Research Participant Payments
Planning for Research Participant Compensation – Inside and Outside the US
The University, with the IRB’s approval, often compensates study participants for their involvement in research projects. Of course, all research involving human participants must be approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), but research participant compensation methods may also need to be planned early and specifically approved by the IRB. If the University’s standard research participant payment method, WePay™, cannot be used to compensate research participants due to the nature of the research or because research is being conducted outside the United States, then IRB approval will be required.
This guide covers planning for research participant compensation—inside or outside the US—and what to do when WePay™ cannot be used.
Research Participant Compensation (Inside and Outside the US)
Inside the US
WePay™ is the University's payment method for US research participants. WePay™ cards are anonymous, instant issue, MasterCard® branded, stored-value debit cards. They are reloadable and have multiple redemption options to make it easy and convenient for the study participant to use. Visit the WePay site for further details.
WePay™ maintains participant confidentiality while greatly enhancing monitoring, reporting, auditing, compliance, and control capabilities.
On rare occasions, WePay™ may not be appropriate for US-based research given the nature of the research (for example drug / alcohol addiction). See the section titled Alternative (non-WePay™) Research Participant Payment Methods, below that may be appropriate, given IRB approval.
Outside the US
Countries have different laws governing payments to research participants; therefore, in addition to the overarching requirement to obtain IRB approval for any human participant study, you must obtain specific IRB approval for human participant research conducted outside the US and for the respective participant compensation method.
WePay™ cards cannot be used outside the US for the following reasons: Current data collection and system processing requirements, as well as the practical logistics of transporting cards and loading them in-country, make WePay a less-than-suitable payment option for participant payments abroad; and for technical reasons (EMV chip/pin, EMV chip/signature, and POS magnetic stripe technology), we cannot guarantee that the card will be accepted by foreign merchants or that it will work in ATMs outside the United States.
We have included a list of alternative (non-WePay™) research participant compensation methods in the next section of this guide. Please note that any non-WePay™ compensation method must be approved, in advance, by the IRB.
Alternative (non-WePay™) Research Participant Payment Methods
Please note that any IRB approved non-WePay™ research compensation method will require the researcher to maintain appropriate manual logs supporting research participant payments.
Non-WePay™ research participant compensation methods include the following:
1. Store/Gift cards
If store/gift cards will be used to compensate research participants (if approved by the IRB), please select amounts that are equivalent to the area’s economic conditions.
Note: the WePay policy prohibits the use of store/gift cards for research participant payments. Exceptions to this policy require specific IRB approval, signature by the research department’s dean, and details of which must be written into the grant at the outset of the study.
If your study requires an exception to the WePay™ policy on research participant payments, please contact PantherExpress Customer Service (before the study begins) for guidance on what you will need to provide to the Payment Processing and Compliance department.
If cash will be used to compensate research participants (if approved by the IRB), please use amounts that are equivalent to the area’s economic conditions.
If cash is not an appropriate participant incentive given the nature of the research, and if approved the IRB, the University Global Concierge can discuss other options listed below such as small gifts (of an appropriate value for the area’s economic conditions), local store cards, or online store codes (e.g. AMT as described above).
- Small gifts: If approved by the IRB, a small gift could include sporting venue and/or cultural admission tickets, payment of a utility bill, etc. Please select items that are in line with the area’s economic conditions.
- Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT): If approved by the IRB, some researchers have used AMT to manage surveys and compensate research participants inside and outside the US. More information about AMT can be found on these pages:
Paying for Alternative (non-WePay™) Research Participant Payment Methods
As stated above, any IRB approved non-WePay™ solution will require the researcher to maintain appropriate manual logs supporting research participant payments.
If you have obtained IRB approval to use an alternative (non-WePay™) research participant compensation method, the next step is funding it. We recommend the following methods of funding IRB approved non-WePay™ research participant compensation methods:
There are no special instructions for using a P-card to fund the non-WePay™ compensation method. If your P-card is rejected, contact P-card program specialist for assistance.
2. Pre-trip travel advance (international research)
The best funding solution for an IRB approved non-WePay™ research participant compensation method that involves international participants is often a pre-trip travel advance, as there are no finance charges for this option - see instructions.
3. Cash option in-country (international research)
If (IRB approved) cash for research participant payments must be replenished in-travel, then a transfer of departmental funds into your personal bank account is recommended so that you can withdraw cash as needed. Allow three to four days to process the transfer; withdrawal fees apply – see instructions.
Reminder: as stated above, any IRB approved non-WePay™ solution will require the researcher to maintain appropriate manual logs supporting research participant payments.
4. Amazon Mechanical Turk Gift Codes
Studies with very small payment amounts may use Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) through a Man-on-the-Street (MOS) Exception and pay for the gift codes on a WePay™ card. For individual payments under $10, the Principle Investigator or department’s finance administrator should request approval directly through the Office of Finance. For individual payments over $10 the Principle Investigator must obtain written approval from IRB to use a “man-on-the-street” card methodology. Additional information can be found on the WePay website and the Office of Finance Online Purchases Guidance.
Global Concierge Contact Information
If the options above do not meet your needs for payment options for research conducted outside the US, please contact Ian McLaughlin, Global Operations Support Manager, for assistance.