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a comparative look at ASA membership costs and benefits

A number of people have been asking—or asserting—things about the relative cost of membership in the ASA as compared to peer organizations. This post provides some data about comparative membership costs and benefits.

First, a comparison of current and proposed ASA membership fees with peer organizations that also have a sliding scale of membership costs.

dues-comparison

How cost of membership compares across selected social science disciplines. Click for a PDF version.

Not all of the ASA’s peer organizations have sliding scales: several simply charge a flat rate. Three relevant associations with flat-rate regular memberships, not included in the chart above, are the American Statistical Association (regular membership cost: $150), the Population Association of America ($112), and the American Society of Criminology ($90).

In addition to these regular membership rates, many associations also have special rates for students, the unemployed, retired members, or resident citizens of low-income countries. Let’s focus just on student and unemployed members. Here are two figures comparing costs for these categories of membership across associations. Bear in mind that some organizations have no specific student rate, and for others (such as the AAA and the ASC), student membership is linked to income. I’ve chosen to show the lowest available rate in each case.

https://i1.wp.com/kieranhealy.org/files/misc/dues-unemployed.png

Effective cost for the Unemployed to join selected social science associations. Click for a PDF version

https://i0.wp.com/kieranhealy.org/files/misc/dues-student.png

Effective membership cost to Students to join selected social science associations. Click for a PDF version

Finally there is the question of the benefits of membership. The two most immediate benefits of membership in professional associations are a subscription to one or more association journals (and perhaps also a newsletter or magazine), and a reduced registration fee for the association’s annual conference. Annual conferences are generally either self-financing or active profit-centers for associations. If someone else wants to collate the cost of attendance for these associations, they’re welcome to do so. I’ll focus just on journals. These are also typically profit-making enterprises for associations (often quite substantially so), mostly through the revenue from library subscriptions, the fact that most of the labor to run them is provided for free, and the fact that it still costs money for members to both subscribe to and submit to these journals. In addition to these benefits, all associations provide some kind of job bank (I have not looked at variation in the cost of this to participating departments), perhaps a job service at the annual conference, and assorted discounts and coupon -lipping benefits.

Here’s a summary of the journal benefits for the ASA and its peer associations, based on the “membership benefits” sections of their websites:

Journal Benefits

  • ASA. Effective cost of membership includes a print/electronic subscription to one journal and the association newsletter, Footnotes. Additional ASA journals are available to members at $45 per journal, or $60 in the case of the annual Sociological Methodology. Members who subscribe to two or more print journals receive all ASA journals online.
  • AEA. “Individual members of the American Economic Association (AEA) receive online access to all seven of the Association’s journals as well as other member benefits. (American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Persepctives, Applied Economics, Economic Policy, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics). Print subscriptions to each of AEA’s quarterly titles are available for $15 each, the AER (6 issues annually, 7 including the Papers & Proceedings) is available for $20.”
  • APSR. “Members receive print and online versions of: American Political Science Review, Perpectives on Politics, and PS: Political Science.”
  • ASC. “All Types of Memberships include Subscriptions to the following: Journals: Criminology (4 issues/yr.), Criminology & Public Policy (4 issues/yr.), and the Newsletter: The Criminologist (6 issues/yr.).”
  • PAA: Members receive Demography (Journal), PAA Affairs (online newsletter) and Applied Demography (newsletter).
  • American Statistical Association. “When you join the ASA, you will receive: A subscription to Amstat News, the ASA’s monthly membership magazine, now fully online … A subscription to Significance, an ASA and RSS partnership magazine, … Free online access to … the Journal of the American Statistical Association (JASA), Journal of Business & Economic Statistics (JBES), Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research (SBR), Statistical Analysis and Data Mining (SAM)+, and The American Statistician (TAS).
  • AHA. Members receive the Amercian Historical Review and Perspectives (Newsletter).
  • AAA. Members receive access to AnthroSource, “a digital searchable database containing the past, present and future AAA publications”, including a range of current and defunct journals and newsletters. See here for details.

I may update this post with some more information later. Perhaps some commentary, too, though the main goal here is just to present the comparison directly and fairly. If there are any errors please let me know and I’ll correct them. The data and code used to produce the figures can be downloaded from this GitHub repository.

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Written by Kieran

March 31, 2011 at 6:10 pm

53 Responses

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  1. In a related story, I think a majority of grad students in my department are not members of ASA unless they need to be for some specific service (presenting at the conference, job bank, etc.) It’s hard to know if they are angry or if they just know a bad deal when they see one.

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    Noah

    March 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm

  2. well, it seems all other associations offer subscription to journals, whereas we only get a newsletter.
    Do they also have searchable job banks?

    Like

    orgtheory reader

    March 31, 2011 at 7:35 pm

  3. All the associations to which I belong charge both sides of the job bank. The Academy of Management, for instance, charges $35 for humans to search and $200 for institutions to post.

