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Per Engzell, Arun Frey and Mark Verhagen named as Recipients of 2021 Cozzarelli Prize

The Cozzarelli Prize, which recognizes “outstanding scientific quality and originality,” was recently awarded to Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science (LCDS) researchers Per Engzell, Arun Frey, and Mark Verhagen. The prize is given to scientists who have published excellent research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the past year. One prize is awarded in each of the six classes of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. The LCDS researchers won the Behavioral and Social Sciences category for their article “Learning loss due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic”, featured on the cover of the April 2021 issue of PNAS.


In their work, Engzell, Frey, and Verhagen studied the effects of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic using test score data from the Netherlands. Analysis of twice-yearly tests before and after an 8-week nationwide lockdown in 2020, when face-to-face instruction was suspended, revealed a learning loss of 3 percentile points—equivalent to one-fifth of a typical school year—compared with the same period in the preceding 3 years. The loss was exacerbated among students from less well-educated homes, indicating the school closures’ uneven demographic toll on student learning. The researchers concluded that “students made little or no progress while learning from home”.


Pictured from left to right: Mark Verhagen, Arun Frey, and Per Engzell.

Their research was widely reported in the media, having been cited by hundreds of news outlets, tweeted nearly 6,000 times, and scored by Altmetric as one of the 20 most discussed pieces of research worldwide in 2021. Commenting on the honour, Mark Verhagen said “This research should serve as recognition to all the teachers, parents, and students who have struggled through two years of interrupted schooling”. Arun Frey commented, “Our research shows that social scientists can really reach out into the world and make a difference, as long as we are attuned to society’s ongoing challenges and find new ways of addressing them.”


The 2021 Cozzarelli Prize will be presented on May 1st, 2022, in a livestreamed ceremony at the 159th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences from 2:00PM–3:30PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

Reference: Engzell, P., Frey, A., & Verhagen, M. D. (2021). Learning loss due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(17), e2022376118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022376118

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