Research Pool Policy

Research Pool Policy

General Public Policy Document

updated Fall, 2018

Psychology Empirical Research Pool Policies

All UCSC Psychology Faculty and their designated UCSC associates (e.g., graduate students, postdocs) may use the research pool if the policies specified below are followed.

Your compliance with these policies is essential for the benefit of all involved. Failure to comply may result in your being denied access to the pool in the future.

Making Sure You Have Current IRB Approval

Studies that are part of the pool must either be exempt from IRB approval, or have current IRB approval status. To request approval, access the Human Subjects Committee forms on the Office of Research's website. In each quarter’s request for pool hours you will be asked to provide the current IRB number assigned to your particular research project (e.g., 2342 from HS2342), the title of the research project, and the associated expiration date. If your IRB approval is pending when you put in your request you will need to email the pool coordinator at once your status is updated. If your study is exempt then you do not need to list a date on your request form.

Adding/Updating Your Study Using Sona Systems

To create a new research project or edit an existing research project, go to the Sona Systems website. When doing so, please keep the following rules in mind:

  • A brief abstract is mandatory. When describing your research do not use descriptive words such as "fun," "easy" or "short." We don’t want an escalating set of attempts by researchers to make their study seem more appealing than others. Just describe your study and what students can expect without unnecessary hyperbole.

  • No one is allowed to recruit participants within a research pool class, including the instructor of that class.

  • Researchers are not allowed to offer extra incentives to students for participating in a pool study. For example, you cannot offer to pay them or enter them into a raffle for prizes as a way to get students to sign up.

  • CA lottery regulations prohibit awarding a prize by chance in exchange for anything of value, such as participation in research. Thus, participation in a study should not be a requirement for entry into any raffle. If you use a raffle for recruitment in a non-pool study then anyone and everyone (including pool participants) should be allowed entry into the raffle if they request to be entered. However, entry into such a raffle should not be an automatic feature or part of the incentive structure of a pool study.

  • If you have special instructions for participants, include them in the "Detailed Description."

  • Study credit is in half-hour increments (30 minutes). If your study is 30 minutes or shorter, it should be worth 0.5 credits. If your study is between 31 and 60 minutes, it should be worth 1.0 credit. If your study is between 61 and 90 minutes, it should be worth 1.5 credits. And so forth. Note that regardless of the actual length of your study, the study time that you list cannot be smaller or larger than the number of credits you are giving.

  • For allocation purposes and record keeping it is helpful to have a single researcher listed for each study. You can have a separate PI and Researcher listed, but try to avoid having two Researchers listed. If you want to list additional researchers then you can include that information in the “Detailed Description.”

  • When creating your studies, you can set pre-screen restrictions.

  • Under advanced settings you can change the participant sign-up and cancellation deadlines. These are preset to 24 hours, but reducing them can increase your chances of recruiting participants. For example, setting the participant sign-up deadline to 5 hours will allow participants to sign up for your study as few as 5 hours before the start of a given timeslot. Reducing the cancellation deadline can be helpful as well as it will allow participants to cancel and other students to sign up in their place. However, note that the participant cancellation deadline is separate from the researcher cancellation deadline (more info below). Even if you reduce the participant cancellation deadline to 5 hours you will still need to give participants 24-hour notice to cancel a study as a researcher. If you give them less than 24-hour notice then they should receive full credit for the study.

    Pre-Screen Questionnaire

    The online system is able to restrict your study to certain participants based on their answers on the mandatory pre-test questionnaire. Please log in to SONA to see the most up to date version of the pre-screen survey. Note the following:

  • All questions are text only.

  • There are no special headers or instructions. Each question must stand on its own.

  • Students are required to take this survey when they first log in.

  • When you create your study online, you can indicate which pre-test responses are valid

    for your research (by default, all responses are valid). Ineligible students won't even see

    your study.

  • The prescreen survey is not the place for full survey instruments and we cannot add to the

    pre-screen any question that a) would involve private (e.g., phone number or address) or medical information (whether or not you have been diagnosed with ADD). We will also reject questions that have the potential to disturb or upset students -- anything that would normally require IRB approval and/or a debriefing.

  • The questionnaire will be reset each year before the beginning of fall quarter. An email will go out to pool researchers and any question that is not requested to remain on the questionnaire will be removed. New questions can be added before the beginning of any quarter.

  • Avoid requesting new questions that are duplicates of existing questions.

As a researcher you are allowed access to the pre-screen data. On the front page after you log in, there is a link for “Prescreen Results.” This will provide you access to data about the entire pool. However, you will not receive any identifiable information this way – just a way to understand the distribution of pre-screen responses for the entire pool. This data can either be viewed online, or downloaded to excel. However, you can request to view and download the complete pre- screen results from people who have signed up for your study. This includes their name and email so that you can, if desired, match participants’ prescreen data to the data you collect as part of your study. Please be aware that this data, once downloaded, must be kept confidential along with other data you have agreed to keep confidential through the IRB. This data has student’s names AND their survey responses. Please follow standard IRB and APA guidelines for ensuring data security and anonymity.

