Providing monetary and non-monetary goods to research participants: perspectives and practices of researchers and Research Ethics Committees in Zambia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Global Bioethics








compensation; inducements; institutional review boards; monetary and non-monetary goods; Research ethics; Research Ethics Committees; Zambia


© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. There are disagreements among ethicists on what comprises an “appropriate” good to offer research participants. Debates often focus on the type, quantity, timing, and ethical appropriateness of such offers, particularly in settings where participants may be socio-economically vulnerable, such as in parts of Zambia. This was a Cross-sectional online survey of researchers and Research Ethics Committees (RECs) designed to understand practices, attitudes and policies associated with provision of goods to research participants. Of 122 responding researchers, 69 met eligibility criteria. Responses were also received from five of the six Zambian RECs involved in reviewing research proposals. Forty-nine researchers (71.0%) confirmed previous experience offering goods to participants. Of these, 21 (42.9%) offered participants money only, 18 (36.7%) offered non-monetary goods, while the rest offered both monetary and non-monetary goods. Generally, goods were offered and approved by RECs to compensate for time, lost wages and transportation. One REC and 34.8% of researchers reported being subject to an institutional policy on offering goods to participants. While reimbursement is the main reason for offering goods to participants in Zambia, caution is required when deciding on the type and quantity of goods to offer given the potential for community mistrust and manipulation.