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Institutional Review Board at Aquinas College

Compensating Research Participants

Providing remuneration to research subjects for their participation is a common and acceptable practice.  Details of this remuneration need to be included in the Application for Institutional Review of Research Involving Human Subjects.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) determines if this remuneration is appropriate and does not cause undue influence to participate. The remuneration should not be so high that research subjects accept risk they would not accept in the absence of remuneration, and there can be no other undue influence to participate. >Remuneration Policy Agreement

Equal Remuneration
Remuneration provided to research participants must be equal. For example, if some participants receive $5 each, but others receive a coupon for a free pizza, this is not equal remuneration. If participants’ names are entered in a drawing for an mp3 player, this is not equal remuneration (as only one person receives the mp3 player).

Extra Credit for Participation
Providing extra credit in courses to research subjects as remuneration is a particularly complicated situation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “if that is the only way a student can earn extra credit, then the investigator is unduly influencing potential subjects. If, however, she offers comparable non-research alternative for earning extra credit, the possibility of undue influence is minimized.”** What HHS means by this, is that if extra credit is offered for participation in research, then other students in that course must be offered a non-research alternative at the same time that takes comparable time and effort to complete. This cannot be a graded assignment, as the research participation is not graded. 

When extra credit is given, it must be equal. If some students receive extra credit worth 3 points in a course that is worth 400 points, and others receive 3 points in a course that is worth 100 points, this is not equal remuneration.

It has been the experience of the faculty members on the IRB that most Aquinas College students will participate in research opportunities during class time without remuneration. Typically, professors may permit student and faculty researchers to administer research protocols of brief duration at the beginning or end of a class period. In these situations the instructor should advise their students that they can choose to participate or not participate in the research with no penalty for not participating. Further, the instructor should leave the classroom during this time so their presence is not perceived as undue influence to participate.

Suggestions for Remunerating Research Participants
Remunerating research participants is not, in most cases, necessary. But there are cases when research occurs outside of the classroom and, due to the subject matter, research protocol, or time commitment, it may be deemed necessary by the investigator to remunerate to research participants.

In these cases, the IRB suggests the following types of remuneration:

  • Refreshments - Providing pizza, sandwiches, snacks, soda, or restaurant gift certificates or coupons to research participants at the time of the research protocol.
  • Financial Remuneration – An amount as minimal as $3 may be appropriate for a protocol that takes less than an hour at one time. For protocols that require multiple appointments or time period in excess of an hour, a larger amount of remuneration is more appropriate. Again, remuneration cannot be so large that it coerces participation.

**U.S. Department of Health and Human Services