[Coral-List] Registration cost for 12th ICRS

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Mon Jul 25 22:13:04 EDT 2011

I have attended all reef meetings since the third one in Miami.  The early meetings were small (<300 people), held on university casmpuses where we stayed in dorms (this includes the 1988 meeting in Townesville Australia), or less expensive venues (1981 Manila, 1996 Panama).  These early meetings may also have had better outside support to reduce costs.  

More recently the trend has been to hold the meeting in more expensive hotels and conference centers.  I am sure this has been caused by the increasing number of people studying coral reefs in some fashion or another (paralleling overall human population growth), as well as expanding the scope of the subject matter included in the presentations.  About half the more recent meetings has been filled by management oriented work.  One way to possibilty reduce the size of the meetings and thus be able to return to more reasoanbly priced venues, is to use block scheduling to separate out the management/societal talks to the last 2-3 days (or 1st 2-3 days), as well as group other related topics so that people interested in one of the blocks can come for 2-4 days that include the blocks most of interest.  I understand that there is the thinking research scientists all need to be more involved with the societal stuff and viceversa, but the reality is that with 10 to 12 concurrent sessions, you are only going to be ablt to hear at most 10 % of the talks, and thus you will likely select those few sessions closer to your own field of study. 

In any case, I was planning to attend the 12th meeting, likely as my last, but I cannot afford the rates I have been reading on the posts, so I will likely join the others who will only read about the meeting.

Not sure if the organizers have a way to secure some major funding to fix this problem.  If not they may find the meeting attendance will be much smaller than anticipated.


Alina Szmant

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Coral Reef Research Program, Center for Marine Science
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane
Wilmington NC 28409
Tel:  (910)962-2362; fax: (910)962-2410;  cell:  (910)200-3913
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Glazer, Bob [Bob.Glazer at MyFWC.com]
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2011 11:35 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Registration cost for 12th ICRS

I've been following this thread with a great deal of déjà vu.  Each year we host a small 'boutique' conference (~350 people) and each year we go through the same deliberations - how do we keep costs low yet still provide value for our membership?  Even with rising costs, we focus on this question.  Ultimately, the venue and the services are based on that simple question.  It is fundamental.  Not all of the solutions are easy but our 5 day, simultaneously interpreted conference with Proceedings still only costs $150 per registrant (early registration) and $75 per student.

There are a lot of criticisms and few solutions that have been discussed in this thread but those that have are worth considering.  In the spirit of proving constructive ideas, here are five recommendations off the top of my head; some of these have already been proposed. This is just a short list and there are likely many other areas where costs can be cut and the meeting can still be incredibly valuable for the membership.

1.       Regionalize the meetings with a focus on making the global meeting smaller - a few posts have talked about developing regional meetings and this makes good sense.   The Society for Conservation Biology, World Aquaculture Society, American Fisheries Society and many others do this with great success.  Also, the fact of the matter is that 2,000 to 3,000 people is unwieldy not only for the host, but also for the participant due to the numerous concurrent sessions.  Regional meetings with less-frequent and smaller global meeting may be a model that addresses a lot of the issues including finding hosts, venues, and funds to support the meeting.

2.       Eliminate the printed Book of Abstracts - we went to this model last year.  We provide a Book of Abstracts online for free ahead of time in an attractive format (page-flipping software and pdf) so that individuals can download the Book.  We received absolutely no negative comments about this change.  Besides the obvious environmental benefits to an online only Book of Abstracts, this was a significant cost savings not only in terms of printing but also shipping.

3.       Choose venues that are less expensive - although this may reduce the number of organizations that are willing to volunteer to host the meeting, it makes good sense from a budgetary standpoint.  Our ultimate A#1 hosting venue is an all-inclusive resort because this model reduces substantially the costs involved from meeting rooms, to coffee breaks and food/entertainment.  In combination with number 1 above, this may be feasible in the sense that if there are more regional meetings, the large international meeting will likely be smaller making more venues accessible.   Unfortunately, all-inclusives often are not environmentally or politically optimal, but hosting a meeting at one of these venues serves as an opportunity to influence policies.

4.       Do away with included meals in the registration costs - just a quick back of the envelope estimate suggests that the cost for the sit down lunches for 2,000 people is likely around $30,000 per meal ($15/person) or $150,000 for the week.  That is huge.  Obviously, this will require a venue situated in a location that can handle a large number of delegates going to lunch at the same time.  Again, an argument for smaller conferences.

5.       Go a la carte with the organizational services - there are likely a number of activities that can be easily accomplished without using the meeting organizer (e.g., venue selection and contract negotiations, activity organization, poster session organization) and probably some that are not (e.g., online conference registration, interpretation.)  Some posts on the list have mentioned the Ft. Lauderdale meeting and how that was accomplished with a great deal of organization and volunteer time and that this provides benefits to students.  Indeed!

In short, perhaps the biggest problem with regards to the massive amount of funds required to hold this meeting is that the size of the meeting eliminates a number of options relative to reducing costs.  I sympathize with the host and the choices that I am sure will be on the table in the future.

Robert Glazer
Associate Research Scientist
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
2796 Overseas Highway, Ste. 119
Marathon, FL 33050
305-289-2330; 305-289-2334 (fax)
bob.glazer at myfwc.com

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