QIP is one of the most famous and prestigious conference series in quantum information. It has been going on since 1998, and getting a paper accepted by them is considered very good for your career. I have often attended, and can confirm, it’s a good conference. This year I didn’t submit a paper because it will be in the United States and getting a visa is a huge pain in the ass.
Some friends did, though, and were quite shocked by the registration fees they are charging. The cheapest student fee available is 475 dollars! If you’re not a student you have to pay at least 575 dollars, and if you’re late the fee goes up to 850 dollars! This is for attending in person. If you’re a student attending online it’s free, fair enough, but if you’re not a student attending online costs 250 dollars!
In contrast, last year’s QIP was in München, completely online, and completely for free. What happened? Did QIP suddenly become a for-profit organization? They even list some deep-pocketed sponsors like Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. Where is all this money going?
Of course an in-person conference must be more expensive than an online conference, but this is completely out of the ordinary. I’m organizing an in-person conference now, the Tsirelson Memorial Workshop, and we are not even charging a conference fee, just 50€ for dinner. We are counting with the generous support of IQOQI, but QIP apparently has much richer sponsors. Our conference is also much smaller, but the price should be a concave function of the number of participants, not convex!
EDIT: A friend of mine was at the budget talk of QIP and reported me the details. The answer is clear: QIP just doesn’t give a shit about wasting the participants’ money. The total income was 790 k\$, with 460 k\$ coming form the sponsors, and 330 k\$ from registration fees. The total amount of expenses was 750 k\$, with the breakdown being 220 k\$ for “Freeman”, 220 k\$ for “Convention center”, 150 k\$ for the conference dinner with the rump session, 80 k\$ for “Virtual platform”, and 80 k\$ for other stuff.
Now this “Freeman” is a logistics company, and maybe logistics do cost a lot in California, so I’m not going to criticize that. But 220 k\$ for using the convention centre for one week? That’s insane. They booked the “Pasadena Civic Auditorium”, which is a really nice place, but come on. Couldn’t Caltech offer the Beckman Auditorium for a reasonable price? It is also gigantic and really beautiful. I paid roughly 2000€ for booking the conference venue for 80 people for one week, including the coffee break. QIP had roughly 800 participants, so 20 k\$ would be reasonable for the costs, with 200 k\$ being just profit. And 150 k\$ for the conference dinner? So roughly 187 \$ per person? That’s a seriously fancy dinner. Now 80 k\$ for the “Virtual platform” is just stupid. They could have done like every conference in the world and used Discord, that costs peanuts. But no, they insisted in paying a huge amount of money for developing their own platform, which the participants tell me was a piece of shit. Well done. Another cost that was not detailed in the breakdown was renting the auditorium of the Hilton Hotel for streaming the Zoom talks. Sounds expensive, and a bit insane.
I can afford it, I have plenty of grant money for travelling to conferences. But I’m not going to set it on fire like this. If the next QIP doesn’t come back to reality I’m not going to attend.