You are here

The role of citizen science in addressing grand challenges in food and agriculture research

The power of citizen science to contribute to both science and society is gaining increased recognition, particularly in physics and biology. Although there is a long history of public engagement in agriculture and food science, the term ‘citizen science’ has rarely been
applied to these efforts. Similarly, in the emerging field of citizen science, most new citizen science projects do not focus on food or agriculture. Here, we convened thought leaders from a broad range of fields related to citizen science, agriculture, and food science to highlight key opportunities for bridging these overlapping yet disconnected communities/fields and identify ways to leverage
their respective strengths. Specifically, we show that (i) citizen science projects are addressing many grand challenges facing our food systems, as outlined by the United States National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as broader Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations Development Programme, (ii) there exist emerging opportunities and unique challenges
for citizen science in agriculture/food research, and (iii) the greatest opportunities for the development of citizen science projects in agriculture and food science will be gained by using the existing infrastructure and tools of Extension programmes and through the engagement of
urban communities. Further, we argue there is no better time to foster greater collaboration between these fields given the trend of shrinking Extension programmes, the increasing need to apply innovative solutions to address rising demands on agricultural systems, and the exponential growth of the field of citizen science.