The Pros and Cons of Inducements in Research
Inducements in research have come under heavy criticism, with critics citing the potential for detriment to research subjects and the welfare of research participants. They can also lead to subject selection bias and undermine consent. Wilkinson and Moore discuss the pros and cons of introducing inducements into research and conclude that the practice is unpersuasive. They note that some studies involving inducements are biased against healthy subjects, while others have heart conditions and no adequate verification method.
Incentives in research can be both financial and non-financial. Researchers should strive to limit the likelihood that an incentive will influence a subject’s decision. Financial inducements are usually less problematic than non-financial ones, but should be considered carefully. While they can improve recruitment and retention, they can also lead to undue influence.
Inducements in research can also be a form of coercion. For example, students may volunteer to participate in research because they wish to please their instructors, advisors, or mentors. These students could be vulnerable to undue influence or coercion. Researchers should design their studies to reduce peer pressure.
Inducements are considered unethical if they are too high. A $100 grocery gift card could be an example of an unethical inducement. This would typically mean a lot to people who are in desperate need of food. This incentive could be coercive, especially if it is harmful to the subject’s health.
In exchange for participant participation, some researchers offer other services such as nutritional counseling or physical exams. In this case, the services provided as inducements must meet part (a) of Standard 8.06. The services must also comply with the APA Ethics Code standards, which include informed consent, competence and multiple relationships.
While the use of financial incentives for research subjects is not new, it continues to spark debate among researchers. Some researchers believe that monetary incentives are unethical and can lead subjects to conceal information or take part in research they wouldn’t otherwise. However, there is limited empirical data that shows the effects of monetary incentives upon research subjects.
Although incentives in research can encourage research subjects to take part in clinical trials, they cannot guarantee their ethical compliance. Payments can also have an impact upon the diversity of the study population. Low-income subjects may refuse to take part because they cannot afford to pay for the research. Participants may also be encouraged to cheat or misrepresent income in order to gain an advantage.