AERA-NSF Grants Program Holds Fall Research Conference in December
AERA-NSF Grants Program Holds Fall Research Conference in December

December 2022

On December 2–3, the AERA-NSF Grants Program held its annual Fall Research Conference for the first time in person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference was held at the AERA Convening Center in Washington, D.C. This convening brought together the new cohort of AERA dissertation awardees and scholars who recently completed research funded by the program.

The attendees participated in professional development and training activities and were introduced to the program’s Governing Board, federal agency representatives, and other senior scholars in large-scale data analysis and education research. These distinguished faculty and research experts presented on using large-scale data to study equity in STEM; educational policy; challenges of COVID-19 for education; and other important research challenges and data innovations.

From left to right: Barbara Schneider, Stella M. Flores (on screen), Margaret “Peg” Burchinal

Margaret “Peg” Burchinal (University of Virginia), Governing Board Chair Barbara Schneider (Michigan State University), and Stella M. Flores (University of Texas at Austin) kicked off the conference with a session on using large-scale data to study equity in STEM, with each speaker focusing on elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, respectively. Governing Board member Kenneth Frank, a professor at Michigan State University, followed with a presentation on informing discourse in education policy about causal inferences from observational studies.


A highlight of the conference was a keynote from Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). She spoke about the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on education in the United States. Carr’s presentation included recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that illustrate some of the test score declines since the pandemic. She encouraged the conference participants to pursue research that examines post-pandemic educational achievement and other outcomes.

Peggy Carr

From left to right: Laura Stapleton, James Earl Davis, Joyce Alexander

Throughout the conference, grantees had the invaluable opportunity to network with Governing Board members, presenters, and each other through formal and informal conversations. The grantees reported that these interactions and candid conversations were among the highlights of the conference. These opportunities were further enhanced by a panel discussion at the end of day one with Joyce Alexander (AERA/Texas A&M University and Dean-in-Resident at AERA), James Earl Davis (Temple University), and Laura Stapleton (University of Maryland, College Park) about navigating the job market. The panelists provided advice and guidance for early career scholars entering the profession, with an opportunity for Q&A. 

The Grants Program supports studies that use large-scale data sets to address topics in education and STEM education and learning. Many of these studies use important longstanding NCES and NSF data sets such as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies, the High School Longitudinal Study, and Add Health.

Many of the of the funded studies use Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS). Angela Henneberger (University of Maryland, Baltimore) and Laura Stapleton presented their ongoing research using the Maryland SLDS and discussed future research that can be addressed with these data. Throughout the conference, former grantees presented their research that used SLDS data from states such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Some presentations also focused on potential research questions and research possibilities using both designed study data and administrative data. Elizabeth Hoffman (National Institutes of Health) discussed new data available from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study that can link student’s biological data with their educational and school experience data. Benjamin Shear (University of Colorado Boulder) presented school- and community-level data from the Stanford Education Data Archive as another significant resource in education research. These data sets can be used alone or sometimes linked with other data resources to address topics and issues in education.  

Among the conference participants were the newly named dissertation grantees. These scholars are launching studies that use advanced statistical techniques and methods to analyze large-scale data and address important questions in STEM and education research. Current grantees will present their research in poster sessions during the 2023 AERA Annual Meeting.

“We were thrilled to offer this opportunity for training, networking, and formal and informal discussion,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine, principal investigator of the Grants Program. “It was wonderful to bring together these promising students and early career researchers and to do so in person again.”

NSF has funded the AERA Grants Program since 1990 through eight consecutive awards. This has led to support for over 500 graduate students and early career scholars as they have launched their careers and developed their research agendas in STEM education research. The AERA-NSF Grants Program supports studies that use large-scale federal and federally funded data sets such as those developed by NCES, NSF, and the U.S. Census. The program includes national and international data sets and administrative data such as those available through the SLDS, made possible through federal support.

The Grants Program is currently accepting proposals for the next award cycle with a January 10, 2023, deadline. For more information, visit the AERA-NSF Grants Program website.