EDITOR’S SUMMARY

To increase international membership, Special Interest Group/International Information Issues (SIG/III) successfully proposed in 2012 to lower membership fees for ASIS&T members working in developing nations. The ASIS&T Board later lowered fees for students and early and transitional professionals from these countries. Though these moves boosted member numbers, other disparities became evident, including fees that remain prohibitive for institutions in developing nations and even for many potential individual and institutional members in countries rated “high” or “very high” in the United Nations Human Development Index. The Board approved the International Relations Committee’s proposal to base membership rates on countries’ gross national income (GNI) per capita, sorting countries into three tiers. Membership fees for countries in the middle tier would be 30% of the usual fee and 20% for the lower tier and exclude print publications, the fee strategy used by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

KEYWORDS

Association for Information Science and Technology
association membership
international aspects


Reconsideration of Membership Dues: New International Fee Structure Adopted

by Diane H. Sonnenwald

In 2012 SIG/III leadership, under the direction of Daniel Alemneh, chair, recommended and the ASIS&T Board approved reduced membership fees for regular members working in nations classified as “low” or “medium” on the UN Human Development Report (http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/). The fee amount established was $40 per year. This change resulted in an increase in members from those countries. Specifically, from 2010 to 2013, the number of members from developing nations increased from 8 to 36. In 2014, the ASIS&T Board approved reduced membership fees for students and early/transitional professionals from developing nations at $20/year and $30/year respectively. Membership benefits for individuals from developing nations have all regular benefits, except they cannot receive JASIST in print form free of charge.

Information science scholars, students and professionals in all countries welcomed these policies. Members from developing nations provide new insights and ask thoughtful questions based on their experiences and knowledge.

An Ongoing Issue

However it came to the attention of the International Relations Committee (IRC) that further refinement to calculating reduced membership fees would enable additional individuals and institutions to join ASIS&T. The economic status, including typical salary levels, of many countries that are classified as “very high” or “high” in the UN Human Development Report are sufficiently low to make joining ASIS&T prohibitive when required to pay the regular, student, transitioning professional or institutional rates. For example, a typical monthly academic salary for a professor in Eastern Europe is approximately €500 or $562. Annual membership dues for a professor in Eastern Europe are $140.

Furthermore, ASIS&T did not offer a reduced membership fee for institutions in developing nations. Our colleagues who live and work in these countries report that institutions in their region find the $650 annual membership fee prohibitive. In many developing nations institutions and their directors are very influential with respect to encouraging the participation of their faculty and students in scholarly and professional organizations. That is, if an institution belongs to a scholarly organization the chances of its faculty and students joining the organization increase. Membership benefits for Institutional Affiliates and Corporate Patrons at the reduced fee rates could mirror membership benefits for individuals from developing nations. That is, receiving the print version of JASIST could be eliminated as well as the $5 dues discount on regular membership.

Thus the IRC proposed that the ASIS&T Board consider and adopt new membership rates based on gross national income (GNI) per capita (in current US$) calculated by the World Bank (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD), or the IMF GNP per capita data when a country is not included in the World Bank GNI data. These data are used by other organizations, such as ACM, to calculate membership fees.

Regular membership fees at $140 per year represents 0.26% of GNI per capita in the United States and 0.27% in Canada. One approach would be to use these percentages as benchmarks in calculating membership fees for all categories of membership.

However setting membership fees as a fixed percentage of a nation’s GNI per capita can be problematic because the figure can fluctuate from year to year. Thus the IRC suggested, SIG/III officers concurred and the Board agreed to setting fees using three categories of GNI per capita as follows:

Countries whose most recent GNI per capita is over $25,000: Includes North America, Western Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand and some countries in the Middle East.

Countries whose most recent GNI per capita is between $24,999 and $15,000: Currently includes 15 countries, including Slovenia, Puerto Rico, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.

Countries whose most recent GNI per capita is $14,999 and below: Includes Lithuania, Croatia, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, etc.

We proposed that all membership fees in countries whose GNI per capita is between $24,999 and $15,000 be 30% of the usual fee and that all membership fees in countries whose GNI is $14,999 and below be 20% of the usual fee. These percentages are used by ACM according to Cynthia Ryan, associate director of membership at ACM. No country that is currently eligible for developing nations’ fees would see their fees increase under this categorization.

The resulting fee amounts that the Board approved are shown in Table 1.

TABLE 1. New membership fees in US$
National GNIRegularRetiredHardshipStudentEarly/TransitionalInstitutionCorporate Patron
>$25,000$140$70$40$40$65$650$800
$24,999-$15,000$42$21$12$12$20$195$240
!ERROR! illegal character '$'$28$14$8$8$13$130$160

The 30% and 20% figures help to keep the regular membership fees between 0.20% and 0.30% of GNI for many countries, as illustrated in Table 2.

TABLE 2. Proposed regular membership fees as % of GNI
GNI per capita Fees as % of GNINew Regular Membership Fee AmountNew Regular Membership
$53470 (US)0.26$140
$52200 (Canada)0.27$140
$200000.21$42
$18590 (Czech Rep)0.22$42
$150000.28$42
$13430 (Croatia)0.21$28
$100000.28$28
Counterpoint Discussion

There has been discussion regarding whether salaries in the information science and technology areas are aligned with a country’s GNI, and thus fees based on a country’s GNI per capita might give preferential treatment to members in some countries in comparison to members in other countries in the same bracket. To address this issue, global academic and practitioner salaries were investigated.

