What is a Subject Pool?
Undergraduate subject pools are comprised of undergraduate students enrolled in particular departmental courses offering course credit for participation in one or more research projects. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) provides guidance to departmental subject pools and reviews all research recruiting from the subject pool.
Criteria for Subject Pools
- All student participation in subject pool research must be completely voluntary.
- It is up to the student to decide whether to participate in any study; instructors cannot mandate or require student participation.
- Alternative assignments must be provided to students who decline from participating in research.
- Departments usually provide students with incentives (e.g., extra credit or credit hours) to participate in the subject pool.
- Subject pools including subjects under 18 years of age are required to obtain parental consent prior to any minor's involvement in research.
- Instructors are strongly discouraged from recruiting subjects they directly supervise or selecting subjects on such basis.
The alternative assignment should meet some basic standards to ensure that students are not unduly influenced to participate in research. Faculty and staff should make every effort to ensure that they do not exert undue influence on students to participate in research rather than the alternative assignment.
Clearly describe the alternative assignment in a way and at a time that allows the students to make an informed choice about which method they will use to earn credit. This description should be:
- Clear and complete
- Written and published (and provided to students in the subject pool)
- Available at the time when the research option is described
To assure issues of fairness and justice, the alternative assignment should require approximately the same time and effort commitment as research participation.
In order to ensure that students are fully informed about the research requirements for the course and the compensation offered for their participation, the department should provide a clear explanation of requirements necessary to earn the credit/extra credit.
Specify how many hours or units of research participation (or alternative assignment) are required for the course.
Requirements for Principal Investigators Using Subject Pools
In research proposals and consent forms, specify how many hours or units of research credit are available for participation in each research study, including credits that may be awarded for prescreening.
Clearly state limits on the amount of credit that may be awarded for a particular type of study or alternative assignment prior to or at the time of enrolling in the subject pool.
In order to ensure that the student’s time and effort are respected, clearly delineate the requirements and deadlines in documentation provided to the students. A sample FAQ document is provided.
The documentation should include how to enroll in research projects, what to do in case a research study is canceled and clear information of the consequences of not showing up for or completing a research study or the alternative assignment by the listed deadlines.
Additionally, personnel responsible for managing/operating subject pools should complete and submit the Student Subject Pool Registration Form.
ORS Review of Subject Pool Requirements
The ORS will review the subject pool registration form and appendices (copies of information provided to the students.) Any changes in the information in the registration form should be provided to the ORS prior to the implementation of the changes.
Student subject pool documents should be reviewed on at least an annual basis. If there are no changes, please contact the ORS with a statement that none of the documents have changed in the previous year.
Minor changes in the information provided to students that do not impact the information in the registration form – for example, course deadlines for each semester – do not need to be reviewed by the ORS.