    It seems the AoM falls in the middle of the cost graph for employed members and at the upper end of the graph for students and emeriti. The rates below reflect a change taking effect now.

    The new dues rates will take effect on all memberships with a renewal date of April 1, 2011. Annual dues will be $182 for academic and executive members (previously $140) and $91 for students and emeritus members (previously $70). Costs for additional divisions, beyond the two that are included with membership, will be $11 for divisions (previously $9), and $7 for interest groups (previously $5). The new Annual Meeting advanced registration fee, which will take effect for the 2011 conference in San Antonio, Texas, is $250 for academic and executive members (previously $185), and $88 for students and emeritus members (previously $65).

    Membership includes a newsletter, on-line and print copies of five journals (plus the Annals), article retrieval service from these journals, choice of two division memberships, and reduced rates for the annual meeting.

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    Randy

    March 31, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  4. I’d like to add that there is evidence the ASA has used benchmarking to inform their decision-making in at least one case. You will find said evidence in the minutes from the 2008 Feb. council meetings (albeit the issue under consideration is not dues but counting participants at the annual meetings). My discussion here (look toward the bottom of the post): http://whatisthewhat.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/fools-errand/

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    Jenn Lena

    April 1, 2011 at 1:11 am

  5. So our “peers” in fees are anthropology and political science, am I reading that right? That is, they are Thanks Kieran, the ones that are generally closest to sociology. Sociology is higher than anthropology at low income levels but lower than anthro at high income levels. The proposal would, of course, make the sociology dues much higher than either anthro or polisci at the high end.

    As someone who currently buys several ASA journals just to do it, I can pretty easily recoup the increase in my dues under the proposal by decreasing my journal purchases. Do you suppose this is why they are not stressing revenue generation?

    Like

    olderwoman

    April 1, 2011 at 1:48 am

  6. […] sociology blogosphere has been discussing the ASA’s proposed dues increase (See here, here, here, and here). Many are skeptical that the dues increase is in the best interest of the members. But […]

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  7. Wow. Student memberships are $65! Eat the children…

    Like

    sherkat

    April 1, 2011 at 9:24 pm

  8. […] 4. For a comparison of current and proposed ASA dues with other social science organizations, see “A Comparative Look at ASA Membership Costs and Benefits“. […]

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  9. […] be the most expensive social science professional society, with the proposed dues being roughly two or three times as expensive as AEA and 10-20% more expensive than AAA or APSA. Basically, what services are we getting for the money and do we as a membership really support […]

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  10. […] explanation from ASA for its proposed dues increase, which would make the organization about the most expensive social science association to join for people across the income spectrum. If you feel ASA should do more to explain and justify this […]

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  11. Although this petition about transparency, it is really only about the dues increase. We need to discuss transparency in general. When I served as editor of Social Psychology Quarterly, I made a set of proposals to the Publications Committees – proposals that became known as the “Sunshine Proposals” (sunshine is the best disinfectant). I proposed to PubComm that 1) meetings of PubComm be open to all members (with the exception of discussion of specific editorial candidates), 2) meetings be available on line, 3) the budget of the ASA publications program be made available online to members of the ASA, 4) the statements of all editorial candidates be placed online, so that members can comment, and 5) PubComm hold each year an open meeting at the Annual Meeting. Proposals one, two, three, and four were defeated by the elected members of PubComm. Proposal five was approved, done once, and has now been canceled. These proposals were directed to PubComm, but we should consider them throughout ASA. Why should we members not have access to our budget? Why should we not have any input on editors – the position that most affects our careers. If we address only the dues, we will save money, but we won’t save the association.

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    Gary Alan Fine

    April 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

  12. For comparison, I offer the dues schedule for my favorite professional association, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, which is roughly comparable to AEA.

    Income exceeds $90,000 $130.00
    Income is between $60,000 and $89,999 $115.00
    Income is between $30,000 and $59,999 $85.00
    Income is less than $30,000 $55.00
    Full-time student $25.00

    I am not far into reading all the transparency comments, but I have not yet seen mentioned the “other benefits,” like reduced rental car rates and other journal subscriptions that I have not used in 25+ years. I was delighted to learn two years ago that ASA membership gave me a 5% reduction on Liberty Mutual auto insurance. However, the amount saved is less than the amount my dues would increase under the proposal.

    Like

    Survey Researcher

    April 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm

  13. Gary: I agree, as I know many do, that there is a larger issue of transparency. The decision to focus on the rationale for the dues increase was because it was so glaring, and because it would hopefully lead to broader change. A question for you: what is your sense, as a participant in the process and as an organizational sociologist, as to why your proposals didn’t garner support?

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    ezrazuckerman

    April 15, 2011 at 4:04 am

  14. ASA editors don’t attend the closed sessions when these decisions are made. But it seemed that PubComm felt that there was no need to involve ASA members in the process. That PubComm decisions were private, made by the representatives of the members. The same is true for not letting members know about the publications budget (a major profit-center for the organization). As for permitting ASA members to know who the candidates for journal editor are, the fear was that this would make it less likely that people would apply for the editorship for fear of being embarrassed if they were not selected. Still, we have candidates for other ASA offices, and we know who doesn’t win. I felt that because the selection of editor is the single thing that ASA does that most affects our careers, an open process in which ASA members could comment will be desirable.

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    Gary Alan Fine

    April 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

  15. Gary/Ezra: As you know, I am on Pub Comm and have direct knowledge of this matter. The characterization of #3 here is not really accurate. For one thing, it supposes that these budgets are actually available to Pub Comm itself and that Pub Comm as a whole has a level of access to and authority over the Sage Contract which, as far as I know, it does not. I think this is the most important of Gary’s proposals, and, well, it might be better if Gary’s proposals were considered one at the time rather than a set, as each has their own issues.

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    jeremy

    April 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm

  16. Jeremy,
    The manual for the Publications Committee provided to all editors and members of the committee says explicitly that it is the responsibility of the Publications Committee to oversee all aspects of the association’s publication program. (I don’t have the manual here, but I think that my memory is pretty accurate). Certainly the budget is an essential aspect of the publications program of any organization, and it is clearly under the mandate of PubComm. This is a point that I made prior to your election to PubComm. The fact that PubComm didn’t assert their responsibility doesn’t deny that responsibility. The problem is that PubComm was told that it doesn’t have this access and they believed it, despite their formal responsibility. Members would be shocked to learn that PubComm approved the contract with Sage without having been allowed to read that very contract on which they voted. If PubComm cannot respond to the financial strength of the journal program, what use is it?

    When the Sunshine Proposals were considered (and defeated), they were considered one at a time.

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    Gary Alan Fine

    April 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm

  17. When you do comparison of the membership dues, don’t forget the total number of regular members: in general, larger societies can afford slightly smaller membership fees.

    Notice also that on this graph current ASA fees are not the highest fees, only the proposed ones are. But can you be sure that other association are not planning on increases that will put ASA’s proposed fees into the middle of the distribution again?

    It’s useful to remember that ASA does for the members more than just giving them subscriptions to journals and newsletters. Faculty get grants and graduate students get their research assitantships, don’t they? To some degree it’s because ASA does its work to ensure social sciences get there share of reseach funds from NSF. So think big when you think of benefits your professional organization provides you with.

    Finally, the whole point of this particular increase is to make a larger increase for those who get paid more and have almost no increase for those who get paid little. Why this bothers sociologists is beyond my understanding. Do you really want a senior professor who makes $150,000 to pay the same membership dues as the one who makes $70,000? Do you really want membership dues to be increased by the same percent for a faculty who makes $35,000 and by a faculty who makes $150,000 in these difficult economic times?

    Student membership is $25, not $70. But you do have to buy a journal for about $40-45.

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    besbuy

    April 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

  18. When you do comparison of the membership dues, don’t forget the total number of regular members: in general, larger societies can afford slightly smaller membership fees.

    The ASA has about 14,000 members. The APSA has about 15,000. The AEA has about 17,000. The AAA has about 10,000. The AHA has about 15,000. These are not large differences (except for the AAA), and variance in membership numbers does not account for the differences in dues.

    Notice also that on this graph current ASA fees are not the highest fees, only the proposed ones are. But can you be sure that other association are not planning on increases that will put ASA’s proposed fees into the middle of the distribution again?

    The core issue of the petition is that the ASA has offered no explanation to its members for why a large absolute increase in dues is required. The comparison to other professional organizations is there to show that it is in fact a large absolute increase, comparatively, and thus requires an explanation. I and others have said repeatedly elsewhere that it may well be true that a perfectly good explanation exists. If it does, I do not understand why the ASA feels that giving this explanation to members, or being more open generally about its profits and losses, is beneath its dignity. If APSA or the AHA were to increase their dues in a similar way, they too would be obliged to explain this to their members. Meanwhile, the only other professional association to have significantly reorganized its dues structure for next year is the AEA, which cut its fees in half.

    It’s useful to remember that ASA does for the members more than just giving them subscriptions to journals and newsletters. Faculty get grants and graduate students get their research assitantships, don’t they? To some degree it’s because ASA does its work to ensure social sciences get there share of reseach funds from NSF. So think big when you think of benefits your professional organization provides you with.

    Again, these are all possible features of an explanation for the dues increase. All of these services—insofar as they happen—are things the ASA has provided for a long time, on its current budget, with cost of living increases most years. Why is a large injection of cash from dues needed now? The organization should make its case. This should not be a difficult point to grasp.

    Finally, the whole point of this particular increase is to make a larger increase for those who get paid more and have almost no increase for those who get paid little. Why this bothers sociologists is beyond my understanding. Do you really want a senior professor who makes $150,000 to pay the same membership dues as the one who makes $70,000? Do you really want membership dues to be increased by the same percent for a faculty who makes $35,000 and by a faculty who makes $150,000 in these difficult economic times?

    Literally nobody in this discussion has objected to the principle that better off members should pay more—probably a lot more—to support the organization than those who are less well off. Nobody. The repeated, preemptive efforts in blog comments to suggest otherwise—made by some ASA-affiliated people and anonymous commenters such as yourself—are simply misleading. They reflect, in my view, the fact that the ASA knows very well that it is trying to significantly increase its revenue under the guise of redistributing the burden of membership. A revenue-neutral adjustment of dues to make them significantly more progressive would be perfectly feasible over a period of years. The petition and the debate is not about progressivity of dues, and a scan of the signatories to the petition shows that its supporters are a very heterogenous group. I have no tolerance for this line of bullshit that says the people who are dissatisfied with the ASA’s high-handed attitude to its members are really a bunch of wealthy whiners. Go read the petition. Go look at the titles and positions of the people who signed.

    Student membership is $25, not $70. But you do have to buy a journal for about $40-45.

    This is ridiculous. Q: Is it possible to become a member of the ASA as a student by paying $25? A: No, it’s not. As you say, a journal subscription is a required condition of membership and costs an additional $40 to $45. Therefore it costs $65 to join the ASA as a student, and you get one journal as a student member. The fact that student dues are not going down, and student members of the ASA pay substantially more for membership than any social science association apart from the AAA, goes a long way towards explaining why so many grad students have signed the petition, and why the talk about progressivity is sheer cant.

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    Kieran

    April 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm

  19. besbuy,

    it is simply incorrect to say that “the whole point of this particular increase” is progressivity. according to council member John Logan, the ASA leadership considered and rejected a version of the measure that would have been more progressive but revenue-neutral. that they rejected his version shows that progressivity may have been a goal of the revenue measure but not “the whole point.”

    furthermore, the progressivity (as compared to the aggregate increase) of the dues measure does not “bother sociologists.” the infuriating slanders of the ASA leadership to the contrary, not one of us who is organizing against the measure has ever criticized it on these grounds. (though in principle i don’t see any reason why an individual sociologist couldn’t have regressive policy preferences).

    i am personally skeptical that absent the ASA’s K-street ambitions that the NSF SES office would shut down. furthermore i am skeptical of how much of the K-street efforts are related to such policy issues that are directly connected to the discipline’s interests.

    finally, your point about student memberships being just $25 if you ignore the mandatory $45 journal subscription is just silly, unless you’re the kind of person who sees a meaningful difference between a concert ticket and the venue fee, the hotel charge and the “resort fee,” a plane ticket and the fuel surcharge, etc, etc.

    Like

    gabrielrossman

    April 15, 2011 at 11:28 pm

  20. ps, following up on kieran’s suggestion to read the petition signatures, i did a quick tally and found that as of now there are about 130 grad students, 7 lecturers, 10 post docs, 145 assistant professors, 82 associate professors, and 100 full profs. that is to say, over half of the signatories fall in the lower income brackets and i’d imagine that most signatories (including myself) fall well below the $150K mark. the distribution of ranks among the 13 of us who drafted the petition is similar.

    this is not a revolt of the whiny rich but a broad-based skepticism of the membership that the association demands more money with no justification other than a bunch of flim flam about progressivity.

    Like

    gabrielrossman

    April 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm

  21. […] Alan Fine is right Members would be shocked to learn that PubComm approved the contract with Sage without having been […]

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  22. besbuy asks: “Do you really want membership dues to be increased by the same percent for a faculty who makes $35,000 and by a faculty who makes $150,000 in these difficult economic times?”

    I answer: no. In these difficult economic times, I want to know why ASA wants more money. Why this question bothers anyone is beyond my understanding.

    Like

    Jenn Lena

    April 16, 2011 at 12:58 am

  23. I sense a reflexively adversarial perspective. A political mindset, when the most obvious question concerning the price increases of the ASA is economic: Is it a price we want to pay? If so, pay it. If not, find an alternative that does what it does, only cheaper.

    On one hand we want to question why ASA raises dues, while on the other we actually rather unfussily pay the higher rate. If we pay it, it’s because we think it is worth it to us. And I think we’re right.

    Like

    Austen

    April 16, 2011 at 1:28 am

  24. Regarding Gary’s earlier comment:

    I want it to be absolutely clear that, as Gary knows, I was not on Pub Comm when the Sage contract was approved and do not have any direct knowledge of what happened during that process. My “direct knowledge” comment was about his “sunshine” proposals.

    Gary appeared to assert that Pub Comm’s position was the detailed journal budgets should not be posted online because “PubComm felt that there was no need to involve ASA members in the process,” since “Pub Comm decisions were private.” As if it’s a settled matter that detailed journal budgets are Pub Comm’s concern—just that we don’t want to make them public—rather than a *particular stance* about what should be Pub Comm’s concern and one that does not accord with the reality of the current work of that committee. Some believe–wrongly, I think–that Pub Comm should fairly strictly focus on the intellectual aspects of decisions, whereas finances should be left to Council and EOB.

