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Appendix B: CRA COVID-19 Impact Survey

Sent with Concept Paper to NSF, April 6, 2020

CRA COVID-19 Impacts on Academic Hiring and PhD Job Searches in Computing

These are the results of a survey of North American computing departments on the impact of COVID-19 on (1) academic hiring, and (2) the job searches of their finishing PhDs. The survey was conducted between March 27 and April 1, 2020, and the situation is still shifting rapidly. Responses were received for 151 academic units: 119 US doctoral (87 public, 32 private), 7 Canadian doctoral, and 25 US nondoctoral.

Overall Summary

Impacts to academic hiring and finishing PhD job searches are already being seen, and there is an enormous amount of uncertainty.

Faculty Hiring Plans

  1. Academic hiring in US institutions is decreasing by 92 positions in the current academic year (77 doctoral, 15 nondoctoral).
  2. For the current academic year, about 20% report hiring as decreasing and over 50% of departments report hiring unchanged.
  3. More nondoctoral (32%) than doctoral (22%) departments report that it’s too soon to tell about hiring for the current academic year.
  4. For the next academic year, about 70% of departments report that it’s too soon to tell about academic hiring.
  5. For those reporting hiring as decreasing in the current year, the US doctoral units are evenly split between decreasing somewhat and decreasing very much.
  6. For US doctoral units, 74% of those decreasing hiring report that it’s very much affected by overall institution direction, and 64% with hiring unchanged report that very much affected by institution direction. 

Comments on academic hiring, from an open-ended description of the impact:

  • Departments where hiring is decreasing see hiring freezes, reduced ability to make additional offers if current ones are declined, and additional levels of approval required.
  • Departments where it is too soon to tell also see freezes or holds in place or being considered and don’t yet know what will happen with positions for which they are actively recruiting or have extended offers. Several said that things could change at any time.
  • Departments where hiring is unchanged say that interviews are now being held virtually; some say that they are understaffed and continue to be supported by their institutions in trying to remedy that.
  • Several institutions report that fall enrollments will in part determine what happens with next year’s hiring.

The Roadmap was based on broad community input gathered via a number of forums and communication channels: three topical workshops during the fall and winter of 2018/2019, a Town Hall at the annual meeting of the AAAI, and feedback from other groups of stakeholders in industry, government, academia, and the agencies. A draft of the Roadmap was made available on 13 May 2019 for comment by the computing research community. Following the comment period and further revision, the final version was released on August 6, 2019.

PhD Job Search

  1. US doctoral programs report 242 finishing PhDs whose job search is somewhat or very much challenged. Canadians report 35.
  2. Roughly equal percentages of US doctoral programs report somewhat or very much impact on academic job searches (30%) and industry job searches (28%). 55% or more say that it’s too soon to tell for either.
  3. Postdoc job searchers are less clearly impacted at this time but more uncertain.

Comments on PhD job search, from an open-ended description of the impact:

  • Too soon to tell; many departments are working from anecdotal information and neither they nor their students know what will happen.
  • A number of finishing students had already accepted positions, although at least a few have been rescinded, and there are still uncertainties about relocation, actual start date, and things like security clearances.
  • Students seeking academic positions are being affected by hiring freezes.
  • Some departments report industry is moving forward with hiring, some that industry has become very conservative about hiring.
  • Little impact is reported in some small departments where most finishing

PhDs continue with their current employment, thus aren’t searching.

Suggestions for Mitigation

A few commenters felt that there was not an issue, or that it was too soon to tell. Among those who saw an issue and made recommendations, these were suggested by multiple people:

  • Funding for postdoc opportunities
    o To continue at current institution
    o Especially for students who had job offers rescinded
  • Support for continued medical insurance for finishing students not yet employed
  • Funding for continuing students
    • Those whose defense and graduation is delayed(e.g.labs closed)
    • Summer support for students whose internships were rescinded
  • Additional support (financial or otherwise) for international students who may need visa extensions or other help

Several commenters suggested that the same questions needed to be asked again when more time has passed.

US Public vs. Private Comparison

Of the 119 US doctoral responses, 87 are public and 32 are private.

On the current hiring plan changes, there’s not much difference between the two: 

  • Public 21% decreasing, 56% not changing, 21% too soon to tell
  • Private 19% decreasing, 52% not changing, 26% too soon to tell

On the overall challenge to finishing PhDs, publics see much more of a concern than privates, who don’t know yet:

  • Public 38% somewhat or very much, 49% too soon to tell 
  • Private 15.6% somewhat or very much, 72% too soon to tell

For US doctoral departments reporting overall job search somewhat or very much challenged, the number of affected students is 227 from Public and 15 from Private for a total of 242.