To Fee or Not to Fee

Charging for Abstract Submissions remains the great devide among STEMM associations, but one has crossed to the other side with surprising results

With Hamlet, William Shakespeare writes his most-quoted soliloquy, which begins: “To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles.” In these and the next few lines, CTI will explain the consequences on charging for abstract submissions or not.


Should STEMM associations stick with their policy about charging for abstract submissions or take action and risk the uncertainty of flipping to the other side? For those who charge a fee (often called a handling or processing fee), are they suppressing submissions from financially disadvantaged scientists? For those who don’t charge a fee, are they passing up a steady stream of revenue that could help meet rising conference costs? Executives from at least one association can answer these questions because they recently did make a switch, and the results were nothing like they expected. 


There may be no better proof of the potential gold in abstract fees than to look at submissions for the last annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). In 2017, their Posters on display exceeded 13,000—which would have brought in $1.6 million with the association’s charge of $125 fee per submission (which has gone up to $135 for 2018). Apparently, these costs have not discouraged submitters. And their participation no doubt pumps up attendance at the annual meeting, which typically exceeds 30,000.

With membership at 36,000, SfN has a considerable base to help feed their submission pipeline. Smaller associations don’t have that luxury and many don’t want a fee to diminish the science presented at their meetings. “We’re always looking for revenue,” says Bradley Pine, Vice President for Education and Meetings at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), “but I would rather not generate it on the back of our scientific attendees.” While the AACC has twenty-two thousand attend the annual meeting, it has 8,000 members, and of the nearly 1,000 abstracts and posters submitted, Pine says, “A lot come from students, fellows, and international folks who might find fees a barrier to submission.”


Interested to know all about this? Visit CTI's blog here. 


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