What do I need to know about incentives, compensation, and honoraria?

The TCPS2 provides a full description of Incentives in the Application to Article 3.1 on the voluntariness of consent. Please note that the TCPS2 states “This Policy neither recommends nor discourages the use of incentives.” This means that researchers should not feel obliged to offer incentives to participants to undertake research. Note that the decision to offer incentives may

  • involve the collection of personal information which would not otherwise be needed
  • may seem to dismiss the importance of altruistic reasons participants may bring to the decision to take part in research

Researchers must balance the pros and cons of offering incentives, and “the onus is on the researcher to justify to the REB the use of a particular model and the level of incentives”

Incentives, compensation, and honoraria can take be financial such as gift cards or cash, or non-financial. Some examples of non-financial gifts from researcher might include the gift of tobacco, time spent volunteering in the community, or a gift to the community or individual.

Another type of non-financial incentive commonly used is the provision of course credit in return to participation in a research project. This is most often undertaken within the context of the Sona system. If researchers propose to provide course credit as an incentive outside of the Sona system, they must:

  • provide a copy of the course outline where the provision of course credit through research participation is outlined
  • indicate how they will provide an alternative to student who wish to obtain the course credit without taking part in research.

Incentives

Incentives are provided to encourage participants to take part in research.

In all cases, the amount of incentive must not be so great as to affect the voluntariness of a participant’s decision to consent to research (see TCPS2(2018) Article 3 [3.1]).

Draws

One form of incentive is a draw for a financial or non-financial reward. The draw can be for a single ‘prize’ or multiple ‘prizes’. Researchers must include the type of prize(s), the dollar value of the prize(s), and the probability of winning in your REB Application form AND in the consent form.

Incentives and Minors

Note that incentives cannot be provided to a parent/guardian in order to encourage participation of a minor. From Chapter 3 of the TCPS2 “Guardians and authorized third parties should not receive incentives for arranging the involvement in research of the individual they represent. However, they may accept reasonable incentives or compensation on behalf of that individual, as long as these are suitable to the circumstances.”

Incentives for Completing Consent Forms

There are some research situations in which it is difficult for researchers to obtain an unbiased sample of participants using the usual active consent process. Passive consent is seldom a reasonable alternative from a research ethics perspective. Active written consent could be obtained with an incentive for returning consent. Sample wording for this method could be as follows:

Your consent is needed for your child’s participation for the survey completion. Please check one of the options below and sign.

__________     I agree to have my child participate in the survey.

__________     I do not agree to have my child participate in the survey.

 

 ______________________________________________________________________________

Parent Signature                                                                                              Date

 

Please sign this form and mail it back using the enclosed envelope. Once we have received the signed form we will mail [incentive] to your home. You will receive this [incentive] whether you agree for your child to participate or not.

 

Compensation

Compensation refers to providing a financial or non-financial payment in response to expenses incurred by participants, such as parking, travel, or child care.

Honoraria

An honorarium can be provided to a research participant in recognition of their contribution to the research project. It can be appropriate to provide an honorarium to, for example, an Elder representing an Indigenous population, or someone from another identifiable group.

Documentation

In case of audit, researchers must be able to verify or provide a ‘paper trail’ of the expense to Financial Services. Please check with Financial Services through your Departmental Administrative staff to determine what is required.

NOTE: In order to fulfill this obligation while maintaining participant confidentiality (TCPS2(2018) Article 5 [5.1 and 5.4]) you must indicate in the consent form and the REB Application, what information must be collected (including a signature) and provided to Financial Services

Recruitment

Recruitment documents may indicate that participants will receive some compensation or incentive, (see TCPS2 (2014) Article 3.1).

  • it is not necessary to provide compensation or incentive to participants and the provision should be considered only after a review of the increased risk which may result.
  • Not advertising the amount of compensation/incentive may reduce the possibility of undue influence, and gives some reassurance that participants agree to participate for altruistic reasons.
  • Providing compensation/incentive only after the research interaction is complete is another way to avoid undue influence

Placing of the amount of compensation or incentive in advertisements clearly places research in a monetized marketplace, and acts as an inducement to consent through the promise of a reward.

The REB will allow the amount of compensation or incentive to be included in an advertisement for research participants when, in the opinion of the REB, ALL the following conditions have been met:

  • Studies pose no more than minimal risk to participants
  • The compensation/incentive component of the advertisement is not highlighted or enhanced in any way so that it becomes the focus of the advertisement
  • The advertisement contains the amount of time required for participation in the study
  • Participants come from non-vulnerable adult populations

If the incentive is in the form of a prize for a random few participants, the amount of the prize and the odds of winning MUST be stated on the advertisement.

The above discussion are guidelines. Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis provided sufficient justification that is acceptable to the REB is given by the principal investigator.

Wording for Consent Forms

Incentives

The consent form should clearly indicate the type and value of incentive (e.g., $5 for participation, a $10 Tim Hortons gift card, etc.; see TCPS2(2018) Article 3 [3.2]). In the case of draws, the incentive section of the consent document must include the type of prize(s), the dollar value of the prize(s), and the probability of winning. Additionally, you should indicate that “The draw will be done by a third party, not involved in the research. The winner will be contacted by [email/phone call] from the researcher. If the winner has not responded in [two weeks/one month/ 3 weeks] the winner will forfeit the prize and another draw will be held to determine a winner.”

In order to maintain participant confidentiality (TCPS2(2018) Article 5 [5.1 and 5.4]) you must indicate in the consent form, what information will be collected (including a signature) and provided to Financial Services.

Compensation

The consent form should clearly indicate the type and value of compensation (e.g., you will be reimbursed for travel costs up to $X).

In order to maintain participant confidentiality (TCPS2(2018) Article 5 [5.1 and 5.4]) you must indicate in the consent form, what information will be collected (including a signature) and provided to Financial Services.

Benefits

Note that incentives and compensation are NOT considered benefits of participation in the research project. The consent form must discuss benefits, if any, separately from any compensation or incentives which will be provided.

Support info
Area: 
Human Ethics
Category: 
Recruitment and Consent