Day-to-day study operation

Starting and stopping data collection and advertising

At any time, you can change either whether your study is active and whether it is discoverable.

Active vs. paused

You can start and stop data collection independently and whenever you want. On your study detail page, go to “change state” -> “Start” or “Pause.”

When your study is active, participants can access it at the direct link shown on your study page. If the study is also discoverable, it will be listed on the Lookit “studies” page and advertised by email to eligible families.

When your study is paused, participants can’t access it even if they have the direct link. If participants follow a direct link to your study and it is paused, they will see a message like this.

Discoverable vs. non-discoverable

You can also independently switch your study between discoverable

When your study is discoverable and active, it is:

  • Listed at
  • Advertised to eligible families via announcement emails that include a direct link to the study, sent each day at 4am
  • Accessible at the direct link

When your study is non-discoverable and active, it is:

  • Not listed at
  • Not advertised by announcement emails
  • Still accessible at the direct link!

You would make your study non-discoverable if you wanted to recruit your own specific participants - e.g., only people who previously participated in a study in your lab, or families in a database for research about a rare disorder.

We also recommend making studies non-discoverable to do some initial piloting - once your study is approved, you can make it active but non-discoverable, and recruit a few participants yourself to try it out. (This is also a good way to get a feel for your recruitment options and how effective they are!)

Announcement emails

Announcement emails are sent out to families with eligible children to let them know about new studies on Lookit:

  • Emails are only sent about studies that are discoverable and active.
  • Emails are only sent to families whose email preference specifies that they want to hear about new studies.
  • Up to 50 families with at least one eligible child are notified about each study each day. Eligibility is determined each day, so depending on your eligibility criteria you will have a day to a few weeks of sending out 50 emails/day, then a trickle of kids aging in or registering.
  • Families are only notified about a study one time per child. (Emails are bundled together if they have multiple eligible children - “There’s a new study for John and Jane!”, but they might get a second email if another child ages in.)
  • Emails are currently sent at 4am Eastern Time.

The limit of 50 is currently hard-coded. If you want to limit how many announcement emails are sent further, you can send out just one day of announcements at a time by making your study discoverable overnight, then making it non-discoverable again. Families who got a direct link in an announcement email will be able to participate in your study, but no more announcements will be sent unless you make the study discoverable again.

Making changes to your study

If you make changes to your study - updating the fields in the study details, the experiment runner version, etc. - your study will be automatically “rejected” and will require review by Lookit staff again before you can make it active. This is quick but does still require manual action on our part. In general these are reviewed the same business day as submitted, often within an hour, but this is subject to whether staff is working / in a meeting / etc. Feel free to contact us ahead of time to coordinate a time if you need immediate turnaround.

There are a few exceptions to changes triggering review, including changes to the age range and formatting of the study protocol configuration, which are listed when you save changes to a study.

Monitoring data as it comes in

We strongly recommend reviewing consent videos and looking through data at least twice a week to make sure you become aware of any issues participants are having in a timely manner. (E.g., you want to know if people are confused by your directions, if there’s any weird bug with a new version of Firefox, etc.!)

Compensating participants

If you are compensating participants, in most cases you will be messaging them through the Lookit email interface to give them gift cards, using the user IDs you can see in the consent manager and/or the response data. If your institution requires direct compensation or requires the collection of email addresses for other compliance reasons, you can add an additional survey page to your study to ask for the participant’s email, as long as it is clear that that information will only be used to send payment.

Participant compensation should never depend on the child’s behavior - even if the child fusses out and/or the data is unusable. In general, this means we try to pay anyone who submits a valid consent video. Payment for the parent’s/child’s time is ethical; accidentally paying the parent to take extraordinary measures to get their child to sit through the study because they think that’s necessary to get paid is not. The exception to this guideline is that if someone tries the study but only gets a very short way in (maybe only consent), then comes back and does the study again, you would generally pay them just once - even if you might have erred on the side of caution and paid them even for the first attempt.

Spam users and fraud on CHS

Very rarely, you may have people take your study who are not operating in good faith - the most egregious example is someone attempting to participate without a child present, but we have also seen cases where the same person makes several accounts to get paid multiple times, or where people lie about their location or child’s age to make themselves ‘eligible’ for studies.

Every member of your research team who is involved in compensating families for participation must be aware of this issue and the steps that researchers are expected to take to avoid this. Because CHS is a shared platform with a shared reputation and shared participant pool, it is everyone’s responsibility to avoid paying the small number of people to try to take advantage of this resouce to the detriment of our research goals.

See this page for information on procedures related to discouraging scammer participants on Children Helping Science.

You are free to put limits on how many times / how often people can participate and be compensated, and to require that the child be, say, in the age range for the study in order to participate. Basically, stuff the parent can know before they get started is fair game. (But be careful and err on the side of payment if there is any discrepancy between your listed age range - e.g. “for three-year-olds” - and the min/max used for automatic warnings; see the docs.) If a parent participates with a child well outside the age range, you might want to email them to thank them for participating, let them know it’s fine to check out the study and you hope they found it interesting but since this is for x-month-olds you won’t be able to use their data or provide compensation.

Rarely, adults without children may check out a study and even make a consent recording. We tell our students not to do this but you never know :) To avoid feeling obligated to pay them (which would probably be surprising to them too) you’re welcome to state in your compensation info that the child needs to be visible in the consent video. (You don’t actually have to enforce that for people who get the kid later, which is reasonable - but this way if someone ONLY submits the consent video and doesn’t have a child present, you don’t have to pay them.)

Parents who ran into a technical problem and want to try again

Sometimes parents may contact you to see if they can try your study again because they had a technical problem or their child wasn’t interested the first time. Whether you can use the data may depend on the particular circumstances and your study design, but on a technical level it’s fine - you can let the parent know they may see a warning about having already participated but that they can safely ignore it.

If a parent requests video deleted, or you need to delete video for any other reason

Please contact Lookit staff and we will delete the video(s). You’ll need to provide the response UUID.

If a parent invokes GDPR specifically in their request, again please contact Lookit (complying is straightforward but we’ll notify OGC).