I am doing my PhD,

I have a scenario that requires the assistance of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to review and answer questions regarding documents used in my research. This process may take a few days from them.

While I can find some individuals willing to volunteer for this task, it won't be as straightforward as if I were to pay for their services. There are various considerations associated with each option.

Should I reward volunteers by acknowledging them in my paper? Additionally, should I instruct both volunteers and paid experts to remain available for any follow-up questions after the paper has been published?

I've never navigated this situation before and am curious about the protocol to follow in such cases.

  • 3
    Note that in either scenario you likely require approval of an ethics committee for either the payment or nonpayment.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 25 at 0:10
  • Are there any traditions or precedents in your field? Have you asked your advisor for advice? Mar 25 at 0:14
  • 3
    You need to talk to your advisor about this, and you very specifically need to ask your advisor to help you navigate your institution's IRB (Institutional Review Board) or equivalent. They will help you determine whether these SMEs are considered "experimental subjects" and what regulations you need to comply with.
    – Anonymous
    Mar 25 at 2:02

1 Answer 1


First, I agree with the comments. Proceed with caution, checking with your mentor, your department, and your university's IRB.

Second, I think whether a SME will want payment may depend on whether they are professors or from outside academia. I was never hired to be a SME, but I did work as a statistical consultant for grad students. I charged. That was how I made my living. (I also worked for other people). But ... You are asking experts for days of their time. Days? I think most people will charge by the hour. The fee will vary by location and field and level of expertise and so on, but, in the USA, I'd expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars per hour.

It may also depend on what you are going to do with the research. If this is going to become a marketable instrument, that might affect things. Or if it is going to be a chapter in a book and the SMEs will get co-authorship, that might do so as well (at one place where I was employed, I wrote a chapter of a book. That was part of my job. But the main author was also employed at the same place).

  • Is this ethical that the implementations or statistical parts of a paper is done by someone whose name is not in the paper? I myself don't think so, since it can be misleading. The authors can claim claimed in the future job/educational interviews that they have done it themselves, the paper can be thought as the evidence. And even, some departments might just ask if one knows MATLAB (for example), and then think that he/she is familiar with the implementation of their paper and able to do their paper's implementation themselves.
    – m123
    Mar 25 at 19:16
  • On papers, I usually got co-authorship. On dissertations, I insisted that the person get an OK from their supervisor. It was usually no problem.
    – Peter Flom
    Mar 25 at 19:24
  • 1
    That's a good idea. In this way that seems totally right. But I sometimes hear that some people pay for implementations of their methods without mentioning their names as the co-author, that seems like an instance of plagiarism to me. Am I right?
    – m123
    Mar 25 at 19:33

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