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Participant Pool Procedures for Psychology Experiment

To: All Psychology Faculty and Students

From: Jeff Vancouver, Participant Pool Person (System Administrator)

Date: August 16, 2013


  1. Course Credit. Psychology 1010 students are required to obtain SIX research credits. They may also earn additional extra credits, where the amount should be between 4 percent and 6 percent of the total points for the class [e.g., if a course has 250 points, between 10 and 15 extra credit points could be offered]). Students in psychology classes other than 1010 may participate in the pool at the discretion of their instructors (e.g., all 1110 instructors allow extra credits via research credits). Students earn these credits by participating in studies or by completing a set of questions about the methodology employed in psychology journal articles they have read. Students not yet 18 must have consent of their legally authorized representative to participate in research. Note most studies require that participants are at least 18 years old.
  2. Creating a study. The Study Management System is used to manage participant sign-up and the record of credits obtained. Researchers wishing to use the participant pool must be on the system. All faculty should be on the system. Students not on the system need to contact me to get onto the system. Once on, you can enter studies into the "Study Information" form. Studies must have a name, brief abstract, detailed description, duration, number of credits (see below), and primary researcher’s name (instructions are provided for adding more than one researcher). According to department policy, duration must be designated in 30-minute increments with .5 of a credit for every half-hour or part of a half-hour (e.g., a 25-minute study should be worth .5 credits and listed as a 30-minute study). Note that the time indicated for the study in a consent form should correspond to the researchers' best estimate of the time for the study and does not need to be in 30-minute increments. This policy is designed to increase the spread of signups across studies. Subject restrictions (e.g., "Must be 18 years or older"), pre-requisite and disqualifier studies, and preparation instructions are optional fields. Until you are ready to "post" the study, the study should be checked as inactive. Note the study will not be visible to students until I have made it so, and that requires IRB approval (see below). If you wish to maintain certain compositions of participants (e.g., all females in a session; all males in a different session), you will want to create more than one entry for a study (e.g., a version for females and a version for males) and probably use the prescreen feature (see below). You should not indicate that your study is a Research Alternative. That only applies to the article option, where students obtain research credits for reading and completing a form on a psychology article.
  3. Prescreen (formerly mass screening). Once you create a study and clicked the "save changes" button on the bottom of the study information entry form, you will be sent to the Study Information page. At the bottom are links, including Participant Study View. You will also see a link beside Prescreen Restrictions labeled View/Modify Restrictions. If you click on that link you will see all the multiple choice questions in the prescreen. These can be used to restrict or narrow the possible participants who can see and therefore sign-up for your studies. For example, if you only want female participants in a particular session, you can check the "Gender" item (first one). At the bottom of the web page press the "set restrictions" button. The possible responses to the gender question are displayed and you can check "female." Doing so means that only those indicating that they are female in the prescreen will see the study and be able to sign-up for the timeslots that you set up for it (see below). Important: students must have completed the prescreen to see a study with ANY restrictions (~80 percent of the total pool). The restrictions you set further limit who will see the study based on the student’s responses. If the restriction is not critical, you may just want to state it in the eligibility requirements section when setting up the study (see item 2 above). You can always add restrictions later (it will not affect those already signed up). To use a prescreen restriction, it must be in the prescreen. Currently, four items will always be in the prescreen (gender, age [10 possible levels], and class, first numerical digit in Ohio ID). The last item (first digit in Ohio ID) is for randomly assigning individuals into groups (10 possible). Thus, it could be used for assigning individuals to different studies or online questionnaires (careful here; the participants do not seem to be responding evenly across the possible options). If you want an item or questionnaire in the prescreen, you need to have included the instrument with your IRB proposal (or as a separate submission) and have approval before the beginning of the semester. However, to reduce redundancy you may be able to use an item from someone else’s instrument. You may also wish to use cutoff scores from instrument averages or sums. Provided these have been set up at the beginning of the semester, you can use the same method described above to identify these values. You can also examine the distributions of scores (N, mean, SD) for an item or questionnaire from the “Prescreen Results” link on top menu. This can be used to determine cutoff values. Note, the prescreen becomes inactive after the second week of the semester (the students are warned) to encourage the bulk of responses early in the semester (this restriction is lifted for the summer sessions). You might want to monitor the N for a question you are thinking of using to restrict before making the restriction. Finally, you can use the prescreen as a way of separating an observation from the data collection sessions (e.g., to avoid cueing or demand characteristics). In these cases, you will likely want the data from the prescreen so that you can link it to your session data. To do this you must 1) have identified data from the study session (usually Ohio ID), and 2) warn participants in the prescreen that the researcher will be able to link their responses in the section to identifying information (e.g., include in the instructions of the section the following sentence: "Note that researchers will be able to tie the information you provide here to your Ohio ID."). The warning statement is necessary because the consent form for the prescreen notes that no such linkage will occur unless otherwise warned. Also, you will also want to restrict your study to only those who have taken the prescreen. The easiest way to do this is to restrict the study to those who indicate they are male or female. Only those who endorsed neither (mostly those that did not take the prescreen) will not see the study. To learn more about the prescreen feature, please refer to the Study Management System documentation.
  4. IRB. Prior to posting a study, it must receive IRB approval. Studies using the sign-up system must include a copy of the study information page (belongs in Appendix B of the IRB proposal outline form). That page can be printed (or electronically copied) and sent to IRB with your proposal or addendum. Once you receive the IRB approval, add the IRB approval code to the study information page and click the "Send an Approval Request" link just below the IRB approval code field. That will send me, the administrator, an email requesting the study be approved. It includes all the information I need, but there is a space to include a special note if you wish. If you have a multiple entries for a single study (see item 2 above), add a letter (a, b, c, etc.) at the end of the number to designate each entry (e.g., 03F001a).
