AGU urges Congress to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the scientific enterprise


By Lexi Shultz, AGU Vice President, Public Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on lives and communities around the world. At the same time, it has also upended scientific work and research. Not only are many labs, facilities and field sites suddenly out of reach, but the uncertainty of when campuses might reopen has led to STEM workforce reductions.

In many cases, students and early career scientists are being especially affected. Hundreds of academic institutions have implemented hiring freezes for planned research and teaching positions, there are recruitment pauses at major private-sector STEM employers and there’s been a steep decline in nationwide job opportunities for recent graduates.

Field programs, STEM internships and other hands-on experiences that often enable undergraduates to pursue careers in STEM fields have been canceled or postponed. International students and researchers are navigating visa issues, which not only hampers the current scientific workforce but will likely have consequences for attracting top talent in the future.

AGU applauds Congress for providing immediate support and funding for scientific agencies in The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In a letter sent this week to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space and Technology, AGU urged Congress to take additional steps to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and ensure the strength of the scientific enterprise.

To help safeguard STEM jobs and opportunities and encourage more stability, AGU is calling for:

  1. Stimulus funds for scientific salaries, including graduate student and post-doc fellowships, traineeships and research assistantships
  2. Support for facilities and field sites, as well as the costs associated with halting and resuming work in labs, research centers and other science facilities
  3. Additional funding for convergent research at the National Science Foundation and other agencies as this research is essential to solving many of society’s biggest issues and is playing a large role in our current response to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

The current pandemic has also emphasized the need for community science and for communities to have access to reliable data and scientists who can advise them on their needs. Alongside the pandemic, communities across the U.S. continue to face wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, as well as water and air quality issues.

AGU stands ready to work with Congress to further mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the scientific enterprise. We are also continuing our work to help prioritize federal investments and policies that strengthen the scientific workforce.

Despite our own individual uncertainty, we must all band together and support one another. We see AGU members selflessly helping one another all the time. For example, AGU’s College of Fellows is helping graduate students, post-docs and early career scientists stay connected and energized about their education, research and geoscience careers.

It is this passionate, generous spirit of the Earth and space science community that will help keep us connected.

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