[Coral-List] ICRS costs
hdewar at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 22 12:57:57 EDT 2011
Thanks for your generosity in sharing this listserve with non-
scientists. It has helped me do my work better. I'm an environmental
journalist, not a coral scientist, so I'm ignorant of a great many
things - but the funding model that Dr. Richmond describes for the
12th ICRS seems very different than the funding model for
professional conferences I've attended.
I've helped plan a couple of the 21 national conferences of the
Society of Environmental Journalists, which draw well over 1,000
attendees from the U.S. and other countries. (I'm not an officer of
the organization and never have been, so what follows isn't
authoritative.) Unlike ICRS attendees, most SEJ attendees are from
North America, though there is a fellowship program that subsidizes a
few attendees from overseas. Keeping registration fees low is a high
priority, since the overwhelming majority of members pay 100% of
their conference costs out of their own pockets, usually giving up
vacation days to do so.
To keep costs down, SEJ lines up grant support before choosing the
conference site. In fact, site selection is heavily influenced by the
amount of financial aid being offered by the sponsor and host, which
must be an academic institution - usually a university. This
financial aid comes in a number of forms: the use of conference and
exhibit space, audio, video and computer equipment, and professional
meeting planners; subsidies for coffee breaks, local transportation,
printing, canvas goodie bags etc.; sponsorship of receptions and
other events; and cash. SEJ moves the conference around the country
from year to year to get a good cross-section of relevant issues, and
to make the meeting accessible to members who can't afford long-
distance travel. We usually have more than one institution bidding to
host the conference, and the amounts of the potential hosts' pledges
are a major factor in site selection. Thus, we have the essential
financial aid locked in before we commit to a site. If we can't get a
sponsor at the site we want - well, we deal with our disappointment
and go some place we can afford.
I attended the Fort Lauderdale ICRS, and though our professions are
different, our conferences are very similar (down to the unofficial
dress code; our tribe's customs are a lot like yours). We have about
the same number of attendees; have at least as many field trips to
remote outdoor sites, as well as post-conference tours, with all the
associated costs of boat, bus and gear rental and the labor involved
in planning them; cover about the same number of days, plenaries,
topical tracks and small group sessions; attract speakers of national
and international prominence within our fields; require about the
same meeting and exhibit space, equipment, local transportation, etc.
SEJ does have a small staff. One staffer works nearly full-time on
the annual conference and the 3-4 other staffers pitch in as needed,
and a professional meeting planner handles registration and some
logistics. But most of the work for the conference - everything from
persuading potential host institutions to make a bid, to arranging
field trips and lining up plenary speakers - is done by member
SEJ early bird fees this year are $195 for members, $80 for students.
Non-member rates range from $510 for individuals to $1,100 for
I wonder if ISRS has ever considered this funding model - sponsorship
and grant commitments prior to site selection?
Admittedly there is a big difference between a national and an
international conference. It's unlikely that many developing
countries have sponsor institutions willing to bid for the privilege
of hosting ICRS, so that would probably limit your selection to First
World countries. That would be unfortunate. But is it more
unfortunate than having many students and scientists unable to even
consider attending because the registration fees are so high?
You may think SEJ has an easy time attracting sponsors because a
journalist's group offers good publicity to the host institution. In
fact SEJ conference contracts explicity deny the host any content
control and make it plain there is no guarantee the host institution
(or any of its faculty or programs) will get press coverage of any
kind. In the pre-conference discussions that I've taken part in, we
stressed those points repeatedly and rejected most of the host's
suggestions for speakers and session topics. And the Fort Lauderdale
ICRS produced far more press coverage than any SEJ conference ever
has, by an order of magnitude. (That may be an artifact of that ICRS'
North American location, and not typical.) In fact, maintaining a
professionally-staffed press room seems to be one of only two
conference expenses that SEJ does not share with ICRS; the other is
the publication of conference abstracts.
I look forward to learning why this model could or could not work for
BTW, this year's SEJ conference is in Miami Oct. 19-23 , so coral
science is definitely on the agenda, and some of this listserve's
members will be sharing their expertise with us.
hdewar at earthlink.net
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