Participant Compensation

Participant Compensation

Participant compensation is any monetary, cash-equivalent (gift cards, coupons, lotteries, etc.), and non-monetary (extra credit, gifts, course credit, etc.) item offered to a research participant in exchange for their participation in a human subjects research study. Compensation given to research participants is not considered a benefit. Rather, it should be considered reimbursement for time and inconvenience. 

The compensation type/amount, the proposed method for delivery, and the timing of disbursement should not be considered coercive, or present undue influence on the potential participants. 

Coercion occurs when an overt or implicit threat of harm is intentionally presented by one person to another in order to obtain compliance. For example, an investigator might tell a prospective subject that he or she will lose access to needed health services if he or she does not participate in the research.
Undue influence, by contrast, often occurs through an offer of an excessive or inappropriate reward or other overture in order to obtain compliance. For example, an investigator might promise psychology students extra credit if they participate in the research. 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 alternatives for earning extra credit, the possibility of undue influence is minimized.

The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP) provides guidance addressing the ethical concerns regarding offers of payment to Research Participants.

Please ensure you are following all guidance from UNT’s procurement office and UNT policies and procedures. UNT Finance & Administration have a procedure for Purchase of Gift Cards that should be reviewed when compensating participants with Gift cards. 

For more information about Compensation to Research Participants, please review IRB SOP 22.01

Compensation Options

Tango Card
  • Tango Card is ideal for researchers that want to use gift cards as participant payments, these are usually smaller dollar amounts and/or dollar amounts that may vary based on participation and need to be assigned and given out to participants in real time. 
  • In order to facilitate research for those needing to compensate any study with a gift card, we are recommending research teams open an account with Tango Card. This is a free 3rd party platform that will allow you to load all of the funds up front through one PO for the study and make it to where researchers are able to assign the dollar amounts and send the electronic gift cards to participants in real time. Payments are sent as an email to the participant, they can then choose from a large assortment of gift cards (ie. Amazon, Starbucks, Target, etc.). 
  • Disbursement logs must still be maintained as though physical cards are being used, for any dollar amount, and PII must be on that log when a participant will be receiving $100 or more as described above. Please contact if you have questions about maintaining disbursement logs. 
  • Any unused funds that are left in the Tango account at the end of the project can be recuperated at no charge. 
  • Each PI should create their own Tango account, otherwise the participants email addresses and names will be viewable to other research teams. Once the account is created, the PO request for funds should include the tango account information to ensure funds are added to the correct account. 
  • You can open an account by requesting a demo through the Tango website linked above. Once your account has been created with Tango you should submit your requisition to procurement with your personal Tango Account #, Approved IRB#, and amount to be loaded into Tango.
  • ClinCard is ideal for studies where a gift card would not be appropriate. Usually, it would benefit the studies that have larger compensation amounts and/ or repeated payments as there are several fees associated with its usage. Payment amounts can be setup at the beginning of a study. Fees include a monthly charge for one coordinator seat per research team, monthly charge for any active cards, a loading fee to add funds to a card, and an initial fee to load the researcher’s account. Physical cards must be ordered in bulk ahead of the study and cannot be returned or refunded if any are not used. Unused funds can be refunded at the end of a study for a fee. 
  • In order to facilitate research for those needing to compensate any study participant with a cash equivalent instead of a gift card, we are recommending research teams go through Research Integrity and Compliance (RIC) to open a ClinCard account. This is a 3rd party platform that will allow you to give participants a physical or electronic card that can be used as a debit card that can be loaded with funds multiple times throughout the project and can be used anywhere that accepts Debit/ Credit Card purchases. Users and recipients must be 18 years or older. 
    • Logs must be maintained for every disbursement (this platform is not recommended for payments that are less than $100), PII is recorded and maintained in the Clincard system for easy reporting to the UNT System Tax Office. 
    • You can find more information on their website linked above. Researchers should contact RIC well in advance (60 days) of their study initiation for further guidance. Training is required for use of this platform. 
Course/Extra Credit

If course credit or extra credit is offered in exchange for participation, an alternate means of earning equivalent course credit or extra credit for an equivalent commitment of time and effort should be made available for those who cannot or choose not to participate in a study. This alternative assignment must be articulated in the research protocol and referenced in the consent document.

Third-Party Crowdsourcing Websites
  • Crowdsourcing Platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics Panels can be used to recruit participants. 
  • For survey studies where a researcher is collecting data from crowdsourcing platforms such as Qualtrics Panels or Amazon Mechanical Turk, particpants should be notified with the following language in the consent form:
    • “Compensation for participation is not being provided by the University of North Texas researchers. Upon survey completion you may be compensated in the amount previously agreed upon when you started the survey by [Amazon MTurk; your Qualtrics Panel Provider]. Any compensation is directly provided by [Amazon MTurk; your Qualtrics Panel Provider]. If you choose not to complete part or all of study procedures, or if you fail attention checks, you may not be compensated for participation. If you have questions or would like to discuss issues regarding your compensation, please contact [Amazon MTurk; your Qualtrics Panel Provider] directly. You may also discuss this with the research team at [contact information].”
  • Researchers must still track participants to ensure all participants have been compensated in the format stated within the consent form and in accordance with any signed contract related to the project. Researchers are required to keep logs showing the number of participants enrolled, including their study ID number. However, direct compensation is provided by the platform.