AERA Cancels 2020 Annual Meeting Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
AERA Cancels 2020 Annual Meeting Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

March 2020

For the first time since World War II, AERA has cancelled its Annual Meeting in response to rapidly growing concerns over the coronavirus crisis. The association first announced the cancellation of its place-based Annual Meeting in San Francisco on March 6. Two weeks later, on March 23, the association announced the cancellation of the AERA 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting. 

The AERA conference is the largest gathering of scholars in the field of education research. It was scheduled for April 17–21 and was expected to draw at least 16,000 attendees to San Francisco. Conference attendees include AERA members and scholars from aligned fields and disciplines, policymakers, and education practitioners.

In the March 6 message to AERA members and annual meeting registrants, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine and AERA President Vanessa Siddle Walker wrote: "Sadly, the pernicious presence and spread of the coronavirus internationally, including in recent weeks and days in the United States, makes it both impossible to hold a meeting that would even approximate the value of our annual place-based gathering and irresponsible to encourage, expect, or stand silent when attendees could be exposed to a communicable disease, affect Bay area workers or residents, and return to their homes transmitting an illness to family and friends even before it manifests itself."

The goal of shifting to a virtual meeting was to provide an authentic and meaningful experience that would provide a supportive and safe space for sharing work and connecting worldwide to other participants and attendees. As noted in the March 22 announcement, "We dreamed of creating an online platform where, without cost to anyone, competitively selected and invited paper presenters and other participants would be provided with an opportunity to share their work and benefit from connecting with a worldwide audience of attendees."

“However,” as Levine emphasized, “since AERA’s original announcement of a virtual meeting, the individual and societal pain, stress, and responsibilities brought on by the pandemic just grew exponentially—more than humanly imaginable.” These new circumstances presented unprecedented challenges to AERA's vision of a safe-haven virtual environment. After a full Council discussion, AERA unanimously reached the conclusion to cancel the virtual meeting.

"Our first priority in light of ever-increasing risk is to affirm that the highest value that we share is the physical and emotional needs of all people connected to the world around us," Levine and Walker noted in the March 20 announcement. Following the announcement, AERA released a video of Walker discussing the cancellation of the AERA 2020 Annual Meeting.

In the days ahead, there will be further announcements about planning for future annual meetings and events, fellowship submission deadlines, online courses or webinars, and chat rooms to connect to or talk with others.

Scholars are still encouraged to upload final papers and participate in the AERA Online Paper Repository. Parallel to the Repository, a new product—an Interactive Presentation Gallery—  will be launched to offer a space for sharing intended presentations at the Annual Meeting (whether Power Point slides, handouts, or posters). Like the Online Paper Repository, it will be available to participants with 2020 accepted or invited papers. The deadline for these uploads will be Monday, June 22, 2020.