A question on norms around honoraria

A message from a North American academic:

I have professional question for you. I ask because you have shared a lot on your blog about this kinds of issues: How does one determine one’s honorarium fee? Should one determine or request a flat amount? If so, how do you value and change the value of your honorarium as you are in more demand?

This seems like another one of those things one only figures out by asking around, but because it can be a private matter, not many talk about it. In any case, I seem to be invited to more and more paid lectures these days and am seeking your advise on how to navigate this issue. I have seen some scholars even post statements about speaking fees on their website, but I feel a bit weird about that…

From my reply:

On the honorarium question – this isn’t something that is really an issue in the UK, as very few places offer them, and some are not even allowed to pay them. The partial exception is usually professional schools… If I do things in continental Europe or North America that pay then I usually treat it as a nice bonus, thinking that I am on a good salary which includes the need to present my work. I’ve never tried to increase a fee offered. I’d say that $200 for a lecture rising to $500 for a full day – maybe a lecture and giving feedback on student presentations – was about normal, but I may be off here. After tax, this really isn’t a huge amount, and given travel time and preparation you’d need to do a lot to make an appreciable difference to salary. I tend to use the money to fund research trips to archives etc.
I do hear, anecdotally, about the kind of demands some people make. I wouldn’t want to be in that group, so unless you are asked for a quote, I’d suggest being careful. But as you suggest, asking around is a good idea – I suspect North American academics would have a better sense than me. I could open up a discussion on the blog, anonymised of course, if you’d like.

So, with their permission, I’m opening this up for comments. I’m aware that there is a slight contradiction in the request, in that an honorarium is traditionally payment without a set rate, as opposed to a fee. Anonymous comments are fine, but keep it pleasant, please.

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4 Responses to A question on norms around honoraria

  1. Keith Harris says:

    Based on my limited experience, I can confirm that the $200 rate per day, for a partial day’s work, was what was offered and accepted. In my case, the work for a U.S. State Department-funded program for visiting humanities scholars spanned three different sessions and included a seminar and two walking tours.

  2. Examining a UK PhD – £110-£265 plus travel [c.AU$400 in Australia for written report only, sums usually specified in the union pay bargaining agreements]. Speaking requests – $0 for me, but I once heard of a a giant fee in five figures for an Indian environmental/human rights writer.

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