Is there an etiquette followed for asking about a possible (even if small) honorarium for invited talks? These are not talks at conferences but a stand-alone event on campus, open to the public, and rather stressful. As an early career academic I know this is quite important to have on a CV, and would accept the talk regardless, but would like to ask whether they would be able to pay me for this labor. Is there a way to do this kindly and courteously?

  • 5
    If you ask for it, then by definition it's a fee, not an honorarium. Whether you can ask for it kindly and courteously is a separate question (to which I expect the answer is not really - at least for an early career academic - but I'm not sure enough to post this as an answer).
    – Dan Romik
    Feb 6, 2017 at 18:48
  • If it's your own university, you won't get money for your own pocket, but make the organisers (or anybody else who passes down such tasks to you) understand that they owe you for it. I assume these are PR shows, rather "unscientific"? Don't put more than a few of those on your academic CV. ;-) For any event organised by a third party, I'd flat-out refuse if they don't pay up.
    – Karl
    Feb 6, 2017 at 19:03
  • It may depend on the field, but most academics generally speak for free or if invited speaker, the organizers provide transportation, per diem etc.Off course, if you are a really big shot, you may command some financial reward, but other ose you better talk gluten free diets or something similar if money what you want.
    – Greg
    Feb 7, 2017 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


[All of the following written from the perspective of mathematics, sciences, or geosciences where departments generally are not sitting on piles of corporate donations and industry funds.]

If you are talking about seminar talks at other universities, then the answer is that "no, there is no procedure for asking". As a general rule, giving seminar or colloquium talks at other places is part of your job duties and not a side business. It is generally expected by your department that you do it. If you do it only because someone pays you money for it, then it becomes a side business. If you consistently think that giving seminar talks is high-stress, then you need to either reconsider whether you're in the right line of business, or just not accept any invitations.

Now, some universities or departments will voluntarily give you a honorarium. If they offer that, you can accept it with gratitude. But most departments will not offer one, and asking for one is sure to make for a very awkward situation; it is also sure to make you look bad in the community.

All of this is of course separate from reimbursement of actual travel costs. You can expect that these are paid for, i.e., that you do not make a loss by giving a talk.

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    This sounds to me less like a seminar talk and more like a popular lecture, intended for the benefit of the community at large rather than researchers only. My institution organizes something similar. As one data point, we contacted a potential speaker, and he said something like "let me know the details of dates, audience, reimbursements, honorarium, etc", clearly hinting that he expected to receive an honorarium. On our end it wasn't so much awkward as "oh yeah, we really ought to have one, let's line up the funding". Feb 7, 2017 at 0:10
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    @NateEldredge -- maybe. If you're a well funded department at a well funded university, this may be feasible. If you're Smalltown State University and the English Language department, it may not. I would hope that academics do not automatically assume that they can expect a honorarium, or that department will never get any speakers any more. Feb 7, 2017 at 4:09

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