Data regarding academic salaries worldwide were found in three sources:

  • Average monthly salary data for 21 countries is available at worldsalaries.org/professor.shtml. The data is reported in local currency and as “2005 US$ PPP,” that is, the purchasing power that the U.S. dollar had in 2005 in the United States. The data were obtained from the International Labour Organization (http://laborsta.ilo.org/applv8/data/to1ae.html)
  • In 2008 Rumbley, Pacheo and Altbach at Boston College published a study comparing entry-level, average and top-level monthly salaries in 13 countries and Palestine (soe.vt.edu/highered/files/Perspectives_PolicyNews/11-08/InternationalComparison.pdf). These salary data are reported in local currency and World Bank purchasing power parity (PPP) in US$.
  • In 2012 Altbach, Reisberg, Yudkevich, Androushchak and Pacheo published a study investigating academic salaries in 28 countries. The data are from 2006-2010 and reported in US$ PPP. Data from this study are available at http://acarem.hse.ru/data.

International salary data for academics based on discipline were not found. The salary data found included data for 14 countries with GNI over $25,000, for four countries with GNI between $24,999 and $15,000, and data for 19 countries with GNI less than $14,999. These data showed that average academic salaries in countries with GNI over $25,000 are all higher than those in other countries. Some disparity among salaries was found in countries with the lowest GNI, that is, in a few countries whose GNI is less than $14,999, average academic salaries were higher than the country’s GNI would predict. Often countries that are attempting to strengthen their universities will pay higher salaries to recruit and retain academics. Whether this happens in our discipline is unknown.

The overall trend is that academic salaries follow the trend in GNI per capita. Countries with high GNI per capita have higher academic salaries both at the entry level and on average. For the few countries where salary data are higher than expected given the country’s GNI, we recommended that ASIS&T strengthen recruitment efforts in those countries. Academics there may possibly have more disposable income, and after joining ASIS&T they may subsequently assist in recruiting academics in their larger geographic region. We did not recommend developing a separate fee structure for the few countries that have higher than expected academic salaries because we cannot determine whether the salary data available reflects salaries in our discipline, and we believe it would not enhance ASIS&T’s image worldwide.

Multiple problems were encountered with respect to obtaining international salary data for information professionals. One problem concerned which job titles or categories should be used for comparison purposes. There are many job titles in our discipline and the question is which one(s) should be used for comparison. Searches for international salary data using job titles such as information professional and information systems professional yielded no results. The International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-1968) has categories such as “computing professionals” and “archivists, librarians and related information professionals” (http://laborsta.ilo.org/applv8/data/isco88e.html), and it is not clear that either category is especially meaningful for international salary comparison purposes.

A second problem was data availability. We found no collections of salary data from multiple countries, as we did with academic salary data. Hays Group’s database may contain such data, but to gain access to the data you must submit your company’s salary data and subscribe to the service. However it should be noted that salary data for “computer programmers” from 26 countries is provided by www.worldsalaries.org. These data follow the trends noted above. Furthermore, ACM uses the same approach for setting membership fees proposed by the IRC.

Given these results the ASIS&T Board approved the IRC’s recommendations. 

Summary of New Fee Structure

To summarize, the membership fee structure that was recommended and adopted by the ASIS&T Board and which became effective August 1, 2015 is as follows:

  1. Reduced membership fees will be available across all membership categories for countries whose GNI per capita as calculated by the World Bank (or GNP per capita as calculated by IMF for those countries not included in the World Bank data) is less than $25,000.
  2. Membership fees should be 30% of the normal membership fee for individuals, institutions and corporations in countries whose GNI per capita is between $24,999 and $15,000.
  3. Membership fees should be 20% of the normal membership fee for individuals, institution and corporations in countries whose GNI per capita is $14,999 and below.
  4. Membership benefits for individuals, institutions and corporations who qualify for reduced fees will not include a print copy of JASIST.
  5. Membership benefits for institutions and corporations who qualify for reduced fees will not include a $5 membership fee discount for employees.

The new fee structure should enhance ASIS&T’s continuing efforts to increase international participation.

My thanks to all IRC members, including Fidelia Ibekwe-SanJuan, Christian Schlögel, Marica Sapro-Ficovik, Mei-Mei Wu, Irene Onyancha, Hans-Christoph Hobohm, Yan Zhang, Jane Greenberg, Yuelin Li, Ying-Hsang Liu and Xiaojun (Jenny)Yuan, and SIG/III leaders for their support and feedback on proposal drafts.


GNI Per Capita

GNI per capita (formerly GNP per capita) is the gross national income, converted to U.S. dollars using the World Bank Atlas method, divided by the midyear population. GNI is the sum of value added by all resident producers plus any product taxes (less subsidies) not included in the valuation of output plus net receipts of primary income (compensation of employees and property income) from abroad. Retrieved from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD