Study Participants

Payments or Incentives Related to Participants in a Study

It is acceptable to offer small financial payments or other types of incentives (e.g., small toys, money orders, gift certificates or entry into a drawing) to research participants for participation in a study if the individual payments to participants will not exceed $75, and any recurring payments to individuals will not exceed $599 in any one year.

  • The PI should request a cash advance by submitting a check request form that is approved with an attached memo indicating the name of the study, the amount to be given to each participant, the number of participants and the total amount requested.

  • The form must also be accompanied by SFSU's Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) approval letter.

  • PI's will not be held to the exact number of participants originally planned because the number may vary over the course of the study but if significant changes to the same size or a new sample population be necessary, the PI must receive approval by the CPHS for the study modification before proceeding further.

After the advance is approved and processed, a check would be made out to the PI who then cashes it and disburses the incentives to individual participants. In the event that the cash or gift cards are lost or stolen, the PI will be required to reimburse University Corporation for the loss.

The PI is responsible for maintaining a receipt system in order to reconcile the cash advance with payments made to participants. The PI must also maintain a tracking system of the individuals to ensure that no one individual receives a total of $599 or more in any one year.

These databases will need to be kept secure and indefinitely to allow for an audit of expenditures if required.

To settle the cash advance:

For a NON-CONFIDENTIAL study, a hospitality form will need to be completed that clearly indicates it is a cash advance settlement. The following documents will need to accompany this hospitality form:

  • If the incentive was a gift card, the original receipt for the purchase of gift cards will also need to be submitted to University Corporation

  • The Participant Incentive form that includes:

    • The participant's name

    • Participant's signature indicating receipt of the incentive

    • Date of the interview

    • Amount paid to the participant

For a Confidential study, a hospitality form will need to be completed that clearly indicates it is a cash advance settlement. The following documents will need to accompany the hospitality form:

  • If the incentive was a gift card, the original receipt for the purchase of gift cards will also need to be submitted to University Corporation

  • The Participant Incentive form that includes:

    • The participant's coded ID numbers, rather than the name and signature of the participant.
    • The amount paid to the participant
    • The date of the interview and the signatures of the person conducting the interview
    • An individual designated to provide program oversight that authorizes the disbursement of the incentive for completion of the survey.
      • This person can be the project director, research study manager or another individual which certifies that the incentive was given to the participant for completing the survey.
      • If the person, who receives the cash advance, is also monitoring the survey and/or is the project director, then the Dean will need to approve the list of participants by signing the certification clause at the top of the list.

If individual payments will exceed $75 or any recurring payments to individuals exceed a total of $599, the individual will need to submit a W-9 and be paid via University Corporation check.

Even though these incentives may be non-cash they are still considered a form of compensation. As such, each PI should consider if a research subject would feasibly receive more than $599 in compensation annually during a study or combination of studies.

If this is the case, then the PI would need to submit an Honorarium form to the University Corporation with the documents that accompanied the cash advance request, as well as the Participant Incentive form that documents their participation in the study. This needs to be accompanied by the individual's W-9 form. At the end of the year, the University Corporation will issue a 1099 or 1042-S to the individual.