Becoming a human test subject: Is it worth it?


Students strapped for cash have offered up their minds and bodies for a range of scientific studies in the hopes of receiving a worthy payout.

Often advertised on the Facebook group Monash StalkerSpace, research that requires human participants can attract those looking to earn extra money. 

Commerce student Noel Crouch said he found most of the studies on Monash Stalkerspace and joined for the reimbursement money. Picture: Mie Sorensen

After completing around 10 paid studies in the past two years from a variety of sources, Commerce student Noel Crouch said many weren’t worth the time and energy.  

“They ask for two hours and then give you like $20, so that’s ten bucks an hour which is not much,” he said.

“Doing more and more of them just drained me.”

Mr Crouch said he pulled out in the middle of one study where he had to be monitored in front of a computer for three sets of 45-minute tests. 

“They said at the start ‘just wave to the camera if you want to stop’ and I did that for 15 minutes but they did nothing,” he said.

“I thought ‘what if something dangerous was happening?’ and that worried me more than anything.”

However, Mr Crouch said he would do another study involving an MRI after being paid $150 for two sessions inside the machine.

“You just played games inside the MRI to keep you occupied, and I got to watch videos in there, so it was pretty good,” he said.

Pictured above is a study posted to Monash Stalkerspace offering participants $100 to follow a calorie restricted diet for 7 days.

Information Technology student Phillip Sgardelis also took part in a study while inside an MRI machine, but only got paid $60 for one session and said it wasn’t worth the money.

“I was in the MRI machine with this tube in my mouth where they would be putting in food,” he said.

“At a certain point, it was kind of disgusting and I felt like throwing up a lot, so I probably wouldn’t do one like that again,” said Mr Sgardelis.

“It’s just not a lot of pay when you look at it, in fact, it’s actually very little.”

According to the guidelines on ethical conduct in human research, laid out by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), it is “generally appropriate” to reimburse the costs to participants taking part in research.

These costs can include travel, accommodation, parking and participants can also be paid for their time, according to the NHMRC.

However, there are no specifications on the exact amount or type of reimbursements.

The NHMRC guidelines also say that payment in money or incentives that “encourages participants to take risks” is “ethically unacceptable”.

New guidelines from the NHMRC were published in June this year but do not mention changes to the standards on reimbursement.