Student group goes an unorthodox route for cash

Members of the Philippine Student Association frequent research trials to make money as experiment subjects.

Vaishnavi Subramini was in a crunch during finals week last May. She was in need of research subjects that would complete a computer survey for a class research project. The Philippine Student Association also needed some help. With the economy the way it is, the student groupâÄôs events have been costing more and more, and grants do not always cover them. These two unrelated problems were simultaneously resolved with PSAâÄôs new fundraising method: paid research participation. Group Treasurer Jean Cruz got together about 100 participants for SubraminiâÄôs study in time for her due date, and PSA raised more than $1,000 in two days, by simply completing a 20-minute computer survey. Subramini said this money comes from research grants professors receive from the University of Minnesota or from grant-giving organizations, such as the National Science Foundation . PSA has fundraised in this way for the past year, Cruz said. As an accounting and international business junior, Cruz has helped publicize and organize the fundraising opportunity, which PSA has profited from on three separate occasions. Cruz said PSA raised approximately 25 percent of total funds by getting members of PSA and its affiliates, such as the Minnesota International Students Association and the Asian-American Student Union , involved in research studies as paid participants. âÄúItâÄôs a big contribution to our fund âĦ and itâÄôs very easy,âÄù Cruz said. âÄúBoth parties, they need what each other is offering.âÄù Cruz said he keeps an eye out for opportunities on flyers and bulletin boards around campus. One such study, which took place last fall, took half an hour and involved the participants listening to music and discussing their opinions of it, Cruz said. For this study, Cruz gathered about 30 people, and although the participants come from a variety of PSA affiliates, all funds went directly to PSA, which does not receive student service fee funding. For some studies, if the majority of research subjects come from a certain group or subculture, the results may be skewed. Assistant marketing professor Vladas Griskevicius said the problem only arises if the subject matter of the study will prompt starkly different responses from different groups of people. âÄúIf you have reason to believe that thereâÄôs a group of people that is likely to respond very differently from another group of people, then youâÄôre going to have a problem,âÄù Griskevicius said. Subramini said for studies such as hers, which involve elements such as decision making, problems would not arise. She said decision-making strategies are âÄúpretty consistent across the population in general.âÄù Nutrition and dietetic senior Justin Calubayan is a member of PSA and has participated in all three research studies. âÄúItâÄôs us kind of getting it started, and then we branch out to our friends,âÄù Calubayan said. Cruz said these funds are used for PSA events such as their annual fashion show, a long-running practice which showcases Philippine culture. The PSA members are in the minority of research participants, though; Griskevicius said for many majors, participating in research is a class requirement and participants are not paid. âÄúFrom a studentâÄôs perspective, you basically feel like itâÄôs part of the class and [that] itâÄôs a learning experience to get exposure to research,âÄù Griskevicius said. Of the portion of participants that are paid, Griskevicius said many of the consistent volunteers are part of a pool of approximately 700 people put together by the UniversityâÄôs Carlson School of Management. Joseph Redden , an assistant marketing professor at Carlson, regularly does studies that require trial volunteers. âÄúSome [volunteers] are Minnesota students, some may be employees, some may just be in the area,âÄù he said. Redden said that for his studies, subjects generally sign up for an hour-long time slot and are paid for that time. He said the wage is on average between $10 and $12 per hour, although some studies offer monetary incentives if a study looks at the effort made by participants involved. Cruz said he has seen studies that pay anywhere from $5 to $15 an hour as well. Redden said he felt the reasons for volunteering are based on the money, but come from a natural curiosity as well. âÄúCertainly if there was no money, they probably wouldnâÄôt do it, but I think the people who tend to do them regularly are people who tend to find the studies somewhat interesting.âÄù