American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

Frequently Asked Questions about the ASN Meetings

Posted on by Kathleen Donohue, President


Some of you asked for information about why the Asilomar meetings are held when and where they are.  Here are some answers:
Why is registration capped?
Registration is capped for a couple reasons.  First, according to surveys, what people like most about these meetings is that they are small; there are concurrent sessions only in the mornings, and everyone eats and socializes together.  Second, the venue itself is small; Asilomar can host meetings of two sizes—our current size  of 200, or a larger one of 500.  We would not be able to fill the larger venue, according to past registration rates, and we would lose a lot of money if we tried and failed.
Why hold it in January?
We surveyed the membership, and they preferred a January meeting to another summer meeting, by far.
Why Asilomar?
Why Asilomar again?  We hear you!  We’d like to be able to change location periodically to allow easier access for members not near Asilomar.  We’ve been looking for other venues that fit the following criteria:  It will agree to host a small group.  It is easily accessible in winter.  It is not too expensive, with respect to both conference facilities AND housing options.  It is near some natural area.  If you know of such a place (not just the idea of such place, but a real place, complete with details), let us know! Send suggestions to Mark McPeek


Some of you have asked for information about why the Joint Society meetings for Evolution are held when and where they are. Here are some answers:
Who chooses the locations of the Evolution Meetings, and what do they base their decision on?  
The choice of venue for the joint Evolution Meeting is decided by the executive councils of all three societies, with input from a committee that is tasked with researching potential locations, pricing out costs of conference facilities, conference services, and housing options, and reporting their findings to the council.  These people do an enormous amount of work getting proposals from different conference facilities, negotiating with them, and supervising them to pull the whole thing off.  That committee and the council consider the following issues when they decide on the venue:
The priority is to have the meeting in a region that has not recently had a meeting (e.g. West Coast, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast, Midwest, etc.). We rotate locations so that certain populations do not need to travel more than others.
Locations that are reasonably accessible by air or car are favored. So are places that are pleasant to visit and where there are interesting things to do.
The venue needs to be affordable, in a decent location with restaurants and hotels nearby, and near cheaper housing options, such as dorms.  
Total cost:  
The total price that you pay to attend the conference includes registration, transportation, and housing.  The choice of venue is based on the sum of all those costs. Facility rental and services (and therefore registration) may be cheap in one location, but housing could be very expensive, making it unfeasible. All costs are considered—not just registration costs, when making a decision.
Why don’t we have the meetings at universities any more?  
It used to be that we held meetings at universities, with dorms available, and local organizers.  A lot of people liked that.  These days, universities do rent out facilities, but they are seldom cheaper, and often more expensive, than conference facilities.  They are also much more unpredictable and frequently cancel dorm availability or other building use if they need it for themselves.  It is very difficult, and sometimes not possible, to get them to commit to providing facilities that we need as far ahead of time as we need them to.  Because our meetings have grown in size, universities frequently do not have adequate facilities to accommodate all the concurrent sessions, plenaries, and display space that we need.  Finally, it has also become nearly impossible to find willing altruistic and masochistic organizers for our meetings, since the meeting has grown in size and complexity.  Conference facilities work with conference organizers, and we have more functional, predictable, and affordable conferences as a result of working with them.