[Coral-List] ICRS Registration Fees

Selina Ward s.ward at cms.uq.edu.au
Fri Jul 22 00:47:56 EDT 2011

I am not part of the organisation of ICRS and do not write on their behalf at all. I am just an observer with conference organising experience. It is really unfortunate that the cost of getting to Australia and the cost of registration will preclude many from attending, but please think carefully before apportioning blame to the organisers of ICRS for all of this. I am alarmed by the mounting hysteria regarding the registration rate for next year and feel that much of it is illinformed.
Some of the recent posts are written as if the organisers have some sort of personal gain to look forward to out of this. Organising large conferences entails huge amounts of work for many people and is usually rather thankless and, with a meeting like this, I would guess it is extremely unlikely to result in any profit for those organising it. 
At the end of Florida, there were no bids for 2012 and this organisation stepped in so that there could be an ICRS, rather than there be no meeting next year. They have worked very hard to raise sponsorship funds and continue to do so. But Australia is a difficult environment to raise sponsorship funds. We have a small population and there is not the culture of philanthropy that exists in the USA, not to mention the obvious difficulties in global finance at present. Therefore we would not expect that financial backing in 2012 would equal that of the last meeting in 2008, though I have no idea of the actual numbers from either meeting. Also the venue hire for 2008 was donated which eliminated a major cost for the meeting. 
Australia is an expensive country to run a meeting. The organisers cannot help that. Our dollar has become more valuable than anyone would have predicted back in 2008. There is very little choice in the type of venue that can be used to run a conference this big. Only the large convention centres can hold this many people and they are expensive places.
Todd Barber’s suggestion that someone is ‘making a fortune out of this’ through his guesses at the sponsorship success was ridiculous. For a start, adding up the levels of requested sponsorship bears no relationship to how much sponsorship has actually been raised. He could have no idea about that number. These sponsorship levels also wouldn’t relate directly to actual costs of things – they are suggested sponsorship opportunities and these sponsorships would be used to subsidise the registration rate. The cost of running a 5 day conference like this in a venue like this would be way over the suggested registration rates, as the organisers explained. Todd also implied that keynote speakers are getting paid. What was actually said was that their travel and accommodation expenses were being covered – these are not the same things and covering these costs is a normal expectation for an international conference. 
When comparing the cost of registration for this conference with other events, it is important to compare like events. There is no point in comparing with a 3 day conference or a conference that supplies no catering or a conference that runs 3 concurrent sessions rather than 12 or so. When comparing with conferences in Australia of comparable length, this is not expensive. 
Someone mentioned that past ICRS were organised within departments with no outside help. Perhaps this was in the years when this was a much smaller meeting and the expectations were much lower. I would find it very difficult to believe that any of the last 4 ICRS meetings were organised in this manner. Professional conference organisers are routinely used for large meetings, but they do not do everything. There will still be the need for staff in the host organisation to do vast amounts of work. 
Everyone, and I am sure this includes the organisers, would like to see lower registration rates for ICRS, but the current model needs to change for that to be possible. I feel that for future ICRS, the ISRS needs to take a central role in raising sponsorship at a global level. Perhaps there could be a committee chosen from the membership with experience in this area, which could work to raise at least some of these funds and take some of the pressure off the organising committee. That way there would be a chance of getting successful bids from less affluent countries. In the present system, a successful bid has to be ‘financially secure’ with guarantees of substantial financial backing, which suggests that only a very few countries will be able to succeed.
Selina Ward
Dr Selina Ward
Level 3, Gehrmann Building
Biological Sciences
The University of Queensland
Brisbane Qld 4072

Ph 07 33653307
Fax 07 3365 4755
Mob 0434 011988
Em selinaward at uq.edu.au

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Todd Barber [reefball at reefball.com]
Sent: Thursday, 21 July 2011 10:45 PM
To: Yellowlees, David
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] ICRS Registration Fees

I have professionally run similar conferences in another industry, and
here are a few observations:

1) If you hire a professional firm to manage a conference, you should
not need to pay the salary of a staffer.
2) A $3,000,000 Budget for a conference if this size is the REAL
problem....now I don't know the line item detail but it's way out of
line.  And that's where I believe we may have been led wrong here.
and David, you are wrong " The size of the budget will not surprise
anyone with any experience in running a large international
meeting."...I am shocked.
3) I DO agree that it's good to move the meeting around so that people
have a chance to attend from different parts of the world with less
travel costs.
4) I must wonder....why so much of the budget has to be spent on Guest
and keynote speakers....it seems in this field most of the experts we
would want to hear from would likely be coming on their own
already...perhaps we should cut back on this perk and offer them just
an honorarium and perhaps even have the most expensive (travel wise)
keynoters deliver their addresses electronically to the convention via
Skype perhaps.
5) If we attend a conference with this much waste are we not condoning
perhaps even promoting this wasteful behavior?
6)  If anyone out there agrees with me, I started a facebook group
page  https://www.facebook.com/groups/135869123163838 to boycott the
wasteful spending (and to take the discussion offline from the Coral
List as it distracts from our main goals).  Feel free to post your
opinions there, if you are not going to the conference because of the
high costs, please put your name on that page so we can send a message
of just how much business they lost by over budgeting.

