The University, with the approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), often compensates study participants for their involvement in research projects. Of course, all research involving human participants must be approved by the IRB, but research participant compensation methods may also need to be planned early and specifically approved by the IRB. If the University’s standard research participant payment method, WePay™, cannot be used to compensate research participants due to the nature of the research or because research is being conducted outside the United States, then IRB exemption or waiver will be required.This guide covers planning for research participant compensation—inside or outside the US—and what to do when WePay™ cannot be used. Relevant information about research-related budget preparation is also available on the Budget Planning for On-Site International Research page.
WePay™ is the University’s payment method for US research participants. WePay™ cards are anonymous, instant issue, MasterCard® branded, stored-value debit cards. They are reloadable and have multiple redemption options to make it easy and convenient for the study participant to use.
WePay™ maintains participant confidentiality while greatly enhancing monitoring, reporting, auditing, compliance, and control capabilities.
On rare occasions, WePay™ may not be appropriate for US-based research given the nature of the research (for example drug / alcohol addiction). See the section titled Alternative (non-WePay™) Research Participant Payment Methods, below that may be appropriate, given IRB approval.
Countries have different laws governing payments to research participants; therefore, in addition to the overarching requirement to obtain IRB approval for any human participant study, you must obtain specific IRB approval for human participant research conducted outside the US and for the respective participant compensation method.
WePay™ cards cannot be used outside the US for the following reasons: Current data collection and system processing requirements, as well as the practical logistics of transporting cards and loading them in-country, make WePay™ a less-than-suitable payment option for participant payments abroad; and for technical reasons (EMV chip/pin, EMV chip/signature, and POS magnetic stripe technology), we cannot guarantee that the card will be accepted by foreign merchants or that it will work in ATMs outside the United States.
We have included a list of alternative (non-WePay™) research participant compensation methods in the next section of this guide. Please note that any non-WePay™ compensation method must be approved, in advance, by the IRB.
Please note that any IRB approved non-WePay™ research compensation method will require the researcher to maintain appropriate manual logs supporting research participant payments.
Non-WePay™ research participant compensation methods include the following:
If store/gift cards will be used to compensate research participants (if permitted by the IRB), please select amounts that are equivalent to the area’s economic conditions.
Note: the WePay™ policy prohibits the use of store/gift cards for research participant payments. Exceptions to this policy require specific IRB approval, signature by the research department’s dean, and details of which must be written into the grant at the outset of the study.
If your study has been granted an IRB exception to the WePay™ policy on research participant payments, please contact PantherExpress Customer Service (before the study begins) for guidance on what you will need to provide to the Payment Processing and Compliance department.
If cash will be used to compensate research participants (if approved by the IRB), please use amounts that are equivalent to the area’s economic conditions.
If cash is not an appropriate participant incentive given the nature of the research, please consult with the Global Operations Support Manager about other options listed below such as small gifts (of an appropriate value for the area’s economic conditions), local store cards, or online store codes (e.g. AMT as described above).
If an exemption is provided by the IRB, payments can be made with a small gift, for example tickets to sports events or a cultural venue, payment of a utility bill, etc. Researchers need to select items of a type and monetary value that are culturally sensitive and in line with the area’s economic conditions. Other methods to compensate research participants might include payment through online crowd sourced marketplaces, though such methods also must be cleared by the IRB.
As stated above, any IRB approved non-WePay™ solution will require the researcher to maintain appropriate manual logs supporting research participant payments.
If you have obtained an IRB exemption to use an alternative (non-WePay™) research participant compensation method, the next step is funding it. We recommend the following methods of funding IRB approved non-WePay™ research participant compensation methods:
If you experience difficulty in using your P-Card to pay for an alternative compensation method, contact the P-Card Program Specialist for assistance.
Pre-trip Travel Advance (International Research)
The best funding solution for an IRB approved non-WePay™ research participant compensation method that involves international participants is often a pre-trip travel advance, as there are no finance charges for this option. The Travel Advance Request form is available through University Business Forms (UBF). Submission instructions are located on the Travel Advance Request form. If you do not have access to UBF, visit the UBF website for instructions.
Cash Option In-Country (International Research)
If (IRB approved) cash for research participant payments must be replenished in-travel, then a transfer of departmental funds into your personal bank account is recommended so that you can withdraw cash as needed. Allow three to four days to process the transfer; withdrawal fees apply – see instructions.
Reminder: as stated above, any IRB approved non-WePay™ solution will require the researcher to maintain appropriate manual logs supporting research participant payments.
For more information on foreign national research participant payments or to answer any questions, please contact the following: