UbiComp 2013 General Co-ChairMany people ask us about our registration rates. You might have asked yourself why attending a bunch of talks for three days in a University should cost USD700,- (early rate for ACM/IEEE members), or why the non-member rate is almost twice as much as the student rate, or why we’re even charging in US Dollar. With the early registration deadline less than 24 hours away, I wanted to briefly answer some of these questions.Let us start with getting an overall picture of the typical expenses that a conference registration covers, using actual figures from our budget.

Based on actual registration figures from previous UbiComp and Pervasive conferences, we started out with an expected distribution among student participants (~42%), member participants (~35%), and non-member participants (~12%). The remaining 11% are free registrations, e.g., for student volunteers, keynote speakers, or doctoral school students. Averaging the respective registration fees that we set, together with an expected distribution of “early-to-late” registrations (we are using a conservative 90:10 ratio here), we can compute the average income per participant: Together with sponsoring money, we expect to have a total income of just about USD 615.- per participant, with roughly USD 560.- of this coming from registration fees. Figure 1 below shows this breakdown:

Figure 1: Average income per participant is USD 605,- (including sponsorship money)

Figure 1: Average income per participant is USD 615,- (including sponsorship money)

Given that student fees are USD 450.- we effectively subsidize each student registration with USD 110.-. This money thus needs to be added back to the “regular” member and non-member fees. Note that we also need to compensate those 11% free registrations, such as the Doctoral School participants or the Student Volunteers.

On our expenses side, we just about match the average expected income, with average expenses of USD 605.-. Figure 2 below shows how those expenses are distributed among the different categories.

The lion share takes up catering, with over 50% of the cost. We roughly spend about USD 45.- per day for food at the conference venue, some USD 30.- for the welcome reception, and USD 130.- for the social dinner. Why is the social dinner so expensive? For starters, this includes not only food but also beverages, i.e., wine and beer. Also, with such a large crowd, the costs per person go up as the numbers increase, given that there are actually very few venues available that can successfully cater to such large groups. Last but not least: Food is expensive in Switzerland (just try going out for dinner while you are here!) 🙂

Figure 2: Average Expenses per Participant.

Figure 2: Average Expenses per Participant.

Let us go through the remaining items (shown in Figure 2 above):

  • ACM Fees: ACM sponsored conferences have to pay a fee of 16% on expenses to ACM. This money is used to not only support ACM conference services, but also to directly support the sponsoring SIGs, in our case SIGCHI and SIGMOBILE (both at 50%). The SIGs in turn can use some of this money to help run future editions of the conference. In our case, we receive over USD 20,000.- from both SIGCHI and SIGMOBILE, which we used almost in its entirety to fund Student Travel Grants (we are giving out USD 20,500.- in Student Travel Grants this year!).
  • Contingency is a way to enforce a sound budget, by forcing conference organizers to budget for a “safety net” of at least 15% of expenses (including the aforementioned ACM fee) that can be drawn upon in case of an unforeseen financial loss. If all works well, this money (as well as any profit remaining), will go to ACM and in turn to the sponsoring SIGs. Also note that in case the conference makes a loss, ACM would pick up the bill, so ACM carries the full financial risk of the conference!
  • On-Site: While running a conference at a University is considerably cheaper than doing this at a commercial venues such as a hotel or conference center (i.e., the University effectively sponsors the rooms), we do incur extra costs for security and facility management. In particular, several events will run past the regular working ours (e.g., the welcome reception on Tuesday, or in fact the workshop program on Monday, as this is a public holiday in Zurich), for which we will need to pay additional fees. Last but not least, we have expenses for signage, the registration desk, and other miscellaneous infrastructure (eg., power plugs, poster boards).
  • Delegates’ Pack: This includes the printed program (which is hefty, given that we have four parallel tracks with over 40 paper sessions this year!), an electronic version of the program (i.e., a smartphone app), the badge & lanyards, and the proceedings on a USB stick.
  • Registration Costs: ACM conferences enjoy very favorable rates when using RegOnline as the registration system. However, we do have to pay a fee per registration, as well as the usual credit card processing charges.
  • Reviewing Process: UbiComp and Pervasive always had a very rigorous review process, requiring all PC members to join a physical PC meeting to make the final program selection. While PC members have to pay for their own travel and accommodation, we provide food and logistical support for this PC meeting. With over 80 PC members and staff over two days, this is a significant undertaking!
  • Other Fees include expenses to create flyers and posters, the dinner for the Doctoral School, travel expenses for invited speakers, and IEEE fees necessary for co-locating ISWC.

Note that ACM requires a discount of at least 25% for members, which explains the big discrepancy between member- and non-member rates. Due to the co-location with ISWC, these discounts are of course also available to IEEE members. We only offer a “ACM/IEEE member” rate for students because a student non-member rate would be some 20% more expensive. Given that ACM and IEEE student membership feels are really low, this just does not make sense.

Given that UbiComp 2013 is the first edition after the merger of UbiComp and Pervasive, we really have a lot of unknowns in terms of attendance. So in order to encourage participants to register as early as possible, we decided to make the early registration significantly cheaper than the regular (i.e., late) registration rate. To offset this, however, we additionally offer daily rates this year, which should still allow one to spontaneously attend if a particular session catches your eye!

Last but not least: we charge USD rates as this incurs significantly lower processing fees at RegOnline. Switching from USD to EUR would easily amount to additional charges of about USD 20,000.- (CHF is unfortunately not supported).

Phew – that was a long post. I hope that this helped you to better understand the pricing policy behind the UbiComp 2013 rates, and that this gave you an insight into the actual costs of running (and attending) a conference. If you haven’t done so, make sure to register today in order to benefit from the early registration rate discount!

Looking forward to seeing you all in Zurich in September!