    I want to be absolutely clear that I have never been denied access to detailed journal budgets. I haven’t asked. I have never seen a journal budget, and, honestly, do not even know if they exist in a form that I would personally regard as a “budget” (with both costs and revenues). What I have noted elsewhere is that if people have the perception that Pub Comm receives and delves into the details of journal budgets as its regular business, this is incorrect.

    In any case, as Gary also knows, practically everything Pub Comm does is subject to review and approval by Council. I am not sure why there is this conflation of genuine transparency issues with essentially parliamentary ones about the relationship of Pub Comm, Council, and EOB.

    Pub Comm’s lack of more final-say power does not equate to a lack of ASA member oversight, if that oversight is the purview of another committee. (Granted, it is worth underscoring that 3 of the 7 members of EOB are not directly elected.)

    I should note that I do support the idea that more information about journal finances should be public, especially given the widespread misconception that the ASA journals are a more break-even proposition than they actually are. As some might have noticed, I have been rather active in this whole transparency discussion.

    Like

    jeremy

    April 16, 2011 at 3:32 am

  25. Is it a price we want to pay? If so, pay it. If not, find an alternative that does what it does, only cheaper.

    Austen, I think the market metaphor you rely on here is inappropriate to this case. The ASA is not just another business selling us widgets. It is our professional organization whose sole purpose is to facilitate our collective professional needs. It is (or should be) run by members for members. And it should, without a doubt, share its financial records and business plans with the membership.

    Like

    tina

    April 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm

  26. to elaborate on tina’s critique of the “if you don’t like it, go elsewhere” thing there are a few issues, things that make this inappropriate. first, many of the ASA’s functions (eg, the annual meeting and job bank) are natural monopolies and switching to a new provider presents a collective action problem. second, some of the ASA’s functions, such as lobbying and PR, are public goods (albeit public goods of dubious cost efficacy). in both respects it makes it more appropriate to treat this as a “voice” than “exit” issue to the extent possible.

    Like

    gabrielrossman

    April 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm

  27. “[The ASA] is our professional organization whose sole purpose is to facilitate our collective professional needs.”

    While my ‘market metaphor’ might be an over-simplification, certainly so is your attempt to deny the ASA any economic concerns at all.

    Like

    Austen

    April 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  28. As others have already pointed out, besbuy’s (maybe the dues increase is intended to fund the missing “t”?) comments are pathetic in their willful obtuseness (one hopes that it is willful). I have to say that the second paragraph has not gotten its due though. “can you be sure that other association are not planning on increases that will put ASA’s proposed fees into the middle of the distribution again?” Good question!! And an even better question might be, “Can you be sure that if those other associations don’t increase their dues, that it will not be because they are out to make the ASA look bad, or because they are in cahoots with the petition-signers?”

    P.S. Of course, the red line is not in the “middle of the distribution,” is it besbuy?

    Like

    ezrazuckerman

    April 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm

  29. “Members would be shocked to learn that PubComm approved the contract with Sage without having been allowed to read that very contract on which they voted.”

    Jeremy has not challenged this. Gary and Jeremy: Is this indeed an accurate characterization of what occurred, as you understand it?

    BTW, I imagine the Sage contract is up for review at some point. Any idea when this is?

    Like

    ezrazuckerman

    April 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm

  30. Austen: It seems like you think the statement you quote from Tina is an oversimplification. I don’t. I would be interested in what you think is a purpose of ASA other than “to facilitate our collective professional needs.”

    To me, there is a profession (sociologist), that profession has an association (ASA), and the purpose of that organization is to serve that profession. When it veers from that purpose, members of the profession need to engage in collective corrective action, and it makes little sense to wonder why we don’t just decamp to other disciplines or drop out of the profession in order to launch a competitor.

    Like

    jeremy

    April 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm

  31. I am quite sure that my claim is accurate about members of PubComm voting on the Sage contract without having read it. I wonder if members of Council read and discussed the contract. That I do not know, but I will be interested to learn the answer. The Sage contract is for five years, and I know that Sage would like to publish Sociological Theory as well, so that might be a separate contract sooner. I can’t recall if the Sage contract with regard to Contexts was approved at the same time.

    I want to make clear that I am not criticizing the Sage contract. How could I? I haven’t read it.

    Like

    Gary Alan Fine

    April 16, 2011 at 9:43 pm

  32. Austen: Curious you should mention “exit.” I know several extremely prominent sociologists who have let their ASA memberships lapse, not because of the cost of membership but because of the political direction the organization has taken; and, yes, some have joined other social science associations instead. I see no way that their exit is good for the discipline or the association financially or, more importantly, intellectually. (No, I’m not going to name names.)

