Research Incentives - Mechanical Turk

Updated June 26, 2018

Introduction: Certain research projects involve human subjects. Any payments made to human subjects as an incentive to participate in research should follow this process. Please also note that your proposed method of providing incentives to research participants, and any necessary procedures to accommodate the requirements below, must be outlined and approved by the NCSU Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is an online payment processing service where people offer or do jobs that can be done over the internet. Social scientists have begun using MTurk to recruit participants for their studies. To comply with University guidelines, all surveys using MTurk must include a question that disallows NCSU employees from participation because payments to employees must be taxed through payroll (Policy 05.15.03).

General Guidance:

  • Researchers must have IRB approval of the specific research protocol for which research incentives will be provided before payments may be arranged.
  • Payment for research incentives can never be charged to state-appropriated funds. If funding authority allows, payments may be charged to F&A, ledger 5, ledger 6 and ledger 7 accounts.
  • A question must be included in the survey that disallows NCSU employees (student, faculty, full-time, or part-time).
  • University P-Cards and Marketplace may not be used for this process, per College policy.
  • Researcher may request a cash advance or may use personal funds and seek reimbursement. Reimbursements will be allowed for reasonable and customary payment amounts. Contact the Research Office with any questions.

Cash Advances

Step 1: Request the cash advance

Step 2: Run study

Remember to describe this process in your human subjects protocol that you submit to the IRB.

Step 3: Reconcile the cash advance

  • Submit to CHASS Research Office:
  1. Signed GA081
  2. Any unused cash
  3. List of respondents from MTurk showing payment amount to each
  4. Print-out from MTurk of Account Summary / Account Activity that shows deposit(s) into MTurk account and any refunds requested for unused funds.
  5. Print-out from MTurk of batch information that shows total estimated payments and fees
  6. Copy of survey showing question that disallows NCSU employees from participating.

Reimbursement Requests

  • Researchers who use personal funds for incentive payments can be reimbursed if IRB approval has been received and payment amounts are reasonable and customary.
  • Complete a Research Incentive Reimbursement Request Form form which must be signed by Department Head.
  • Submit to CHASS Research Office:
  1. signed Research Incentive Reimbursement Request form
  2. List of respondents from MTurk showing payment amount to each (excel format)
  3. Print-out from MTurk of Account Summary / Account Activity that shows deposit(s) into MTurk account and any refunds requested for unused funds.
  4. Print out from MTurk of batch information that shows total estimated payments and fees
  5. Copy of survey showing question that disallows NCSU employees from participating.

Additional References:

IRB: http://research.ncsu.edu/sparcs/compliance/irb/

Policy 05.15.03 Non-Salary and Deferred Compensation: http://policies.ncsu.edu/policy/pol-05-15-03

SPARCS: http://research.ncsu.edu/sparcs/compliance/irb/irb-policies/irb-incentive-payments/