Lab Policies

If you plan to conduct studies through the BRL, you will be expected to follow the lab policies listed below. These policies are described in greater detail in the BRL Researcher’s Manual, a copy of which will be given to you the first time you meet with the BRL Coordinator.

General Policies

  • Resources provided by the BRL are available to all MIT-affiliated faculty members, staff members (e.g., research associates/scientists), postdoctoral associates/fellows, visiting scholars/fellows, and graduate students hoping to conduct behavioral research involving human subjects. While MIT undergraduate students may serve as research assistants in studies led by non-undergraduate researchers, they may not use BRL resources for their own research projects. The BRL does not support research conducted by non-MIT individuals.
  • Researchers who wish to collect data from members of the BRL participant pool must conduct their studies either at the BRL (E19-435) or online. Researchers may not ask BRL participants to complete studies at another physical location. Exceptions to this rule may be made for studies involving the use of special equipment that is situated at other MIT research facilities and cannot be easily transported to the BRL.
  • Researchers who wish to use the BRL for lab studies must recruit participants from the BRL participant pool. That is, only individuals with a valid Sona account may participate in studies at the BRL. Please note that this rule only applies to regular lab sessions, and not pilot studies (which can be completed by researchers’ colleagues or acquaintances).
  • Researchers must obtain approval from COUHES and email a copy of the approval letter to the BRL Coordinator before carrying out any research activities, including pilot studies. When a COUHES protocol is amended or renewed, researchers must also email a copy of the associated documentation to the BRL Coordinator.
  • All research personnel are expected to demonstrate research integrity, which includes the following principles:
    • Honesty — Conveying information truthfully and honoring commitments.
    • Accuracy — Reporting findings precisely and taking care to avoid errors.
    • Efficiency — Using resources wisely and avoiding waste.
    • Objectivity — Letting the facts speak for themselves and avoiding improper bias.

Research Personnel

  • At this time, the BRL does not provide researchers with assistance in collecting or analyzing data. Therefore, researchers are responsible for recruiting their own research assistants (e.g., UROP students) if needed.
  • Before a study begins, all research personnel must complete an online training course on human subjects research. For more information about this requirement, please see the “COUHES Approval” page of the BRL website.
  • If a study involves the use of any special equipment at the BRL (e.g., the AV system), all research personnel who will be using such equipment must receive proper training provided by the BRL Coordinator.
  • During regular business hours (weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.), any research personnel may use the lab as long as the BRL Coordinator is present. On weeknights, weekends, holidays, and occasions when the BRL Coordinator is not present during regular business hours, only non-undergraduate research personnel may use the lab alone; undergraduate research assistants must work in pairs or in collaboration with non-undergraduate research personnel.

Reserving Lab Space

  • To reserve the BRL for studies, researchers should check the BRL calendar for available hours and email the BRL Coordinator with their preferred dates and times. (A link to the BRL calendar is provided to researchers after they receive COUHES approval.) Lab hours are assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Researchers may reserve time slots up to six weeks in advance. If a researcher plans to use the BRL for more than six weeks, he or she should make multiple rounds of reservations.
  • Researchers may reserve up to 15 “standard” lab hours (i.e., hours that fall on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.) per week. Aside from these standard hours, researchers may reserve up to three weeknights or holidays plus one weekend day (i.e., Saturday or Sunday) per week.
  • Researchers who would like to schedule additional time slots (i.e., over the quota specified above) may reserve any available hours that are less than 10 days away, with the approval of the BRL Coordinator.
  • If there are no available hours on the BRL calendar, researchers will be placed on a waitlist. In the event that a scheduled lab session is cancelled, the BRL Coordinator will notify waitlisted researchers based on their order on the waitlist.

Data Collection & Management

  • Researchers may not collect personally identifiable information (name, email address, etc.) from participants unless such information is integral to the research topic or is necessary for certain administrative procedures (e.g., processing payment).
  • Researchers should take measures to ensure the confidentiality and security of data provided by participants. For example, any personally identifiable information collected during a study should be masked or otherwise dissociated from the rest of the data set. In addition, all research data and materials (including signed consent forms and payment forms) must be stored in secured locations accessible only to key research personnel.
  • Researchers who collect data using software installed on BRL computers are responsible for backing up all data files to an external storage device (e.g., a USB flash drive) or to a cloud storage site (e.g., Dropbox) no later than five business days following the conclusion of the data collection phase. After this five-day window passes, the BRL Coordinator may delete data files at any time to free up local storage space for future researchers.

Communication & Study Promotion

  • When posting a study on Sona, researchers must specify the purpose of the study, the types of activities the study involves, the potential risks participants might face (if any), the eligibility requirements participants must meet (if any), the duration of the study, and the payment amount and method. The above details, along with any other information that COUHES requires researchers to provide, must also be included in the informed consent text used for the study. Moreover, if a study involves video or audio recording, this must be stated both on Sona and in the informed consent text.
  • Researchers may not use Sona’s built-in email function to advertise their studies to prospective participants, as it is the responsibility of the BRL Coordinator to send out promotional emails to members of the participant pool. However, researchers are allowed (and, in some cases, required) to send out reminders, announcements, and updates to participants who have already signed up for or completed a given study.
  • Researchers should remain in close contact with the BRL Coordinator after launching their studies. In particular, researchers should notify the BRL Coordinator if they would like to make any logistical changes to their studies or if any unforeseen issues arise.
  • Researchers should respond to participants’ emails promptly and in a professional manner. In cases where researchers are unsure how to answer certain questions, participants should be referred to the BRL Coordinator.

Conducting Lab Studies

  • Since the BRL is a shared space, it is the responsibility of every researcher to ensure that the lab remains in good condition. All supplies and materials (pens, clipboards, etc.) must be properly put away at the end of each lab session. Researchers who use BRL computers to conduct studies must close all associated programs and log off the computers before exiting the lab.
  • No food or beverages (besides water) are permitted in the lab, except when participants are given food or beverages as part of a study. In such cases, participants should not be allowed to eat or drink near the computers or other electronic equipment.
  • Before a lab session begins, researchers should provide participants with sufficient time to read through the informed consent form. Furthermore, participants should be given the freedom to withdraw from a study at any point and for any reason. Participants who choose to withdraw should still be marked as “Participated” (rather than “No-Show”) on Sona.
  • In the event that a participant withdraws from a lab study, suffers an injury, experiences a medical emergency, or displays any other adverse reactions, the researcher who is overseeing the lab session must notify the BRL Coordinator immediately, either orally or by email. The researcher must also report the incident to COUHES (see the “COUHES Approval” page of the BRL website for details).
  • The entrance to Building E19 is locked after 6 p.m. on weekdays, and all day on weekends and holidays. Researchers who plan to run lab sessions during these times should email participants in advance and ask them to wait in front of the entrance to be let in by research personnel. Researchers themselves can enter Building E19 by tapping their MIT ID card at the entrance.
  • Researchers may cancel a lab session under certain circumstances, such as sickness, personal emergencies, and adverse weather conditions. As soon as a researcher decides to cancel a session, he or she must do the following:
    • Notify the BRL Coordinator of the cancellation by email.
    • Send a cancellation notice to participants who have signed up for the session.
    • Delete the time slot and all its associated sign-ups on Sona.
  • Researchers may cancel a lab session “on the spot” if, for example, that session involves a group activity but not enough participants are present for the activity to take place. When such situations occur, participants who have arrived at the lab must be paid $5 for their time before they can be dismissed (note that this does not apply for online studies). Researchers may also offer participants the option to stay behind and take part in an alternative study for a predetermined compensation amount, which may be different from that of the original study. In any case, researchers must log into Sona and delete the sign-ups of participants who came to the lab session so that these participants may enroll in the study again in the future (if there are available time slots).

Participant Tracking & Payment

  • At the beginning or the end of each lab session, researchers should ask participants to provide their Sona identity code, a five- or six-digit number that participants can find in the “My Profile” section on Sona, as well as in all the auto-generated confirmation and reminder emails they have received from Sona. Researchers should then log into Sona and change the status of these participants to “Participated” (even if the lab session has not formally begun). Participants who are absent should be given an excused no-show or an unexcused no-show, depending on whether they emailed the appropriate researcher in advance with a valid reason for their absence.
  • Status updates for online studies should be performed within five business days of the participation deadline (as specified on Sona). Participants who completed an online study should be marked as “Participated”, whereas participants who signed up for but did not complete an online study should be given an excused no-show. Participants should not receive an unexcused no-show for failure to complete an online study.
  • Researchers must compensate participants reasonably based on the amount of time it takes to complete a study, the types of activities a study involves, and other relevant factors. If a performance-based payment system is used, the criteria for determining how much money one should receive must be objective in nature and clearly communicated to participants before a study begins.
  • Researchers may pay participants with cash, gift cards, electronic gift certificates, or checks (issued by MIT Accounts Payable). If the compensation amount exceeds $75, researchers must use checks to pay all participants, as this is required by MIT for tax reporting purposes. Moreover, participants who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents must be paid by check (regardless of the compensation amount) so that MIT can deduct a 30% income tax from each payment, pursuant to U.S. tax laws.
  • Researchers must pay participants in a timely manner. What constitutes timely payment depends on the compensation method used:
    • Cash or gift cards — Payments should be made directly to participants at the end of each lab session.
    • Electronic gift certificates — Participants should receive payment via email no later than five business days after completing a study.
    • Checks — Participants should be asked to fill out a payment form immediately after completing a study. Payment forms should be submitted in paper format to MIT Accounts Payable (NE49-4064) within three business days of collection.