COVID-19 Impacts on Geoscience Academic Departments: Budgets, Staffing, and Fall 2020 Plans

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This data brief provides insights from early study responses about the impacts from COVID-19 on geoscience academic departmental operations, specifically budgets, personnel, and plans for the Fall 2020 term. Nearly half of responding departments are expecting budget cuts between 5% and 20% for the next academic year, and nearly one-tenth of responding departments reported that they expect cuts of greater than 20%. Fewer than half of responding departments provided input about personnel impacts. Responding departments most frequently reported multiple impacts, often a combina­tion of furloughs of staff and faculty and salary reductions. Salary reductions was the most commonly reported impact, followed by staff furloughs.

Data Brief 2020-007 chart 01: Expected budget cuts for the next academic year (credit: AGI)

Data Brief 2020-007 chart 02: Departments experience personel impacts (credit: AGI)

We examined and combined responses from academic department heads and chairs, students, and faculty regarding institutional plans for Fall 2020. Combining responses allowed us to examine a larger landscape of institutional strategies. As institutions are now more widely making decisions for Fall 2020, this topic will be reexamined over the coming months for a full picture and to see if institutions altered original plans.

To date, nearly half of institutions represented have not yet announced plans for the Fall 2020 term. Just over 40% of responding institutions plan to re-open in Fall 2020 with in-person classes and restrictions such as class size limits, social distancing, and other strategies such as lower student density or altered schedules. Although there was a quick shift by all institutions during the Spring 2020 term to conducting all courses online, less than 10% of institutions report that they will conduct all courses online for the Fall 2020 term.

Data Brief 2020-007 chart 03: Institutional plans for Fall 2020 (credit: AGI)

We will continue to provide current snapshots on the impacts of COVID-19 on the geoscience enterprise throughout the year. For more information, and to participate in the study, please visit:

Funding for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation (Award #2029570). The results and interpretation of the survey are the views of the American Geosciences Institute and not those of the National Science Foundation.

Date updated: 2020-06-12
Data Brief 2020-007
Written and compiled by Leila Gonzales and Christopher Keane, AGI, June 2020

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