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Human Subjects Division (HSD)


Approaching and Recruiting Prospective Subjects - Intermediaries

Intermediaries used to recruit subjects for research

When an investigator has not had prior contact with subjects, it may be necessary to enlist the cooperation of other professionals and organizations as intermediaries in order to avoid an invasion of potential subjects' privacy. The role of the intermediary is to explain the study in neutral terms and to obtain permission from the prospective subject to release his or her name to the investigator. An intermediary is someone who has had prior contact with the subject and who can provide a linkage between the subject and investigator.

The IRB permits the use of health practitioners or other service providers as intermediaries only when no practical alternatives exist for the recruitment of subjects. When the use of these intermediaries is permitted, the investigator should take appropriate safeguards to protect the welfare of subjects who may be vulnerable to coercion or undue influence in such a situation.

Special care must be taken if researchers are recruiting for their own studies from among potential participants with whom they are in a relationship of authority or service provision -- for example, when a teacher recruits his own students, or a health practitioner recruits her own patients, as research subjects.  It is best to avoid such situations, but in cases where this is not possible, it is the researcher’s responsibility to ensure that a person’s decision to participate will not have any effect on the teacher-student, practitioner-client relationship.  IRBs will look for assurance that this will be made clear to potential subjects, and that voluntariness  will be preserved.

It is UW policy that paying a per capita recruiting fee or subject completion fee to an intermediary is not in accord with ethical principles guiding the use of human subjects in research. It contradicts the presumed neutrality of the intermediary and may increase the vulnerability of subjects to coercion and undue influence. This practice, therefore, is not in the best interests of potential subjects and is not be permitted.

Change Notes

  • Noted 12/20/2010 @ 11:57am
    Keyword newly added.
    - sherrye