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I have seen several conferences that specify:

If multiple papers are accepted for presentation, each paper requires a separate registration fee.

Why? Is that purely financially motivated (e.g. an author with 2 submissions may cause another potential attendee not to come, or cost of submitting the paper to the publisher), or does it aim to reduce multiple submissions from the same author? Are there other reasons?

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    Because they can? – Dan Romik Nov 2 '15 at 20:58
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    What do you suppose the registration fee pays for? Perhaps there are separate expenses for each paper. – GEdgar Nov 2 '15 at 21:16
  • Also relevant: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutton%27s_law – Dan Romik Nov 3 '15 at 11:15
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    Since the answer is obvious, can you tell me what percentage of the registration fee typically goes to paper-related expenses? – Franck Dernoncourt Nov 3 '15 at 14:52
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For most conferences, the primary costs are:

  • Venue
  • Catering
  • Society fees
  • Program and proceedings
  • Keynote / scholarship travel sponsorship

The price of these is wildly variable depending on the arrangements that have been made. At the low end, consider a conference using university meeting rooms, asking people to go out for lunch on their own, using volunteer labor and keeping program and proceedings electronic. This can be extremely cheap, on the order of a couple of dollars per attendee, even for a rather large meeting.

When a conference meets in a hotel, the expenses go up like crazy. For a week-long conference in a major city hotel, the venue and catering expenses can easily run as high as $500/person. These are often required to be booked far in advance, based on the number of people expected to register for the conference, and there may be limited flexibility to change these numbers if attendance falls short. Hotels also frequently ask a conference to have attendees book in the hotel, and will ask for "insurance" from a conference in the form of a commitment to get at least a certain number of rooms booked and to pay for unbooked rooms if the conference falls short of that commitment. This can add thousands of dollars of expenses. These factors can operate at universities too, which sometimes demand high venue and catering fees even when their own professors are organizing.

With an expensive venue, then, a conference's organizers can thus get very nervous about whether they will have enough money to cover their anticipated expenses, if registrations are less than anticipated. This is especially the case if the conference has had difficulty meeting its expenses in the past, and may be in trouble with its sponsoring society as a result.

Forcing people to register per paper is one response to trying to avoid this type of shortfall. Not only is there the fee, but if you're registering a second time, you're more likely to send a second person from the group, who will likely have their own hotel room. For a conference that may be facing a shortfall in its hotel commitments, a single registration easily can be worth $2000 in increased income and decreased hotel penalty.

Personally, I still don't approve: I think that a conference operating at such a razor's edge would do better to take other approaches to trying to make up its budget shortfall. I can understand, however, why the organizers of respectable conferences sometimes choose to do it: it's not that they are getting rich, but that they are trying to keep from going bankrupt while they make their venue rich.

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Why... The conference organizers make money on attendees. Do you really need such a conference?

(Never seen this business in my professional field; up to 2-3 presentations per author are free of additional charges)

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Apart from @jakebeal's answer, I believe the charges per paper are imposed as publication charges. It is true that the factors like venue, catering and travel sponsorship are the same regardless of multiple publications in the same conference, the article itself is considered doesn't.

This is because some conferences may have a hard limit on the number of articles to be published and the accommodation charges (like those constant factors) are arranged on that basis. Although you don't consume the resources allocated for that conference more than for what is provided for a single person, they are allocated for you nonetheless. Of course in other conferences, such expenses can be dynamic as the allocation of resources can be done after the total members (not total papers) are confirmed.

IMHO, I don't really think it would be advisable to publish more than one paper in the same conference as far as the corresponding author is concerned. You would be able to get a diverse feedback when publishing in separate conferences.

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    Actual cost per paper in actual society publication charges is typically very low compared to registration costs---what I've seen is on the order of $50 or less. – jakebeal Nov 4 '15 at 6:35
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    In any given year, I'd be thrilled to publish more than one paper at any of our three top-tier conferences. The prestige of the conference easily outweighs the limited feedback obtained elsewhere. – user38309 Nov 4 '15 at 6:57
  • @jakebeal: True, the rest comes along with the preallocated resources per author based on the number of manuscripts with the assumption that most authors would publish only one paper in the conference. – Ébe Isaac Nov 4 '15 at 7:01
  • most of publishers do not charge for publishing papers. Quite the contrary, top publishers like Springer/IEEE/ACM would pay the organizers for publishing papers (or give free proceedings copies/access). Proceedings are normally sold, though, thus, if conference organizers want to distribute them to participants - it is an extra cost – al_b Nov 9 '15 at 9:33
  • @al_b Your assertion is incorrect, at least as far as IEEE is concerned. The costs are low, but they most certainly do charge. – jakebeal Oct 3 '16 at 11:17

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