    I also don’t see that it’s a “win” for the ASA if members offset a dues increase by dropping journal subscriptions, per olderwoman’s comment. This would reduce the visibility and impact of the research that gets published in the its journals, leaving the organization in the roughly the same financial straits as before. (Or at least I’m assuming the ASA is in financial straits, else they would be happy with COLA raises to dues and/or the original Logan proposal.)

    Of course the ASA has economic concerns. It’d sure be nice if the members had information about what those concerns are. Maybe we need a petition or something…

    Like

    krippendorf

    April 17, 2011 at 1:17 am

  33. “I would be interested in what you think is a purpose of ASA other than ‘to facilitate our collective professional needs.'”

    The ASA is a like any organization — it needs to meet the approval of its members, as you point out indeed, but also it needs to live within the economic and political imperatives of its social context. The ASA is hardly the only organization currently raising its prices to meet the economic imperatives of its times.

    Like

    Austen

    April 17, 2011 at 3:26 am

  34. Austen: You accuse the ASA’s critics of being reflexively adversarial, but it is hard to understand your comments except as reflexively defensive (if you and besbuy didn’t have some hand in this process, I’ll eat my hat). You accuse Jeremy (and indirectly, Jenn and Gabriel) of failing to recognize that the ASA “needs to live within the economic and political imperatives of its social context.” But what you refuse to recognize is that the ASA has never spelled out what those imperatives are, nor did it even say that it needed more revenue. Instead, it tried to dress up an aggregate dues increase as an effort to increase progressivity. Not only did this show a disregard for members’ rights, but it also showed a disrespect for members’ intelligence. In response to the online criticism, former ASA secretary Don Tomaskovic-Devey and ASA council member John Logan have admitted that the new dues schedule was expected (see http://thedisgruntledsociologist.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/194/#comment-43) and *intended* (see http://codeandculture.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/reply-to-yesterdays-comment/#comment-1186) to generate more revenue for the ASA. But in its official rationale for the new dues schedule, the ASA leadership decided to avoid mentioning this (and instead gave a rationale that is hard to read as anything but a smokescreen of political-correctness). A failure to recognize why this would bring outrage among ASA members is a failure to understand what the purpose of the ASA is.

    Like

    ezrazuckerman

    April 17, 2011 at 9:10 am

  35. No doubt the ASA should improve accountability and transparency. Every organization in the world could stand to improve these things. My point has to do with the price increases: What the ASA does for sociology and sociologists is still, to my mind, undervalued.

    For, the ASA most in fact is selling a widget, or a service — above all, it provides credibility to its members. If sociologists don’t (or, the sociologist doesn’t) need this credibility, then stop buying it. If you can get it elsewhere for less, go there.

    My position is sociologists need the credibility the ASA provides in a way economists and political scientists don’t necessarily need from their respective associations.

    The higher prices don’t surprise me at all. Nor will the fact you will keep paying them.

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    Austen

    April 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm

  36. What?? The credibility of sociologists depends on the ASA? Then all hope is surely lost for the discipline.

    If the modal sociologist thinks, with Austen, that the credibility of the discipline can only be maintained by having staff seated two blocks from the White House then … honestly, there is no credibility to be had. A discipline’s credibility cannot be founded on lobbying.

    Luckily, I find it hard to believe that most sociologists engage in such self-loathing.

    If this is the dominant attitude within the ASA’s leadership, then it is no surprise members get so little respect. And no surprise that the ASA leadership feels it can engage in monopoly pricing with impunity.

    And it is kind of incredible to realize that anyone might think that the ASA’s lobbying etc. makes much of a difference to sociologists’ credibility.

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  37. Austen: Reread what Gabriel wrote about the ASA being a natural monopoly. If you think about this carefully, you will be less smug about sociologists’ tendency to just pay whatever the ASA charges (not so clear this is true, actually; but you’re right to a point that there are no good substitutes, and so many sociologists will just pay up), and you will understand that it doesn’t necessarily indicate that sociologists are getting value for the money. It might merely suggest that the ASA is exercising monopoly power.

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    ezrazuckerman

    April 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm

  38. Disgruntled, the ASA might not create much credibility for sociology in your eyes, but the ASA matters as an institutional presence to journalists, media executives, other social scientists, university presidents, etc. — you know, the public sphere, a public sphere which doesn’t automatically grant sociologists the same kind of status it grants for economists and political scientists. I hesitate to add, your incredulousness is striking. In your case I tend to think you might be politically biased and disgruntedly predisposed to see chicanery.

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    Austen

    April 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm

  39. “Reread what Gabriel wrote about the ASA being a natural monopoly. If you think about this carefully, you will be less smug about sociologists’ tendency to just pay whatever the ASA charges”

    I disagree there is no alternative. There is no objective reason an ASA has to exist at all. Replacing it with nothing — it’s an alternative. My point is that economists and political scientists could still flourish without a central Association providing lobbying and pubic credibility in a way that sociologists (sociology) could not.

