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IRB Tip #1

Incentives to Participate in Research: Drawings and Gift Cards

If you consider using prize drawings or providing gift cards as incentives to participate in your study, be careful.

UT’s Office of General Counsel as informed our IRB that requiring  participation in order to enter prize drawing constitutes an illegal lottery under Tennessee law. Thus, IRB will not approve a study that provides such incentive. Good news: You can do something similar by allowing either everyone to enter the drawing whether they participate in the study or not, or give all participants a prize. To do the former, add a text like this to your  recruitment materials for research participants: “If you wish to be entered in the drawing without participating in the study, please email…”

Providing gifts cards as incentives can be problematic, too. Since people are allowed to receive only a certain amount of compensation for tax purposes, you will have to provide UT’s Treasurer’s office with information with who received how much in gift certificates. That means you would have to collect data from the participants that will identify them. Thus, you could not state in your IRB application that you offer anonymity to your participants. If you do, IRB will reject your application. Instead, consider if you can offer confidentiality. Anonymity means that you absolutely have no means to tell who the research participant is who is linked to the research data. Confidentiality means that you know who the participant is, but you will ensure that nobody else will know (apart from the approved research team listed in the IRB materials).