Researchers already have enough to think about, but those in academia often face even more pressure, more requirements, and tighter budgets. No matter what type of participants they are trying to attract, they need to do it efficiently and cost-effectively. Incorporating an incentive such as a digital prepaid card is a great solution, but academic researchers have some extra issues to navigate.
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Many academic research projects must comply with requirements from an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Compensating participants is a generally accepted practice, but IRBs “must be vigilant about minimizing the possibility for coercion and undue influence,” according to the federal Office for Human Research Protections. That means they may need to review the proposed method of incentivizing, the amount, the timing, and other factors before approving your project.
Part of avoiding that “undue influence” is making sure that your incentive is an appropriate value for the level of effort. If it’s too much, it could threaten your IRB approval. If it’s too little, it won’t be effective enough to attract the participation you need. It’s a good idea to use an incentive that has variable values, like a digital prepaid card, so you have the flexibility to adjust the amount for each project or even for different audience pools within the same study.
When determining what that amount should be, the two biggest considerations are the time commitment required and the value of the participants’ time. The reward for completing a 10-question, multiple-choice survey can obviously be less than the compensation for a joining a long-term focus group. And a group of students don’t need as large of a reward as, say, a group of C-level executives. Here are some tips and a simple formula to help you find the right value.
Academic researchers are often working with sensitive personal information or studies where the subjects need to remain anonymous. In such cases, it’s always better to err on the side of caution in regard to protecting that personally identifiable information (PII). When you decouple a participant’s responses from their incentive delivery, you can collect the email without compromising anonymity. You can also employ data masking to control the distribution of PII. Using tools that can support these kinds of workflows is key. Also don’t forget to make sure your survey and incentive platforms comply with all applicable privacy regulations, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
While not a requirement, integrating your incentives into your research platform will let you automate delivery and streamline the process. It also means that you can monitor your rewards and budget more easily, in one place. When you incentivize participants with a digital prepaid card or e-gift card, you can monitor each one to see who has claimed it. Eliminating the extra administrative burden of having to send out rewards will free you up to focus on what’s most important — your research and results.
Learn more about compliance best practices for academic research programs by downloading our IRB Essentials checklist!