    I don’t mean that sociologists could not continue to do fine work without the ASA. I mean without the ASA sociologists would lose a great proportion of its access to an educated audience outside its own membership.

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    Austen

    April 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm

  40. whoa there Austen – I think we have now come full circle. Just because we need an institution doesn’t give it permission to be unaccountable.

    Like

    sd

    April 18, 2011 at 3:00 am

  41. Austen: I really hope that you do not represent the ASA because your comments reflect a complete inability to think clearly. Let’s grant that sociology has lower public status and credibility than do political scientists (actually, quite doubtful; what PS has is a clearer jurisdiction– I doubt the public has much appreciation for what political scientists do) or economists (a whole other story). Is this low status despite the ASA’s efforts, because of the ASA’s efforts, or… as you would like to believe, is it the case that sociology’s status would be much lower (implying that it is actually *higher* than it would otherwise be) were it not for the ASA’s efforts? You like the third alternative despite the fact that you have no evidence for it and the fact that the first two explanations (that sociology has low status in spite of, or even because of, ASA’s efforts) have not been ruled out. My own vote is for “in spite of.”

    The other thing I’d note is that associations of this type almost never claim credit to the grandiose extent that you are claiming for the ASA. They usually adopt a modest rhetorical stance, whereby they are just here to serve their members, that their successes are their members’ successes. To be sure, this is false modesty. And so I guess it’s nice to see your more honest approach. But claiming this much credit is obscene, and suggests an association that does not respect its members.

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    ezrazuckerman

    April 18, 2011 at 5:14 am

  42. P.S. Read up a bit on natural monopolies, and monopoly practices in general. To suggest that the only alternative to a service is to do without it is to concede the point. And note that Gabriel’s point was that there are certain services that are included in the ASA’s service portfolio– the annual meeting, the job bank– that are indeed necessary. But this does not mean that *all* the ASA’s services are necessary. What the ASA [and other associations, no doubt) effectively does is to *bundle* those services (the term from antitrust law is “tying”; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tying_(commerce)%5D with other services that would otherwise not generate much demand (e.g., the lobbying), thereby capturing more of its customers’ dollar than it would otherwise receive. Consider the counterfactual of what would happen if the ASA unbundled those services, and asked members to pay for them separately. Oops. Not such a hot idea, right? And once we consider this, it becomes a bit harder to support your fantasy that ASA members’ willingness to pay up reflects their belief that the ASA is saving sociology from the dustbin of history, doesn’t it?

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    ezrazuckerman

    April 18, 2011 at 5:27 am

  43. “Just because we need an institution doesn’t give it permission to be unaccountable.”

    Of course the ASA should be held ‘accountable.’ When did I say differently?

    Like

    Austen

    April 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

  44. Ezra, you could stand to talk to journalists, media execs, other scientists, college presidents, etc., for whom the ASA is the main institutional reference point for whatever it is we sociologists do.

    I like the argument you have put together: The ASA is indispensable, we could never do without it, but oh yeah, it’s way over-priced and undermines sociology’s credibility.

    Like

    Austen

    April 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

  45. Austen: This is getting old. You either are incapable of, or unwilling to make the effort at, understanding what I and others have been saying. I am done interacting with you in this way. I will just briefly clarify the points in those comments. Afterwards, I will ignore your responses made by “Austen” online. But if you want to continue the conversation by email, feel free to give me a holler. To get through my spam-filter though, I think you’ll have to be willing to identify yourself. (No sure how you’ll convince me that it’s you though.) The brief clarifications:

    1. Tis true that you didn’t say the ASA shouldn’t be held accountable. But by continuing to ignore the fact that this is the heart of the criticism of the ASA, you are implying this. (In any case, this was sd’s point, not mine, so I should let him/her/it speak for him/her/itself).

    2. You may not like the “argument [I] have put together,” but it only doesn’t make sense to you only because you haven’t spent the time thinking through the issue, as I’ve recommended that you do. These issues may be new to you but especially since you are just an anonymous ghost, you should get over any embarrassment and defensiveness, and spend some time reading what we wrote and (and googling around to the various terms we used and) trying to digest it. Again, there are certain services that the ASA provides which are natural monopolies. We basically need them in order to function as sociologists. Bundling these services with those that are not obviously necessary (i.e., you think that sociologists would be doomed without the ASA’s lobbying; many sociologists would likely disagree, as evidenced by their unwillingness to pay for this as a separate service) may be defensible in some cases, but it means that you cannot infer that sociologists value these services from the fact that they pay for them– their only choices are to pay for them or to exit the association, and thereby lose access to services that they do need. This also means that the ASA has a moral responsiblity to recognize that it enjoys monopoly pricing power, and not to abuse it.

