There is a recurring pattern I see in conferences organized by several professional associations. Two different conference fees are offered, X for members and Y for non-members, with Y>X. Often, the annual membership fee for said professional associations is less than Y-X, so becoming member is cheaper than paying the non-member fee. For example, for different reasons today I have stumbled upon the pages of this, this and this conference.
I can only see two possible reasons for this practice, both ethically dubious:
- to force people to become members, increasing artificially the dimension of the professional association.
- to "move" funds from the conference treasure to the association treasure, leaving them available for a larger number of activities.
Often conference fees are paid by research funds, while membership fees are paid personally by the researchers, so this practice also has unpleasant side-effects on their personal finances.
- Am I overlooking more plausible justifications for this practice? Do you agree with my analysis?
- How ethical do you find this practice?
- Should I raise the issue with the professional societies I am a member* of?
*: You can probably guess the reason why I am a member. :(