> There have been some postings on Coral List expressing concern at the cost
>  of registration for the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) next
>  July. We are writing to clarify the basis for these fees and provide an
>  update  on continuing efforts to support those in need of financial assistance to
>  attend this important meeting.
> The fees are set on the basis of actual costs and expected income, and
>  reflect the realities of the present global economy.  The expenditures for ICRS
>  2012 come to more than A$3million including the cost of the convention
>  centre, lunch and coffee breaks for 5 days, travel and accommodation for plenary
>  speakers, the hire of audio-visual equipment, the banquet, the cost of a
>  Professional Conference Organizer, media, and one salary for the symposium
>  coordinator. The size of the budget will not surprise anyone with any experience
>  in running a large international meeting.
> The International Society for Reef Studies, while the sanctioning
>  organization, does not possess sufficient funds to directly subsidise the Symposium,
>  although the society is working with conference organisers to assist with
>  external fundraising efforts.  So the income for ICRS 2012 will come from
>  registration fees and sponsorships. If 2000 registrants pay $1000 each, we'll
>  raise only 2/3 of the fixed expenditure. Our fundraising efforts, which are
>  ongoing, will therefore subsidise registration fees by approximately one-third,
>  and will provide free registration and travel support for developing nation
>  delegates to the maximum extent possible. The Symposium website will soon
>  have details for applicants.  The money we are raising under difficult global
>  circumstances will allow us to reduce the registration fees from $1500 (the
>  true cost, depending on the final number of delegates) to roughly $1000 (or
>  less for students).
> The comparison of Florida with Cairns doesn't deal with the fiscal reality
>  of differences in local costs that have to be paid. Previous meetings in
>  Tahiti and Okinawa were also relatively expensive compared to those held in the
>  USA, reflecting differences in currencies and cost of living. The U.S.
>  dollar has dropped in value against the Australian dollar by roughly 20% since
>  2007 when registration opened for ICRS 2008 (1.18A: 1USD in August 2007
>  compared with 0.93A: 1 USD today), a problem that could not have been foreseen
>  three years ago.  It should also be recognized that no bids were presented to
>  host the 12th ICRS at the Florida meeting, and the present organisers stepped
>  up when all other options, including sites in Central and South America,
>  fell through.   In Florida, the convention centre waived its fee, and
>  registration fees were heavily subsidized by Federal and State agencies through the
>  efforts of Dick Dodge and his team.  Some people were able to drive to the
>  mee
>  ting and boost the Symposium's income by paying a daily fee. These
>  circumstances simply do not exist for the 12th ICRS.
> I anticipate an increase in the number of students attending the next ICRS
>  meeting, with many more from the Pacific, Japan, SE Asia and east Africa..
>  Attendance by people from these regions was poor in Florida despite the lower
>  registration cost, because the primary expense of airfares, hotels and meals
>  was prohibitive. Hence, the rationale for moving these Symposia around every
>  4 years.
> We're working hard to make ICRS 2012 a great success, and we look forward to
>  seeing you there.
> All the best, Terry Hughes
> Convenor, ICRS 2012
> Message from the President of the International Society for Reef Studies
>  (ISRS) regarding the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS)
> I and my fellow ISRS colleagues, officers and council members have been
>  following the concerns being expressed regarding the fees for the upcoming ICRS,
>  and agree that the costs will prevent many deserving individuals from
>  attending, especially students and participants from developing countries. This
>  is truly unfortunate, and there are efforts underway by the organizers and
>  ISRS to address this problem.
> As documented by the Organizers, these fees reflect the true costs in the
>  present global economic climate of reduced subsidies and funding by
>  governments and foundations, as well as the 20% devaluation of the US dollar versus
>  the Australian currency that has occurred since 2007-8 .  The hosting
>  organization, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef
>  Studies, simply cannot be expected to cover the expense of the meetings out of
>  their own budget, and must be able to cover the costs through fees,
>  contributions and any extramural funds that can be raised.  The meeting is only a
>  year away, and the organizers must move forward based on their present
>  financial projections.
> They have been working hard to obtain support for students and other
>  participants in need of assistance, and have done well considering present economic
>  conditions.  In the meantime, ISRS is pledging to work closely with the
>  12th ICRS organizers to try and secure additional funds to cover or at least
>  subsidize the participation of more individuals needing support, and explore
>  options for the sharing of information including via internet access to
>  sessions and key presentations for those unable to travel to Cairns.
> My first ICRS was the 3rd, held in Miami in 1977, with several hundred
>  attendees clearly divided into two categories: biologists and geologists..  These
>  important meetings have grown in size and scope to include two to three
>  thousand individuals, with representation from the biological, geological and
>  social sciences, as well as managers, educators, policy makers, and the
>  private sector.  We are fortunate that Terry Hughes and his colleagues at the ARC
>  Centre of Excellence were willing to take on such a challenge.
> It has become impossible for many appropriate countries to host these
>  expanded meetings under the present model, and hence, the ISRS is considering
>  other options for the future.  These may include smaller regional meetings,
>  expanded use of the web for satellite sites, teaming up with other appropriate
>  professional  societies and meetings to cost-share, and having ISRS take over
>  running the meetings.  I would appreciate ideas and input from the Coral
>  Reef community (and if you're not a member of ISRS, I suggest you do join, as
>  we're moving forward and would like to grow the society and its relevance).
> In the meantime, I hope you will support the organizers of the 12th ICRS and
>  help make this a highly successful meeting.  We need to pull together for
>  the sake of our reefs and the future generations who need these magnificent
>  ecosystems.
> Respectfully,
> Bob Richmond, President, ISRS
> Richmond at hawaii.edu
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