    3. As you know if you did spend any time thinking about what I wrote, I did not say that the ASA undermines sociology’s credibility. I said that it was *possible* but unlikely that the ASA is a cause of sociology’s low status. Rather, I said that I think sociology has low status “in spite” of the ASA’s efforts. That is, it is not clear to me that on balance, the ASA makes much of a difference in this regard.

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    ezrazuckerman

    April 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

  46. For those of you out there celebrating Passover or Easter this week, here is a holiday reading recommendation for you, and a reminder of what makes sociology great– i.e., the great research that we sometimes do: http://www.jstor.org/pss/2094969
    (Access to jstor is free with membership in the ASA!!! what a deal!!)

    Like

    ezrazuckerman

    April 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm

  47. ezra,

    go easy on Austen. he/she has been commenting constructively on orgtheory for awhile so I think your implication that his pseudonymity conceals something is mistaken.

    also, while i disagree with Austen’s arguments, they don’t strike me as obviously stupid or bad faith (unlike the arguments of “besbuy”). basically, Austen is saying:
    1) if you don’t like ASA, don’t join it
    2) the public mission of ASA is worthwhile
    i am personally skeptical of these two points (and in particular i don’t think they are very compatible with each other) but i appreciate them as arguments made in good faith.

    Like

    gabrielrossman

    April 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm

  48. Gabriel: It is a relief to hear that this psudonymn is not motivated by this particular discussion. But please forgive me if I continue to think it is ideed bad faith to accuse me of saying that ASA undermines sociology’s credibility when I said no such thing. This is a willful disregard for what I wrote and a willful attempt to twist words. I also regard it as bad faith to not make the effort to understand the line of argument that you began, re the ASA being a natural monopoly, and all that implies. I understand the inability to understand this. But I do understand why someone might resist admitting to oneself and others that they don’t understand something like this. But all because I understand it does no mean that it is not an act of bad faith.

    Like

    ezrazuckerman

    April 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

  49. I would like to say for the record as it were that I signed the petition for greater openness, but also believe that it is probably a valuable thing for ASA to have a Washington office and try to advance the research funding goals of sociologists in NSF, NIH and elsewhere. But I really would like to understand the mix of fellowships, research on the profession, and “lobbying” type activities, and what they cost. There is also support of governance in the mix.

    Like

    olderwoman

    April 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

  50. Should have written “And I do understand” instead of “But I do understand.” And forgive the typos (as well as too many posts from me; going on holiday hiatus– bye!)

    Like

    ezrazuckerman

    April 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm

  51. “But please forgive me if I continue to think it is indeed bad faith to accuse me of saying that ASA undermines sociology’s credibility when I said no such thing.”

    You said sociology maintains credibility “in spite” of the ASA, so while I didn’t quote you exactly, my paraphrase hardly came out of nowhere and is in no way evidence of bad faith. Your accusation, as well as your anger, suggest that this matter is dear to your heart. I like that, so I’ll forgive the over-heatedness.

    Bottom line, I think ASA’s critics here fail to analyze the organization through outsider eyes. To those in intellectual fields outside sociology, the ASA is the most important institution defining what it is sociologists do and why it’s important. I think this function is indispensable to us, because we lack an obvious constituency, and that’s why we pay high fees. It makes sense to me.

    Like

    Austen

    April 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm

  52. Ezra wrote “low status in spite of.” Austen read “credibility in spite of.” Unless we’re in an alternate universe in which low status = credibility, the problem lies in an initial (and I assume unintentional) misreading of Ezra’s statement. Can we move on?

    Does the ASA help keep sociology in the public eye, whatever that means? Probably. Does the value added of the ASA help to the tune of whatever the ASA spends per year on this function? Well, it’s impossible to know, partly because we can’t observe the counterfactual (i.e., sociology in the absence of the ASA) but also because members — and I suspect the elected leadership — simply doesn’t know how much the ASA spends on its various activities. Hence the need for greater transparency.

    It does seem fairly clear, though, that the social science professional associations that either do minimal public relations activities or more targeted public relations (e.g., the PAA “lobbies” the Census Bureau, but as far as I know it doesn’t write resolutions condemning the Iraq War) are in better financial health than the ASA. The AEA, for example, operated at more than a $300K surplus in 2009, the same year the ASA had to scramble to overcome a projected deficit in the mid-six figures. To be sure, the AEA surplus in 2008 was even greater, but the point is that its journals, job bank, and (minimal) dues are more than able to cover what its members expect of it.

    In my view, rather than raise dues to support an ever-expanding portfolio of public relations and political activities, the ASA should lay out the options to the members: spend this, get this; spend that, get that. My guess is that the collectivity would settle on a menu of activities that’s somewhere between what the AEA provides and what the ASA provides.

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    krippendorf

    April 18, 2011 at 10:42 pm

  53. […] ASA and its defenders (see, for example, some commenters in this orgtheory thread) can apparently only see this issue through the lens of progressivity. Or, to be more precise, they […]

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