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Underpaying studies

Prolific requires fair payments for participants, but sometimes underpaying studies can still happen. Read on for more information on our minimum rates, how studies become underpaying and what we're doing to resolve this.

Minimum payment rate

As an absolute minimum, all researchers must pay at least £6/$8 per hour of work, and they can't set their reward lower than this. We believe that fair pay leads to better data quality. We therefore recommend researchers pay participants at least £9.00 / $12.00 per hour, while the minimum pay allowed is £6.00 / $8.00 per hour. Looking at the average stats for the year to date, average real pay was actually £12.00 / $15.00 per hour! (Data true up to September 2023.)

Why are some studies underpaying?

When a researcher creates a study, they set an hourly payment rate as well as how long the study will take. For example, a researcher makes a study which they estimate will take 20 minutes to complete and decides to pay participants £2.00 for their time. This would make the reward £6 per hour, which aligns with our minimum and will be displayed on the study info panel in green text.

When participants start taking the study, Prolific calculates the average completion time and updates this on the info panel. So, as participants take the study, they could take longer than 20 minutes which will push the average completion time up and so push the reward per hour down. However, the reward paid to each participant will stay the same. Following on from this example, say the 20-minute study actually takes 40 minutes. This reduces the reward from £6 per hour to £3 per hour. This is now underpaying because the researcher severely underestimated the completion time of the study.

What are we doing about it?

Researchers are notified on their study page and via email when a study becomes underpaying.

We want to be upfront with participants when this happens by displaying pay based on the average time rather than the estimated time, so you have as accurate as possible an idea of how long a study will take.

We recently updated the wording on the study info panel to reflect this. You can now see the monetary reward with the intended reward per hour as well as the actual reward per hour.

Study info panel.png

We introduced adjustment payments which makes it easier for researchers to resolve underpaying studies, and for us to keep track of researchers who repeatedly run such studies. This might result in you receiving an email to say you've received even as little as a £0.01 bonus, but every penny counts! We're adamant on fair payment and still insist on that 1p bonus.

Only 4.4% of all studies launched in July 2023 were underpaying. It's worth bearing in mind that this was at the point of study launch, adjustment payments will whittle this number down further still as studies are reported and adjusted payments actioned. To look at this another way, 95.6% of all studies were within range without any adjustments being made, but we're keen to get this as close to 100% as possible.

What can you do about it?

While we're still improving this, we ask that you continue to report any underpaying studies by using the 'Report study' button on the study page.

If you've taken part in a study that was underpaying and haven't received an adjustment payment after 22 days, please message us using the button below. Researchers have 22 days to pay rewards for a study, and to rectify any underpaying studies. In these cases, we'll contact the researcher and work with them to pay bonuses to all approved participants. 

Researchers who refuse to stick to these policies will have their account placed on hold and will need to resolve all underpaying studies in order to continue using Prolific.

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