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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much do I get paid for participating?

Once you have completed the survey you will be compensated for your participation with a $25 gift certificate from amazon.comtm.  The certificate number will be automatically provided to you at the time of survey completion...almost instantaneously.

I'm not a student at anymore. Do you still want me? Why should I participate?

First, although originally conceived as a study of college students, the outstanding scientific success of IMPACTS (see the Media and Publication tabs) has convinced us of the value of continuing the study so we can better understand the relationships between the varied life courses young adults embark on and how that relates to psychological development and health-related behavior. We want all people who enrolled at MU in the fall of 2002 and completed the baseline survey in the summer of 2002 to participate, regardless of what they are doing now. You are equally important to the study whether you spent one semester (or less) at MU or graduated. The success of the project rests upon the sample staying representative meaning that everyones' participation is important.

How was I selected to participate?

Initially, you were selected to participate in the baseline round of the study because you had been admitted to the fall 2002 freshman class at MU.  For the additional rounds of the study you were selected to participate because you actually attended MU the fall of 2002 and your age fell within the range established in the survey protocol.  Answers that you provided on the baseline round of the survey did not have an impact on your participation in future rounds.

I don't drink, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs. Why should I participate?

In order to understand people's motivations to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as the consequences of use, it is crucial to assess people who don't use substances as well as those who do use. Additionally, although the major focus of the study has been on alcohol and other forms of substance use, we have studied other issues relevant to young adulthood (factors associated with college persistence; internet use; personality development) that are important independent of substance use and other health-related behaviors.

Why should I be a "guinea pig" in this study?

IMPACTS is not an experiment; it is a study that utilizes surveys, including web-based surveys to obtain information. Our "subjects" are participants.  They are people who choose to participate by answering a number of questions about their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and experiences. There is no trickery and all participants are treated in the same way. This differs from an experiment where some subjects are exposed to one condition and other subjects to another. 

After you complete your survey we combine your responses with those of other participants and conduct statistical analyses to help us understand the possible causes and consequences of health injurious behavior among people your age. We believe this is very important research but it's validity depends upon a high rate of participation by people like you so that it reflects the great variation that characterizes us as human beings.

How will I know when I have been paid?

When you complete the survey, you will be provided with the serial number of a $25 gift certificate from amazon.comtm.  We suggest you print this information off, write it down, or save it on your hard drive. This will be your only payment. If you lose this information, please contact us by email and we will provide you with this information again.

How do you keep the data confidential?

The data are coded in such a manner that your identity is not attached to the information you contribute.  Senior project staff (Professor Sher, Ms. Isabel Rife, Ms. Margie Gurwit) are the only people who have access to all the material.  All paper documentation is stored in a locked file cabinet in a locked office.  All information transmitted during the web survey is encrypted and transferred over an SSL server.

Additionally, the project has obtained a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institutes on Heath (NIH) that protects your identity even further. If you want to know more about Certificates of Confidentiality, you can visit the NIH website at:

There the NIH Website describes Certificates of Confidentiality as follows:

"Certificates of Confidentiality are issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to protect identifiable research information from forced disclosure. They allow the investigator and others who have access to research records to refuse to disclose identifying information on research participants in any civil, criminal, administrative, legislative, or other proceeding, whether at the federal, state, or local level. Certificates of Confidentiality may be granted for studies collecting information that if disclosed could have adverse consequences for subjects or damage their financial standing, employability, insurability, or reputation. By protecting researchers and institutions from being compelled to disclose information that would identify research subjects, Certificates of Confidentiality help achieve the research objectives and promote participation in studies by assuring confidentiality and privacy to participants."

A copy of the original IMPACTS' Certificate of Confidentiality can be found by clicking here.

A copy of a new extension to our Certificate of Confidentiality to cover data to be collected between now and 2015 in conjunction with the Young Adult Survey can be found by clicking here.

The consent form says that if I express a risk of suicide, one of the project researchers will contact me to discuss resources in the community. It also says that the investigators may (or will) release identifying information in some circumstances such as child abuse to the appropriate authorities.  What does this mean?

At the present time, IMPACTS does not ask questions about suicidal risk or child abuse. Consequently, the likelihood for us to become aware of such a situation is remote.  However if we become aware that you or someone you know is at risk for harm (e.g., you contacted Dr. Sher about your participation and mentioned you've been feeling suicidal or that you were abused as a child and you are worried that your teen-age sister is being abused now) in order to protect you or the other person, we are compelled to take appropriate, legally mandated actions.  This starts by us contacting you for information to further assess the situation. Again, at present, the survey does not ask about suicide or child abuse.  The only way we can become aware of these issues is if you report them to us directly.

We will contact you for more information if you report drinking such high levels of alcohol that you are at risk for alcohol poisoning, a potentially fatal condition. IMPACTS is neither a treatment nor a prevention project that provides services. However, we are always available to direct you to helpful resources for problems you might have.  Please check out our resources' page or call us (573-882-1681) or email us ( if you have specific questions.

I'd like to participate but I don't have my own computer and I don't feel comfortable answering these questions on any computer I have available to me? Is there any other option?

Yes, please call (573-882-1682) or send an email ( to schedule a time to complete your web-based assessment in the privacy of our offices.  If you do no longer live in the Mid-Missouri area, we will find a secure private place where you can participate with complete confidentiality. In addition, if you need any assistance completing the survey, please contact us and a project staff member will be happy to assist you.

I previously told you I didn't want to participate but I've changed my mind and now I want to participate again. Can I get back in the study?

That depends.

1) If you declined participation during the Summer of 2002, which was the baseline assessment, then you were never entered into the study and cannot begin participation at this time.

2) If you participated during the baseline assessment, but declined participation during one of the web-based assessments but told us we could contact you in the future, we will contact you at the time of the next assessment.

3) If you declined participation at one of the web-based assessments and requested that we not contact you in the future, we will respect your request and not contact you during future assessments. However, if you have "changed your mind" and now wish to be considered for participation, call (573-882-1682) or email ( the Project Coordinator, Isabel Rife, and we will reenroll you.

What if I never graduated from MU or from any university? Are you still interested in keeping me as a participant?

Yes, we still want to keep in touch with you and have you participate in the study.  Since all the future assessments will be conducted on the web, it should be somewhat easy for you to continue to participate.  Please make sure that you send an e-mail message to with a telephone number, mail address and/or e-mail address that we can contact you at in the future.


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Last modified: 11/13/08