The increasing public distrust of science is one of the indirect threats to the future of Cooperative Extension. Obviously, an organization founded to diffuse research-based information and innovation would have an extremely hard time functioning in a country that had stopped trusting science.
Citizen science has the potential to rebuild trust in science by engaging people in the scientific process. It could also engage people in improving their own lives and communities, sharing in the work Extension often aims to do. Citizen science benefits Extension, and so Extension should be working to encourage it.
Katie Stofer, a research assistant professor at the University of Florida in the Agricultural Education and Communication department, has spent a year researching the state of citizen science in Cooperative Extension as part of an eXtension Fellowship. She shared some of what she learned on the latest episode of the podcast.