23 September 2020

Summary of CAPP COVID-19 Impacts Survey

Kelsie Krafton

Kelsie Krafton

In May 2020, the AAS issued a survey titled “AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) COVID-19 Impacts Survey” to determine how the AAS membership has been impacted by COVID-19. The goal was to gather input that would inform our advocacy for the federal relief our membership needs. We plan to conduct a follow-up survey later this month to understand what, if any, changes there have been in the impact of COVID-19 on our members. 

Individual responses are for internal use only, but we did receive feedback that asked the summary of the results to be published. During the 20 days the survey was open we received 561 responses; the results are summarized below. Please note that every question on the survey was optional so our percentages rarely add to 100. The demographics of the survey respondents are being compared to the 2018 AAS Workforce Survey

  • Most of our respondents were employed at academic institutions. About 22% of respondents worked at research centers or observatories compared to 33% of the AAS membership.  
  • 57% of respondents identified as male and 37% identified as female, compared to 67% and 31% for the AAS membership, respectively.  
  • 66% of respondents identified as married and 30% identified as not married. This question will be edited in the second survey for clarity and inclusiveness.  
  • 37% of respondents had dependents at the time of the survey and 23% reported that they were a caregiver. These questions will also be edited for clarity in the second survey.
  • There were a series of slider questions to assess the impact of the pandemic on specific areas; these questions will be in the Likert format for the second survey to allow for responses that indicate both negative and positive impacts. On average: 
    • the financial impact due to loss of work/pay cuts/grants lapsing was midway between “somewhat impacted” and “major impact” 
    • the impact to time spent on research or education was “somewhat impacted” 
    • the ability to work with collaborators was “major impact” 
    • the ability to publish was midway between “somewhat impacted” and “major impact” 
    • the loss of facilities access was “major impact” 
  • Financial support and childcare were the most frequently submitted responses to what would be needed to help resume “normal” operations. Respondents were also concerned about reopening guidelines, furloughs and pay cuts, resources to work from home, and mental health.  
  • We did not look at the intersectionality of every combination of questions; however, we did have some key issues that were examined more thoroughly. The intersections below highlight that, as the vast majority of respondents had been negatively impacted by the pandemic in some way, now more than ever we should be reevaluating the way we define success and value labor.
    • Numerous respondents expressed concern over exacerbated labor imbalances during the pandemic. The demographics of these respondents closely matched the rest of the survey’s except in the percentage of married status. 78% of the people who expressed concern about labor imbalances were married, compared to 66% for the respondents overall.  
    • Numerous respondents reported a teaching labor increase because of the pandemic. 65% of these respondents were in professorships of some kind, compared to 34% of overall survey respondents. The gender ratio was inverted from the overall survey responses; 61% of those concerned about teaching workloads identified as female and 30% identified as male.  
    • A surprising number of respondents reported they had no impact or even a positive impact to their work during the pandemic. Of these respondents, 40% were employed as non-teaching researchers, compared to 27% of overall survey respondents. 70% of this group reported as male, compared to 57% of overall respondents. 80% of this group reported themselves as married and only 18% as unmarried, compared to 66% and 30% respectively for survey respondents overall.  
    • Of the many respondents who stated childcare as a necessity for getting back to work, 62% identified as female and 32% identified as male. 88% were married and 10% were not. 92% reported having a dependent.  

Based in part on these findings, AAS has endorsed the RISE Act, which authorizes approximately $26 billion in supplemental funding and provides for temporary regulatory relief for federal agencies to alleviate the disruption to research caused by the pandemic, and the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act, which establishes a new $250 million fellowship program at the National Science Foundation to help postdoctoral researchers survive the job market disruptions caused by COVID. We also advocated for the RISE Act and spoke of the impacts COVID has had on the astronomical scientific community as part of our virtual Congressional Visits Day in September.

Please monitor your inboxes for the second CAPP COVID survey by the end of September.

Related Post