Most schemes on the internet promise to pay you a lot and invariably end up not doing so. The reasons are several: the type of earnings cited cannot really be sustained and in the case of surveys, once you’ve had your lot there may be no more because your profile doesn’t fit the rest of them. So, it’s been a very pleasant surprise to discover one that applies to neither of these; Profilic Academic (now known as Prolific), neither promises you hundreds in earnings every month, but to be fair there will be a trickle of opportunities which should see you do nicely out of it. In this Prolific Academic Review, we’ll find out just why this is.
The core model of Prolific is as follows. University students at various levels often need qualitative and quantitative research done for their dissertations. In order to test hypothesis, often real life feedback is needed and this is often quite difficult to come by. You could ask your friends, of course, but this wouldn’t give you a wide enough range of people and it could be said your sample was biased. And getting said sample was often time-consuming and you had no control over whether it was balanced or not. For example, for my own thesis, I ended up needing around 500 respondents, for which I spammed (for want of a better word) a lot of message boards that were related to the subject. The response rate was incredibly low and one of the toughest challenges was simply getting enough people to participate. It ended up taking around a month and even then, I ended up with a fairly skewed demographic (mostly men). Even worse, I have known some people that were time-constrained to simply make up the answers. It happens, and there is no real way of disproving it.
So Prolific Academic fills a very nice gap. You can choose to pay for responses, and for this, you get to specify the demographic you want to hear from, and how many respondents that you wish to have. The site is popular, and from the point of view of the researcher getting 500 responses in a day is pretty easy even if you have set the payment bar pretty low.
From the point of view of the respondent, we get to earn money for doing a couple of minutes work. And rather cleverly, Prolific appears to be a natural monopoly. Both parties want to go where there is most of the other. And because this type of academic research is pretty uniform much the world over, there are no real boundaries; the platform is suitable for virtually all types of research.
And most importantly from the respondents point of view, there is always a steady influx of people needing research, and this doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
So how much can I earn?
It certainly depends on your demographic. Because all of the researchers can specify just who they want to respond to the survey, certain types of people will get more offers than others. But it’s impossible to say just who might be better off, given the vast array of topics there are to research. At a guess, those in countries with English as a major language (most research is published in this language) will have an advantage here.
The topics themselves also offer varying amounts of payment. At first, there was a suggestion that the pay rate should equate to some kind of minimum wage. So a survey that took a user 10 minutes to fill out should offer at least £1. But there are no minimums, and many researchers realise that a low pay rate will still fill their project (at a slower rate), and its not uncommon to see a few low-ball offers. And at the opposite end of the scale there are some lucrative surveys (often from PHD studies which are funded) which pay more – the most I’ve seen was £5 but for an estimated 30 mins time. But no-one forces you to do a particular survey.
On the flip-side, most surveys pay a reasonable rate; and its only fair that you fill them out to the best of your ability. All are anonymous, and virtually all no further knowledge of the subject is required. To this end, most of the surveys also include ‘attention check’ questions to ensure that no-one (or maybe a bot) is filling out the surveys; if you don’t get this right you won’t be paid. It’s certainly true that the potential for fraud exists (someone could set up a load of accounts and take the surveys) but for the potential upside (which is small, and not even guaranteed) it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile.
So the figures are like this; on average I get around 1 survey per day, I’d say the average take per month is around £20. I’ve set up a shortcut to the studies page on my desktop and check it a few times a day; most of the time there is nothing there (especially on weekends), other times there will be something that you can do.
The payment system used is also fair and easy. You can cash out with Paypal when you reach £5 – a really low sum – so you can feel the tangible benefit straightaway. I prefer to let mine build up a little and then reward myself with something with the proceeds.
In my view, there is little wrong with giving Prolific Academic a try, and I’d like to think in the future it could be even busier.