The cost of participating in international scientific conferences steadily rises. Currently, registration fees range from $100 to $500 or more. While scientists may grumble among themselves about these high fees, they continue meekly to pay them. Are these high fees justified?

It seems to depend, in part, on the kind of conference. Nonprofit groups like professional societies, research institutions and universities set a fee that covers the actual costs of the meeting. If an outside subsidy is available, the fee can be minimized or even eliminated.

For example, I recently organized a meeting in Jerusalem for the European Group for Rapid Viral Diagnosis. About 150 scientists from 14 countries attended. The meeting was held on the campus of the Hebrew University, saving us the cost of renting a lecture hail. We did have to pay for the usual services (cleaning, telephones, printing, and so forth). The total cost of the...

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