of the newly created Horticulture Group in January 2008 and in September 2009 she passed on the secretarial baton and became Communications Co-ordinator for the Group. Sue was a science teacher working in both state and private secondary schools and then became an export promoter helping companies to enter export markets through overseas trade shows.
When and why did you become a member of SCI?
I was a founder member when the Horticulture Group was formed in 2008. Unlike most learned societies, I was able to become a member of SCI without a specific qualification in a certain subject or many years working in a particular industry. You don’t need to be a qualified chemist, engineer or horticulturist. Anyone can ask to join SCI, develop their own skills and network with others from a huge range of specialisms for mutual benefit.
Why did you decide to get involved in an SCI Committee?
I wanted to help promote and develop the Horticulture Group with other like-minded members who all have different interests but a common interest in plants and a belief that science has an important part to play in horticulture. I was Group Secretary for a while but then developed an interest in social media and became Communications Co-ordinator for the Group.
How do your SCI activities reflect your personal/professional interests?
Plants, science and communication are my main interests. SCI gives me the opportunity to develop these interests. After graduating from Bristol University and a post-graduate teaching course at Southampton University, I spent 30+ years teaching biology while my husband worked in horticultural research. Contact with the research stations and the growers they worked with, enabled me to incorporate both the latest research and commercial practice into my teaching. I later joined the Commercial Horticultural Association where I met many more people in the horticulture industry and, through helping them, gained some understanding of the challenges commercial companies face.
What has driven your continued involvement?
With the help of SCI staff, I started a Twitter page and Facebook Group for the Horticulture Group. I tweet about our activities and I have plenty of time to indulge in reading the tweets from 2000+ relevant organisations, research scientists, business representatives etc. all around the globe and communicating with them. I look for interesting tweets that I think might be of use to others in the horticulture industry. I retweet these to our 2100+ followers and also copy them onto both our own Facebook Group, where it gets used to compile part of our Group’s monthly newsletter, and also onto the Agrisciences Facebook Group. I find this work fascinating and rewarding. It doesn’t just keep me ‘up to date’ but in the case of Twitter ‘up to the minute’. By following @SCIHorticulture on Twitter or joining our Facebook group you might find useful and interesting items that you would not have time to search for yourself. I receive positive feedback from various quarters which confirms that I have a useful role to play. This pleases me and helps to encourage me to keep going.
How has being involved in SCI activities impacted on your career?
I joined SCI at the end of my career but, having been involved with the Society for a number of years, I can see the value for those starting out in their careers. By joining a committee you meet and interact closely with a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds and expertise. They can provide contacts, arrange introductions etc and provide mentoring. SCI membership allows you to build in confidence and develop your skills in so many ways. Established officers can help to ease you in to new experiences often outside your normal comfort zone. In this way you can help to organise events, write articles, introduce speakers, give talks - all useful things to add to your CV.
How do you think that your contribution has helped to shape your Group or SCI as a whole?
I think my social media activity has helped to expand the profile of our Group and SCI as a whole. I communicate mainly the strengths of the Group, the events we and other SCI Technical Interest Groups have organised, our monthly newsletter and SCI’s publications. Having built relationships with my social media followers they are regularly happy to copy items to their followers greatly expanding the reach of our group and SCI. Hopefully as a result, many more people are now aware of SCI and all that it has to offer. I try to convey that SCI is independent – it has no axe to grind, it’s the science that matters. I will pass on news about GM and non-GM, chemical fertilisers and organics, peat and peat free etc. provided it is soundly based reporting. Social media has given me a very broad understanding of who is involved in horticulture and plant science research and this has enabled us to target promotion of our David Miller Travel Award widely and accurately. As a result we now have applications from students at a large and growing number of universities, research stations and other organisations around the UK & Ireland.
By being involved on a committee, what opportunities have been presented to you which you would not have otherwise had?
I’ve had some amazing experiences. With other Committee & SCI members, I had the opportunity to join James Hitchmough, Nigel Dunnett, Phillip Askew (the Legacy Development Officer), and a group of MSc students from Sheffield University on a study tour of the Olympic Park – an unforgettable experience! I’ve been on special visits to British Sugar, Cornerstones Nursery, Vitacress’ Herb nursery in Sussex and University of Oxford Botanic Garden led by SCI members. I’ve visited private gardens, horticultural businesses and ‘behind the scenes’ places at Kew that are not available to the general public. I’ve attended many excellent SCI conferences and events and met so many interesting people.
How do you balance your SCI commitments with your job and workload
I am retired now so I am fortunate that I can give as much time as I wish to SCI. I do not feel under any pressure. I probably give more time than I should but social media is very addictive and I learn so much! It helps to keep my brain active and engaged with the many fascinating developments that are taking place in science today.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt by being an SCI committee member?
I think that the more you give, the more you benefit – it is a ‘win, win’ situation.
What advice would you offer to anyone thinking about becoming involved in an SCI Group or Standing Committee?
Becoming involved with SCI is a valuable experience that will enhance your career, develop you as a person and make you feel more confident. You learn so much more about how SCI ticks and develop many more skills than you can as an ordinary member.
If you want to find out more about Sue or get in touch with her, you can contact her via the Members’ Directory (you will need to sign in to view). If you need help searching the directory please click on the how-to guide.