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What is the true cost of recruiting a participant?

01 January 2015

When calculating the cost of recruiting participants for your research study it’s easy to just focus on the financial outlay but your time is also a valuable asset that needs to be spent wisely. Here we discuss the balance between your time and money when recruiting, and maximising the societal impact of your research.

Factors to consider:

Study complexity

If your study is a straightforward online survey that requires a short amount of time to complete you will no doubt find it considerably easier to recruit participants than if you are asking for a bigger commitment of time or effort from you participants. That said, with the right amount of effort put into promoting your study, a simple ‘thank-you’ can be all that is required to encourage people to participate. See 'all it takes is thank-you’.

How much will one participant cost?

With more complex studies you can still find participants with relatively little financial investment if you are focusing your promotional efforts in the right areas. Our community is actively engaged and interested in participating in academic research, so the cost to recruit is considerably lower than if you were to use a commercial panelist company. Cash payments and shopping voucher incentives achieve the highest recruitment levels and they cost the researcher on average £8.90 and £11.50 respectively per participant. When you compare this to the cost of outsourcing your requirements where you can expect to pay between £80 and £200 per person dependent upon how complex your requirements are, the savings can be quite significant.

Communication channels

We recognise that your time is limited and that sometimes, budget aside, offering an incentive to participants does not always sit comfortably. That’s why we’ve provided you with a suite of powerful and easy-to-use tools for you to use to promote your study, along with an online statistics page to show you exactly where the participants for your study are coming from. This means you can focus your recruitment efforts where they work best, removing the guess-work and saving you time. Many researchers have achieved their participant recruitment goals without spending hours doing so with a combined approach of offering participant rewards and using the tools to promote their study. This multi-layer approach has seen the biggest successes when it comes to achieving participant recruitment goals than any other.

The impact of your research

High impact research is easily accessible and visible even during the recruitment stages. If your study is visible and accessible on our website then you have immediately widened your societal impact and participant reach, so ensure when you create your study that you publish it to the website. Also, when creating your study, ensure you opt in for us to promote your study on your behalf so it can be promoted directly to relevant and interested participants outside of your own networks.

Also check out our previous Inside knowledge article: What do participants really want?

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