In the past years, I noticed a clear inflation on conference fees, inflation that I feel unjustified… I already mentioned the huge $720 fees for the Winter Simulation Conference (WSC 2012), which were certainly not all due to the heating bill! Even conferences held by and in universities or societies seem to face the same doom: to stick to conferences I will attend—and do support, to the point of being directly or indirectly involved—, take for instance Bayes 250 in London (RSS Headquarters), £135, Bayes 250 at Duke, $190, both one day-long, and O-Bayes 2013, also at Duke, $480 (in par with JSM fees)… While those later conferences include side “benefits” like meals and banquet, the amount remains large absolutive. Too large. And prohibitive for participants from less-favoured countries (possibly including speakers themselves in the case of O-Bayes 2013). And also counter-productive in the case of both Bayes 250 conferences since we want to get together to celebrate two and a half centuries of Bayesian statistics. Since most of the talks there will be partly commemorative, rather than on the brink of research, I fear some people may have to make a choice to allocate their meagre research funds to other conferences. And I do not understand why universities now consider organising meetings as a source of income rather than as a natural part of their goals.
Now, you may ask, and what about MCMski on which I have more than a modicum of control..?! Well, the sole cost there is renting the conference centre in Chamonix, which is the only place I knew where a large conference could be held. Apart from that, no frill! The coffee breaks will be few and frugal, there will be no free lunch or breakfast or banquet, and no one will get a free entry or a paid invitation. As a result, the registration fee is only 170€ for three days (plus a free satellite meeting the next day), an amount computed on an expected number of participants of 150 and which could lead me to pay the deficit from my own research grants in case I am wrong. (And may I recall the “ABC in…” series, which has been free of fees so far!)
My point, overall, is that we should aim at more frugal meetings, in order to attract larger and more diverse crowds (even though fees are only part of the equation, lodging and travelling can be managed to some extent as long as the workshop is not in too an exotic location).