  5. Posting a study. To post a study, it must be visible (i.e., approved via process described above) and active. You make the study active, via the study information page. You will also need to create timeslots for students to see and be able to sign-up for your study. Careful, if you develop timeslots prior to IRB approval and check the study as active, you might find the study is posted (because I made it visible), and you are not staffing the session (because you did not realize the study was posted). So the preferred order is 1) develop the study record, 2) submit and receive IRB approval, 3) develop timeslots, 4) make the study active. When communicating about a study outside of the system (i.e., not directly using the links provided in the system), please indicate the name of the study. There are many studies in the system and it is difficult to keep track of them all.
  6. Contacting Participants. Researchers can contact all the participants signed-up for a particular session either prior to or after the session. This is a convenient way to provide directions to sessions, remind participants of restrictions and preparations, or remind past participants to sign-up for follow-up studies. You can also contact students who answer the prescreen questions in prescribed ways. Finally, you can also see how many are signed up for each session prior to the session. Note that participants can cancel up to one hour prior to the start time of the study. You control how far in advance they must sign up (the default is 24 hours, which you might want to adjust downward).
  7. Credit Given for Participation by Researchers. Psychology Department policy requires giving research credit as a direct function of the time an individual participates, using half hour increments. For example, if a study takes less than 30 minutes, the study would be listed as a .5 credit study. If participants withdraw early, their credit should be prorated depending on the time each individual participated (e.g., give one credit if left within the first 30 to 60 minutes). It is recommended that the following line be included in the compensation section of all consent forms: "If you discontinue participation prior to completion, you will receive research credits based on the time you participated." To provide an adequate supply of participants for all researchers, studies exceeding a total of 250 research credits for a semester require special permission from the system administrator.
  8. Monetary incentives and lotteries/drawings. For purposes of policy, a distinction is made between incentives that are inclusive (i.e., all participants will receive the compensation, possibly prorated to degree of participation) and drawings (i.e., participants have a chance to win a prize or money). A distinction is also made between using incentives 1) to induce participation, 2) to increase the motivation of participants once in a study (e.g., tie incentive or odds to performance), and 3) because they are an integral part of the study (e.g., to operationalize gambles in decision-making studies). These distinctions inform two rules. Rule #1: Monetary incentives to induce participation are permissible only in studies likely to have recruitment problems (e.g., small populations; onerous tasks) and must be inclusive (drawings are not permitted for recruitment purposes). The system administrator determines permission. Once granted, the incentive can be mentioned in the posted description of the study. Rule #2: Both forms of incentives, inclusive and drawing, can be used for the other two purposes (i.e., to increase motivation or integral part of study); however, this aspect of the study cannot be mentioned in the description of the study posted on-line unless the study conforms to Rule #1.
  9. No-shows. The Study Management System provides a method for indicating if a student who has signed-up for your study should receive credit ("Participated"), where the value depends on the value for the study you entered in the system (see also item 7 above), "Unexcused no-show," or "Excused no-show." The difference between the no-show options is that once students accumulate too many unexcused no-shows they will not be permitted to sign-up for future studies. Note students can cancel themselves via the Study Management System up to one hour prior to the session. If they have exercised this option, they will no longer be listed as awaiting action from you. You should log onto the system as soon as your sessions are over to process the students in the sessions signed-up for that day. If you do not indicate the status of a student within 36 hours of the end of the session, the software will automatically give the student credit (though you can disable this feature at the study level). Do not use this default if you have no shows. If the default is used, students will receive credit for a study they neglected. If researchers do not show for a study, one credit should be given to all who were signed up for the session. If researcher no-shows becomes a recurring problem, the researcher could be removed from the system (i.e., not allowed to run studies). Note that ‘researcher’ in the above line refers to the lead graduate student or faculty member. 390s are the responsibility of the researcher. Finally, researchers can cancel sessions, but this is discouraged and must be done no less the one hour before the session is scheduled to begin. If students claim to have shown up for canceled sessions, they should be given a credit (assuming the session was canceled).
  10. Record-Keeping. Most of the record keeping is handled by the Study Management System. Students can see how many credits they have earned and in what studies at any time. Instructors can see the total credits each of their students has received, but not the studies from which they came. Researchers can see who signed up for their studies at any time, provided the student has not canceled their signup. However, all students are removed from the system at the end of the semester (after the last day of final exams), removing all this information. Records are kept by the system administer.
  11. Debriefing. Researchers are obligated to give realistic feedback regarding the purpose of their study in either a verbal or written form. This enhances the educational element of the participant pool system (see Human Subjects Policy, attached). This is a department policy. Debriefing is not a requirement of IRB (unless deception is used), but because debriefings are provided (which they must be for studies using the participant pool) they need to be included in the
  12. Removing a study. Once you are done running your study, please check it as inactive (via the "Change Study Information" link). This will remove it from those available to students. Note all studies from previous terms are made inactive by the system administrator. You can make them active when you are ready (e.g., have timeslots designated). After the last semester you ran participants you should delete it if you know you are done running participants (studies that had participants enrolled that semester should stay in the system, just made inactive if no more participants will be run). Note the number of studies on the system is getting very long. Please clean up (delete) your studies periodically. Likewise, as graduate and undergraduate researchers move on (e.g., graduate), they need to be removed from the system. This can only be done if all the studies they are listed under have been deleted or they have been removed from the list of study researchers. Please email me with their names so I can then delete them from the system.