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BSI finances explained: how we fund vital support for our members

The British Society for Immunology acts as a focal hub for the immunology community, supporting and empowering immunologists to drive forward scientific discovery and application together. Over the past 60 years we have carried out countless activities to benefit both our members and the wider immunology community and, as outlined in our 2021– 2025 strategy, we plan to continue building and significantly expanding our work to make a positive impact on health. Ensuring the financial stability of the BSI is crucial to the delivery of our ambitious plan. Here, our Finance Director, Otto Balsiger, spotlights how the Society is funded and our plans to maintain its financial health over the next five years.

Figure 1 finance.
Figure 1: Illustration of the typical composition of the BSI income for a year in which BSI Congress is held.

Where do we spend our income?

Over the last few years, we have significantly expanded our work to provide valuable support for our community and we’re set to continue in this journey as we deliver on our current strategy.

Most of our income is used to generate opportunities for our members to connect with others, establish collaborations and grow their skill sets in a supportive environment. Our flagship event, the BSI Congress, together with the annual programme of our Regional & Affinity Group meetings, is by far our biggest cost. This is followed by services for our members which include membership, awards and grants, and our careers and education support. For example, last year we significantly expanded our career development offering with various activities including our new grant scheme, the BSI Career Enhancing Grants, which provides flexible funding for any type of career-related activity to help immunologists advance their professional development.

We also carry out numerous activities which harness the knowledge generated by our membership to influence the outside world and enable immunology to deliver positive outcomes for health. Our activities in the policy and public engagement area have increased following the receipt of funding for various projects detailed in this article. The last main area of cost is the publishing of our scientific journals which facilitate innovation and research dissemination.

Figure 2 finance
Figure 2: Illustration of the expected composition of the projected BSI income.

How are we funded?

Figure 1 shows the Society’s income for the 2018–19 financial year which illustrates the typical composition of income for a BSI Congress year (which typically happens every two out of three years) over the last decade.

Our established journals at the time provided the lion’s share of income (64%). Our journal income has provided the BSI with a large stable income stream for many years subsidising charitable activities across the Society and the important support we provide to our members. This is followed by our Congress and events income at 22%.

The remaining 14% of our income is split between membership, our investments and our corporate and partnership work. In a typical year, membership fees from our 4000+ members provide around 5% of our income, which does not cover the cost of services we provide to members, such as grants, conferences and discounted meetings and career support.

The last three years have brought huge changes to the Society’s funding. Figure 2 illustrates our projected budgeted income for 2022–23, which is significantly higher than 2018–19, but we project will show a distinct change in the diversity of the main income streams.

The most noticeable change is the significant reduction in journal income following changes in our publishing portfolio. As part of our income diversification efforts to secure the financial future of the BSI, in 2021 we evolved our publishing strategy to focus on developing journals wholly owned by the Society which will allow us to support current and future generations of immunologists. These changes resulted in our current family of journals with three excellent platforms for research dissemination: Discovery Immunology, Immunotherapy Advances and Clinical & Experimental Immunology. As we have been working to reduce our reliance upon journal income to widen our revenue sources, next year our journals will bring in approximately half of the income we received from our publishing portfolio in 2018–19. This was expected and our income is now more diverse showing two new large income streams which better support the financial security of the Society.

The first income stream refers to funded projects which reflects the expansion of our activities to support wider immunology research efforts and the income received for our work on partnership projects including National Core Studies Immunity and the new CARINA network on the immunology of ageing. Funded projects are an important new source of income for the BSI which is expected to contribute over 10% of our income next year. We are planning to develop this area further over the next few years as we build relationships with our project partners and funders.

The second new income stream is currently under development for launch in the next financial year. We are very excited to share some new projects which will generate new sources of income to support our members soon.

Figure 3 finance

How have we been securing our financial stability?

To deliver our ambitious strategic aims, we need to maintain the BSI as a sector-leading organisation, and one of the key enablers to do so is our financial sustainability.

Over the past decade our journals provided a high level of stable income and, together with the strong performance of our investments, we built up reserves of almost £5m last year.

We have well thought out plans to use some of our reserves to further support our members through new initiatives such as our Career Enhancing Grants and to develop new sources of income for the Society that will in turn fund other important activities to benefit our members.

The development of new income streams is not a quick process as there is often a delay between investment and return requiring the use of reserves. They have been built up for exactly this purpose and their use has been carefully planned to ensure they are used in the most effective way while ensuring the financial sustainability of the BSI.


Otto Balsiger

BSI Finance Director