Compensation/Incentives for Study Participants

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Am I allowed to compensate participants or provide incentives for being in my study?

Compensation or incentives, ranging from a gift card to stickers or small toys to cash payments to course credit, can be made to research participants may be made as an incentive to participate. This should not be considered as a benefit of the study, but rather as compensation for volunteering of time. The remuneration should not be so substantial that a potential participant feels s/he must participate in the study.

All participants must be provided equal payment and/or equal opportunity for rewards. Recruitment publicity may mention but not emphasize compensation.

The IRB must determine whether the nature, amount and method of compensation are appropriate and do not constitute undue inducement for participation. If payments exceed $600 per calendar year, the IRB requires the Research Foundation of SUNY report these payments annually to the IRS. Identifying information (name, address and social security number) must be reported by law. 

The consent form must include the following information about compensation/incentives:

  • Clear description of compensation: goods, extra credit cash or check payments in dollar amounts
  • If course credit or extra credit, an alternative must be offered that will take a similar amount of time and effort as study participation
  • Clear description of the method of compensation and/or pro-rating of compensation for certain portions of research participation
  • Clear description of eligibility for compensation
  • Clear description of how compensation will be distributed to eligible participants
  • If over $600 per calendar year is possible, include the following statement: "By accepting payment for participating in this research, certain identifying information about you may be made available to professional auditors to satisfy federal and state reporting requirements, but confidentiality will be preserved. Please note that if you earn over $600 per calendar year as a research subject, these earnings will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service."

For more information, please review the Federal Office for Human Research Protection (OHRP) guidelines on compensating study subjects.

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Last Updated 1/8/18