Oregon State University

Raffles and Lotteries as Compensation

Compensation methods involving non-exempt research with human subjects at OSU may not include raffles or lotteries.  There are three primary considerations that inform this policy: 

a. Equal Distribution of Burdens and Benefits

Payments should reflect the degree of risk, inconvenience, or discomfort associated with participation.  Subject compensation should be equitable across all participants who are experiencing the same level of risk and/or inconvenience.  In the case of raffles, lotteries, and contests, all participants may have an equal chance of “winning”, but the resulting compensation for research participation is arbitrarily different.

Research subjects should not be disadvantaged by their participation in research.  Appropriate compensation to all subjects for time and expenses is acceptable.  Participants in a single study may receive unequal compensation if the investigator demonstrates that not all subjects are experiencing the same degree of risk, inconvenience or discomfort. 

For example, subjects participating in only one component of a study may be compensated less than subjects who consent to participating in multiple components of a study.  Similarly, subjects traveling longer distances may be compensated at a higher rate to reflect greater travel expenses.  However, subjects who are higher wage earners should not receive greater compensation than lower wage earners in the same study for participating in the same study activities.
b. Informed Consent

Informed consent is a basic requirement of ethical research with human subjects.  In order for consent to be truly informed, the study must be presented in a way that can be readily understood.  However, people routinely overestimate their chances of winning lotteries and raffles, despite being provided with the odds.  According to Joseph Brown, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Nebraska, “… the probabilistic nature of [research] is unavoidable.  Lotteries are not.  Increasing subjects’ ability to comprehend the risks, benefits, and compensation of study participation is an ongoing task, and banning lotteries is just one small step toward achieving this goal.”

c. Impact on Recruitment

Extensive literature on postpaid and lottery incentives indicates they are less effective than a small amount of compensation given either as a pre-paid incentive or given at the time of the study visit. A recent study conducted by OSU faculty (Buck, et. al.) indicates that their respondents believe that lottery incentives are effective, but that the basis for this belief is a "feeling rather than research."


Brown, J.S., Schonfeld, T.L., Gordon, B.G.(2006). “You May Have Already Won…” An Examination of the Use of Lottery Payments in Research. IRB Ethics & Human Research, pp. 12-16.

Buck, S., Nutefall, J.E., Bridges, L.M. (2012). “We thought it might encourage participation.” Using lottery incentives to improve LibQUAL+™ response rates among students, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Available online 20 August 2012, ISSN 0099-1333, 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.07.004. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099133312001140)

Warriner, K., Goyder, J., Gjertsen, H., Hohner, P., & McSpurren, K.(1996). Charities, No; Lotteries, No; Cash, Yes: Main Effects and Interactions in a Canadian Incentives Experiment. The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 4, pp. 542-562.

Ulrich, C.M., Danis, M., Koziol, D., Garrett-Mayer, E., Hubbard, R., & Grady, C.(2005). Does it Pay to Pay?: A Randomized Trial of Prepaid Financial Incentives and Lottery Incentives in Surveys of Nonphysician Healthcare Professionals. Nursing Research, Vol. 54(Issue 3), pp. 178-183.

Singer, E., van Hoewyk, J., & Maher, M. P.(2000). Experiments with Incentives in Telephone Surveys. The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2, pp 171-188.

James, J.M., & Bolstein, R.(1992). Large Monetary Incentives and Their Effect on Mail Survey Response Rates. The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 442-453.

Church, A.H.(1993). Estimating the Effect of Incentives on Mail Survey Response Rates: A Meta-Analysis. The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 62-79.

Policy originally approved March 16, 2010. Revisions approved May 21, 2013.

Contact Info

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

p. 541-737-8008
f. 541-737-3093

Office of Research Integrity
Research Office
Oregon State University
A312 Kerr Administration
Corvallis, Oregon 97331-2140
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