Reimbursement to participants
“It is generally appropriate to reimburse the costs to participants of taking part in research, including costs such as travel, accommodation and parking. Sometimes participants may also be paid for time involved. However, payment that is disproportionate to the time involved, or any other inducement that is likely to encourage participants to take risks, is ethically unacceptable.” (NS 2.2.10)
“Decisions about payment or reimbursement in kind, whether to participants or their community, should take into account the customs and practices of the community in which the research is to be conducted.” (NS 2.2.11)
“An HREC should be satisfied that:
(a) payment in money or incentives of any kind, whether to researchers or participants, does not result in pressure on individuals to consent to participate (see paragraphs 2.2.10, and 2.2.11)” (NS 3.3.18)
It is often appropriate to provide reimbursement to participants for expenses and incidental costs (for example travel expenses, telephone calls, meals). In some studies, and in some circumstances and cultures, it may be appropriate to offer tokens of appreciation (e.g. movie tickets, vouchers, small gifts) to potential participants.
While advertisements may indicate that participants will receive a degree of reimbursement, researchers should be careful to ensure that advertising material does not have the potential to coerce an individual to participate.
The researchers should justify in their ethics application the amount of monetary or other reimbursement, and its inclusion in any advertising material. Payment should be proportional to the time and effort involved in study participation and should be fairly distributed to all participants. It should not be so great that it would act as pressure on individuals to consent – especially if participation in the study involves risks and there is a chance that the payment could serve as an undue incentive to participate and therefore incurring these risks. The language and design of any advertising material should not over-emphasize the reimbursement.
If the incentive is to comprise a lottery or lucky draw the researchers need to ensure that their approach is consistent with the lottery laws lotteries factsheet
Student course credits are acceptable for those courses such as Psychology where the Faculty has determined that research experience as a participant is beneficial to their studies and is to be encouraged. If the incentive is course credit, the researchers should explain the alternatives to participation that are available (e.g. educational activities or assignments) in the Participant Information Statement (PIS). The PIS should also outline the process of awarding course credits if a participant withdraws from the study.