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To cite this article: London AJ, Borasky DA Jr, Bhan A, for the Ethics Working Group of the HIV Prevention Trials Network (2012) Improving Ethical Review of Research Involving Incentives for Health Promotion. PLoS Med 9(3): e1001193. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001193


Summary Points

    Advances in behavioral economics are driving efforts to use material or financial incentives to promote health-related behavior in international development, public health, and clinical medicine.
    Current ethical frameworks for human research assume that material or financial incentives are provided to participants either as compensation for their time and expenses, or as an inducement to participate in research.
    We argue that some common concerns about using incentives to increase participation in research, such as that attractive incentives will undermine participant autonomy, are misplaced when incentives are used to overcome economic obstacles or a lack of effective motivation, and when recipients are incentivized to engage in health-related behaviors or practices with which they are already familiar and which they regard as beneficial or worthwhile.
    We offer additional guidance to research ethics committees aimed at improving the evaluation of research in which incentives are used as an intervention intended to promote healthy behavior.

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