The American Educational Research Association announced today that it is cancelling plans for a virtual 2020 Annual Meeting in April. The decision was approved in a unanimous resolution by AERA Council, the association’s governing body, on March 22. AERA had announced on March 6 that it was shifting from a place-based conference, scheduled for San Francisco, CA, April 17-21, to a virtual meeting due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a message today to AERA members and annual meeting registrants, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine and AERA President Vanessa Siddle Walker noted that since the association’s March 6 announcement of a virtual meeting, the individual and societal pressures brought on by the pandemic have magnified substantially.
“At that time, 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 attendee,” wrote Levine and Walker. “It seemed both feasible and responsible to invent and build a space to connect a breadth of scholars with practice and policy persons at all career ages and stages and to build it as a product that would in perpetuity remain available for all.”
“Yet, the rapidly changing circumstances, even as recently as this weekend, made us question whether our vision of a safe-haven virtual environment could be realized,” Levine and Walker wrote. “We have been monitoring the coronavirus disease, now sweeping the United States, over the last week to assess whether our vision of a free, open-access Virtual Annual Meeting for all would continue to provide the safe and secure space for participants and attendees we had imagined, or whether it was adding to a ‘to do’ list growing exponentially for far too many.”
“As we said from the outset in our March 6 letter, ‘[A place-based] annual conference has many wonderful strengths, but it just cannot be classified as urgent or extraordinary in the face of the heightened risk,’ wrote Levine and Walker. “After a full Council discussion last evening, we collectively reached the very same conclusion about a virtual meeting—that 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.”