It is the researcher’s responsibility to provide justification for whether a payment would be considered coercive or not. Whether an incentive is considered an inducement or not could depend on the following:

  1. the circumstances of the potential participant pool eg: a payment of $50 to a homeless person or a student might be considered coercive, while the same amount offered to an office worker would probably be not.
  2. the relationship between the inducement and the ‘market’. Increasingly market research and other fields utilise inducements to encourage participation in their data collection. An important consideration in determining whether an inducement should be considered coercive is whether the proposed inducement is comparable to what participants might be offered from other reputable sources. E.g. a sporting venue might offer the chance to win a ticket to the next game to encourage members of the crowd to complete a survey, so it would be appropriate for researchers in the same context to offer the same kind of inducement.
  3. It is considered not appropriate to offer any incentives for projects that are considered high risk and any time appropriate reimbursements should be justified;

NHMRC Guidelines

The NHMRC Payment of participants in research: information for researchers, HRECs and other ethics review bodies provides information for researchers and reviewers of research to assist in decision-making about when payment of participants in research is ethically acceptable. This advice does not replace or override guidance provided in the National Statement and provides additional information to assist those designing and reviewing human research.

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2023) provides the following information on payment for participation in research:

  • National Statement 2.2.10 - It is generally appropriate to reimburse the costs to participants of taking part in research, including costs such as travel, accommodation, and parking. Sometimes participants may also be paid for time involved. However, payment that is disproportionate to the time involved, or any other inducement that is likely to encourage participants to take risks, is ethically unacceptable.
  • National Statement 3.1.21 - Researchers and reviewers should consider the degree to which any payment in money or incentives of any kind, whether to researchers, participants or others involved in recruitment, could result in pressure on individuals to consent to participate (see paragraphs 2.2.10, and 2.2.11). This is especially important with respect to research that involves more than a low risk of harm.

Anonymous Research

When offering an incentive to participate in anonymous research the researchers must ensure that the anonymity of responses is maintained, whilst at the same time having a mechanism to send the individual the incentive/enter them into the draw.

One solution is to separate the data collection and the incentive mechanism. For example, with online data collection researchers can record the data from the completed instrument and the incentive entry in completely separate tables / online survey tools without any relational link between the two tables.

Prize Draws

If running a lottery or lucky draw the researchers need to ensure that their approach is consistent with the lottery laws. If a raffle is held in Sydney, then the participant is meeting NSW laws, if a raffle is organised overseas then the researcher is required to meet the laws of that country.

The details and conditions of the draw process should be included in the consent process, generally as an attachment to the participant information letter and informed consent package.

Prize draws must be administered and conducted by someone independent of the participant pool and ideally also from the research team.

SONA credit points

Student course credits are no longer available at ACU.

Third party recruitment agencies

Researchers sometimes buy access to participants and/or data from third party market research companies (eg: Prolific, MTurk). In the ethics application the researcher needs to provide:

  • a rationale for this approach to sourcing participants;
  • evidence that any payments made to participants via this third party are in line with Australian Catholic University HREC reimbursement guidelines;
  • evidence that the third party has clear ethical policies and processes in place in relation to the collection and management of participants’ data.


Researchers need to reflect on how the payment will be described in recruitment material so that it cannot be seen as an inducement to participate.

ACU is of the view that monetary amounts cannot be included in advertising materials except where appropriate justification has been made. However, it is appropriate to state on the advertising material that participants will be reimbursed eg: for their travel and parking expenses etc, and the HREC do allow the monetary amount to be included in the Participant Information Letter. 

Researchers must ensure that it is clear to participants whether credit for payment accrues as the study progresses or whether it is contingent upon the participant completing the entire study.

Learn more about recruitment

Page last updated on 05/04/2024

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