Frequently, subjects receive remuneration for participating in research, e.g., money, free medical care, or course credit. Modest incentives or reimbursements for expenses incurred by subjects are appropriate. However, if incentives are so strong that prospective subjects do not think that they can refuse them, then the incentives become essentially coercive (i.e., “undue”. Undue inducements are troublesome because (1) offers that are too attractive may blind prospective subjects to the risks of a study or impair their ability to exercise proper judgment, and (2) they may prompt subjects to lie or conceal information that, if known, would prevent them from enrolling or continuing as participants in research projects. IRB standards for judging whether incentives constitute undue influence must vary according to research procedures and subject populations, but the following questions form the general basis for determining whether incentives are appropriate:
- Are all research conditions in keeping with standards for voluntary and informed consent?
- Are the incentives offered reasonable, based on the complexities and inconveniences of the study and the particular subject population?