AERA and Spencer Foundation to Examine the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Most Vulnerable Members of the Education Research Field
AERA and Spencer Foundation to Examine the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Most Vulnerable Members of the Education Research Field

For Immediate Release: April 17, 2020

American Educational Research Association
Tony Pals, 
(202) 238-3235

The Spencer Foundation 
Emily Krone Phillips,
(312) 274-6517

AERA and Spencer Foundation to Examine the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Most Vulnerable Members of the Education Research Field

WASHINGTON, D.C. and CHICAGO, April 17, 2020The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Spencer Foundation have announced they are undertaking a study of the impact of COVID-19 on early career scholars and graduate students in education research—the most professionally vulnerable of the field.

The project, “Centering the Needs of Early Career Scholars and Graduate Students in Education Research: An AERA-Spencer Inquiry into the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts,” will assess the pressing needs facing these individuals and what might be important in a “recovery plan” for addressing them. 

The study will broadly examine the effects of COVID-19 on current employment or academic situations and career advancement; financial strains and their impact on academic/career progress; the challenges of navigating professional and personal lives; how teaching, mentoring, and advising roles are being transformed; the impact on  areas of research and the availability of data; the ability to continue with meaningful research; and the forms of support—social and material—that will enable moving forward in the face of substantially altered and pernicious circumstances.

AERA and Spencer plan to release an initial report in July. Focus groups will be conducted in May and be followed by an online survey in early June.

“The significance of our undertaking this inquiry together is to learn from the voices of those in the most vulnerable positions in any field of research,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “We want to develop strategies and potential responses that derive from the experiences, planning, and ideas that our next generation of research leaders can share with us.”

“We just cannot afford to have our next generation derailed,” said Spencer Foundation President Na'ilah Suad Nasir. “As educators, students of all ages, and families undergo massive and uncharted shifts in how and where learning and teaching unfold, we must ensure that we understand what the research community needs to generate the research base and the empirical data so essential to sound practices and policies.” 

AERA and Spencer expect the results to be important to higher education institutions and other employers of education researchers; government agencies that support research and investments in data; and other organizations and individuals with research units or a commitment to advancing education research.  

“We intend also for these results to be mutually supportive for those sharing their voices and experiences with us,” said Levine. “This inquiry, and the follow-up research we intend, we think can offer a collective understanding to early career scholars and graduate students who might otherwise see their situations as one-off or idiosyncratic—only exacerbating the situations they are in.” 

Education research is a very large doctorate-conferring field. According the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at the National Science Foundation, there are approximately 2,500 education research doctorates conferred each year in the United States across the specialty areas that constitute the field. The education research workforce at the post-doctorate level is estimated to be 50,000 persons. Education researchers hold positions in universities, research institutes, K–12 settings, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, industry, and elsewhere. 


About AERA
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

About The Spencer Foundation 
The Spencer Foundation has been a leading funder of education research since 1971 and is the only national foundation focused exclusively on supporting education research. Spencer believes education research is integral to improving education, making education systems more equitable, and increasing opportunities to learn across the lifespan. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter at @Spencer_Fdn.