Policies for Managing Pool Studies

Participants must be given at least 24-hour notice if, for any reason, the research is being cancelled; otherwise they should receive full credit. If you need to cancel a study with at least 24-hour notice, click on the cancel link. The session will be cancelled and the student will not receive credit. If you must cancel a study with less than 24-hour notice, then be sure to mark the student as having participated so that they receive credit. When doing this be sure to include a message in the comments section telling the student that you are cancelling the study and that they do not need to come in. You do not give 'no-shows' to students if you cancel a session - doing so will lead to a student being barred from the pool erroneously.

Either the researcher or the research participant may terminate participation in an experiment at any time, in which case the participant must be given full credit.

The Participant Pool closes at 4PM on the last day of instruction every quarter. Do not post timeslots or run participants beyond this time.

See for further information related to ethical principles in the conduct of research with human participants.

Pool No-Show Policy

Our no-show policy is designed to maintain smooth operation of the pool and to be considerate of researcher’s and participant’s time. Because no one policy fits all situations, please consider the following principles and recommendations:

A research participant who receives three Unexcused No-Shows will be immediately and automatically barred from further use of the system. In order to pass their pool course or receive extra credit, they will need to complete an alternative assignment.

  • If a participant fails to show up and does not attempt to contact you then we recommend giving them an unexcused no-show.

  • If a participant shows up a few minutes late and there is still time to run the study then we recommend running them and giving them full credit.

  • If a participant shows up too late to participate then we recommend giving them an excused no-show. Note though that you should try to accommodate students that show up just a few minutes late (e.g., design your study with a small time buffer).

  • If a participant fails to show up to a study but emails you to apologize or tries to warn you in advance that they aren’t going to be able to make it then we recommend giving them an excused no-show.

  • Giving students an excused no-show has two effects: 1) You will not lose the hours associated with the session and can repost them, and 2) The participant will be able to sign up for the study again if desired.

  • If your study takes the full amount of time, you may be able to curb late arrivals by stating this face clearly in your study description online. Warn participants that they can only participate if they arrive precisely at the study start time.

  • If the researcher fails to show up for a study (or is more than 10 min late and the participant leaves) then the participant should receive full credit.

    To ensure that these recommendations are followed consistently in your lab, we suggest creating a lab-wide policy rather than have each experimenter make a separate judgment call on each occasion. We also ask that you check the email address associated with the study immediately prior to the session to make sure the student has not made a good faith effort to communicate a late cancellation for some unforeseen circumstance.

    If a no-show of any kind occurs (Excused or Unexcused), the researcher must go online and indicate the no-show within 48 hours. If not done within 48 hours, the student will automatically be given full credit for the research session and the study will lose the associated research credits. Please be diligent and careful about the assignment of no shows.

    Requesting and Using Research Hours Each Quarter

    At the end of each quarter, we will send out an email with instructions on how to request hours for the upcoming quarter's pool. We grow/shrink the pool each quarter to meet the research needs of the department based on the allocation requests we get from researchers. We then make completing study hours an opportunity for extra credit or a prerequisite for passing some
    courses. Please only request the number of hours that you will both need and be able to
    use. Unfortunately, due to a number of limiting factors, we often cannot accommodate everyone’s full request, meaning that we will often allocate fewer hours to researchers than requested.

    Even when researchers have requested a tractable number of hours, have obtained approval, and have a solid research plan in order, things can still go awry. The two issues we’ve noticed most often are a) it takes much longer than planned to get the study ready to run for the quarter, and b) overly restrictive prerequisites or other limiting factors (trouble with surveys, trouble with RAs,equipment failure, etc.) lead to running far fewer participant hours than expected. We know all of these things are common and unavoidable, but yet we still have to make the allocated hours available to students. Let us know if you are not going to be able to run the number of hours you were allocated and we will reallocate them to other researchers. The earlier you can do this the better.

    Each quarter the pool will become open at the start of Week 8 (Week 4 in the summer). At this time all allocation limitations will be lifted and researchers without allocations will be allowed to join the pool.

Other Important Pool Policies

  • Faculty supervision is required on all research projects. Undergraduate students who are collecting data must be selected and carefully screened for reliability and trained in safe and ethical procedures involving human participant research. Although a graduate student may be given responsibility for the day-to-day activities of a research project, the faculty supervisor should provide proper supervision throughout. In all cases (whether graduate students or undergraduate students are collecting the data) the faculty supervisor holds final responsibility for ensuring that the research is carried out responsibly and ethically.

  • It is the researcher’s and the faculty supervisor’s responsibility to make sure graduate students and undergraduate research assistants know and follow all pool policies. Please have them read this document carefully.

  • We assume that all faculty supervisors, graduate student researchers, and undergraduate research assistants are familiar with ethical principles in the conduct of research with human participants.

  • All student researchers and non-faculty personnel engaged in human subjects research must complete CITI training.

  • See the following website for further resources for researchers: