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Upcoming Changes to Take Effect on Sep 1, 2021

Why are we making changes? A Letter from the Executive Director

As a nonprofit organization established in 2018 to accelerate online behavioral research, FindingFive’s original plan was to be a niche player: we had (and still have) no intention to be a direct competitor to big names like Qualtrics. Instead, we wanted to make the life of researchers who run the “stimulus-presentation” type of experiments a bit easier. As a researcher user of FindingFive, you probably can feel how this plan has affected many of our design decisions: our unique features such as speech onset detection, and so many odd (but hopefully useful) ways of counterbalancing your stimuli.

COVID-19 has brought big changes to our lives. It also forced the FindingFive team to reassess whether our original plan of being a niche player was feasible. Over the last 12 months, and through interactions with our researcher users, we have realized that FindingFive today is at a rather awkward place. The way we have been running FindingFive, largely as a free service to most researchers, is based on the assumption that we are a niche platform used by only a few researchers. Right now, however, we have over 300 actively engaged researchers running over 2000+ participants per month. While we feel extremely grateful for the trust that researchers have put in us, it is also now much more costly to support this many researchers and participants. Our monthly equipment cost has gone from about $20 USD to several hundreds, and still increasing. A variety of fees, legal, accounting, and so on, running up to several thousands a year. Furthermore, to make FindingFive a sustainable effort, we need to stop relying on volunteers (from yours truly to everyone else at FindingFive, all of us are volunteers without pay!). Instead, we will have to retain a permanent staff to develop and maintain the project. The personnel cost will dwarf the maintenance cost that we have faced so far.

To tell you bluntly, the reason we are implementing these changes is to improve the financial situation of our nonprofit organization, so that FindingFive the research platform can continue to operate and grow, hopefully forever! In making these changes, we have kept the financial burden facing each of our researchers in mind. I hope you can see our painstaking effort in making FindingFive remain as accessible as possible. As a nonprofit, we have no shareholders to answer to, so all of our revenue will go directly to cover the cost of operations, and hopefully personnel at a certain point in the future.

FindingFive is driven by the mission to enable more researchers to conduct online behavioral experiments. On behalf of the FindingFive team, I am forever grateful for your support in helping us getting there.

Ting Qian, Ph.D.
Executive Director, FindingFive Corporation

New Subscription Plans for Researcher Accounts

Starting September 1, 2021, FindingFive will be replacing the current membership structure with three subscription plans: Lite, Standard, and Pro.  The following table summarizes the primary differences between these three plans.

Researcher Subscription PlansLiteStandardPro
Monthly fee$0$10/month
Full access to all FindingFive grammar featuresYesYesYes
Pay zero session fee for the first N participant entries per monthly subscription cycleN=0N=25N=100
Number of concurrently active sessions310Unlimited
Storage space for stimulus files200M500M1G
Create fully-encrypted studies
(required by law if you collect personally identifiable data)
Collaboration features BasicAdvancedAdvanced
Buy additional “Plus 1” slots with the same plan benefitsNoYes, $8 per slot per monthYes, $20 per slot per month
Comparison between the subscription plans available for researchers. Bold font indicates upgrades from the Lite plan.

We will explain the details of these plans in the rest of this post.

Lite Plan

The Lite subscription plan requires no further actions on the part of researchers other than simply signing up for a researcher account on FindingFive. Researchers under the Lite plan will have full access to all features of the FindingFive Study Grammar.

Importantly, starting 9/1/2021, a major boost for the Lite plan will be the ability to launch up to 3 concurrently active sessions (of different studies), instead of just 1 session prior to this change. This will enable researchers to launch multiple lists of the same experiment and/or implement a pre- and post-test paradigm easily by using the prerequisite features of FindingFive.

Standard Plan

The Standard plan is the best fit for researchers who collaborate with colleagues heavily on FindingFive but run their own participants only occasionally. Its key upgrade from the Lite plan is the addition of advanced collaboration features (read more about them in the section below). In addition, the Standard Plan comes with 25 free participant entries (more on this below), for which you won’t need to pay any Session Fee charges.

Researchers with a Standard Plan can also add their colleagues or students as “Plus 1s” at a discounted rate of $8 per Plus 1 per month. Plus 1s enjoy the same plan benefits as the primary subscription holder, independent of the primary subscription holder’s usage of their benefits. That is, each Plus 1 will have their own 500M of stimulus file storage space, and 25 free participant entries per month.

The cost of Plus 1s will be billed to the primary subscription holder for billing convenience.

Pro Plan: the Accelerator of Productivity

Researchers with the Pro plan will enjoy a variety of benefits that span from productivity boost to significant monetary savings, including:

  • Launching an unlimited number of concurrently active sessions (of different studies);
  • Uploading up to 1G of stimulus files;
  • Paying zero session fee charge for the first 100 participant entries each month, which would otherwise cost $50, more than enough to pay for the Pro plan itself;
  • Using advanced collaboration features to boost productivity (same as the Standard plan);
  • Adding your colleagues or students to your account as “Plus 1s” and they will enjoy the same Pro plan benefits as you do! You can purchase Plus 1 slots at a significantly discounted rate of $20/month. The cost of your Pro Plan and all your Plus 1s will be billed to you for billing convenience.

More on Advanced Collaboration Features

Advanced collaboration features are available to researchers with a Standard Plan or a Pro Plan. The use of these features, in most cases, require all researchers involved to have one of the two paid plans. For example, to transfer the ownership of a study, both the sender and the recipient must have one of the two plans.

Adding more than 2 collaborators per study

Starting 9/1/2021, only researchers with access to advanced collaboration features can add more than 2 collaborators per study. Researchers being added as your collaborators do not need to have a Standard or Pro plan.

Making a copy of a study created by collaborators

Starting 9/1/2021, only researchers with access to advanced collaboration features can make copies of a study created by collaborators. Making such copies will also carry over stimulus files. This feature does require both you and the study owner to have either a Standard or a Pro plan.

Transferring Study Ownership

Transferring study ownership allows researchers to move a finished study to another account, together with its past participation history and all stimulus files. The original study owner can choose to retain control of the study by remaining as a collaborator once the study is moved.

This is most useful when researchers from the same lab work on their own individual studies, but prefer to launch the study from a centralized “Lab Account” when the study is ready (the lab account could just be another Researcher account set up with a lab email address). As a result, any Session Fees from launching sessions will be deducted from the centralized account instead of the researcher’s personal account. This setup can greatly simplify how research labs pay for session fees.

This feature requires all accounts involved in the transfer to have either a Standard or Pro plan.

Delegate Session Launches

There are also times when a researcher has designed a study in their own account, but the actual running and managing of the study is delegated to a research assistant. In such cases, the researcher can add the researcher assistant as a collaborator with permissions to launch the studies on their behalf. This feature requires all accounts involved to have either a Standard or Pro plan.

Transition from current Premium and Laboratory Memberships

For researchers who have an active “Premium membership” expiring beyond 09/01/2021, with either monthly or annual billing cycles, their accounts will be automatically converted to the Standard plan. There’s no changes in fees as the old Premium membership and new Standard plan are both $10 a month or $108 a year. The new subscription will also automatically renew like the current memberships.

For researchers with an active “Laboratory membership” that originally extends beyond 9/1/2021, each researcher in the Laboratory membership will be converted to the new Pro plan, with a free 3-month extension based on the original end date of their lab membership. However, once the converted period passes, they must manually re-enroll in either the Standard or the Pro plan depending on their needs. FindingFive will send out reminders on re-enrollment as the expiration date approaches.

Plus 1 features billed separately for current Premium members paying with PayPal

Researchers currently with a Premium membership (annual or monthly) billed via PayPal can add Plus 1s to their converted subscriptions, but you will need to add a new credit card to pay for Plus 1s. Due to PayPal’s limited payment features, we are using Square to process all subscription-related payments. As a result, for researchers who currently pay for their Premium membership using PayPal, you may be billed twice each month if you decide to add Plus 1s to your subscription: once via PayPal for your own primary subscription, and the other via Square for your Plus 1s.

Active Membership
originally expiring beyond 09/01/2021
New Plan on 09/01/2021Expiration DateAuto-renewal
Premium (annual or monthly)StandardNo changeYes
Laboratory (annual only)Pro+3 extra monthsNo

Fee Structure Changes

Starting 9/1/2021, FindingFive will introduce a new Session Fee charge, while significantly reducing the existing Payment Process Fee. The net change for researchers who use our Direct Payment feature to pay participants can be as much as 30% reduction in total fees.

Flat-rate Payment Processing Fee

Since 2020, researchers have been able to pay participants directly on FindingFive, should they opt in to use the “Direct Payment” feature when launching a new session. Currently, the payment processing fee for Direct Payment studies is 15% of the actual payment amount or $0.75/€0.75 per participant, whichever is greater. This fee is already significantly lower than almost all other online study platforms.

Starting September 1, 2021, this payment processing fee will be a flat rate of $0.75/€0.75 per participant, regardless of how much you will be paying your participants via the Direct Payment feature.

Studies that do not use the “Direct Payment” feature, as usual, will not be charged the payment processing fee.

New Session Fee Charges for Most Studies (Waived for September 2021)

Starting September October 1, 2021, we will charge a session fee that is based on “participant entries” – the number of unique completed participants in a production session (note that the same participant in different sessions will be counted as different participant entries), after researchers download the data of the session. A charge will be generated for the first download only. Subsequent downloads of the data from that session will not result in additional fees. No charges for the Session Fee will be generated before researchers obtain the participant data first.

This fee will apply to all studies, regardless of whether Direct Payment is used or where the session is launched. Only participants who successfully complete a session will be counted as a “participant entry” and result in this fee (i.e., participants who abandon or time out the study will not be counted). The same participants completing different sessions will be counted as different entries.

Session Fee Rates

The specific rate of the session fee differs for researchers depending on what plan they subscribe to. Both the Standard and the Pro plans also come with free monthly participant entries as mentioned above. The details are as follows:

Monthly Participant EntriesLite PlanStandard PlanPro Plan
Participant entries 1-100$0.50 per participantFree for 1-25, then $0.40 ppFree
Participant entries 101+ $0.50 per participant$0.40 pp$0.30 pp
1. pp = per participant
2. The session fee is calculated based on whether the owner of the study (not the collaborator who may launch a new study session on the owner’s behalf) has an active Standard or Pro plan at the time when participants join the session . 

Method for Tallying Participant Entries (for accounts with a paid subscription)

For researchers who have either the Standard Plan or the Pro Plan, an important issue is to make sure that the included free participant entries are applied correctly and optimally so as to reduce session fee costs. FindingFive will tally participant entries based on the following principles:

  • Participant entries are accumulated per monthly subscription cycle. For monthly subscribers to the Standard or the Pro plan, this is intuitive as the subscription itself renews monthly. For annual subscribers, participant entry counts are tallied using the monthly anniversaries of your signup date (even when you subscription itself is paid annually).
  • To determine which monthly subscription cycle a participant entry belongs, we always use the actual time when the participant starts the session. The time when a researcher launches the session does not matter.
  • For long-running sessions spanning multiple monthly subscription cycles, each participant entry will be tallied and applied to the corresponding subscription cycle based on the start time of the participant. For example, if your session is launched in your January subscription cycle, and it collects 10 participants in February, those 10 participant entries will be tallied under your February subscription cycle.

As a result, researchers can launch multiple large-capacity sessions at the same time, and then actively manage recruitment progress to optimize session fee costs over the months. Session Fees, if still due after accounting for the free participant entries, will be calculated accordingly.

The above principles do not apply to researchers with the Lite plan, as the Lite plan has no subscription cycles.

Some Session Fee Examples and Cost-saving Tips

The following table lists a few examples illustrating how much the Session Fee charge will be given the number of participants a researcher may run in a single month:

Monthly Participant EntriesLite PlanStandard PlanPro Plan
25$0.50 * 25 = $12.50$0.00$0.00
100$0.50 * 100 = $50.00$0.40 * 75 = $30.00$0.00
300$0.50 * 300 = $150.00$0.4 * 275 = $110.00$0.3 * 200 = $60.00

As the table shows, for researchers who run more than 25 participant entries a month, the Standard Plan saves researchers $12.50 compared to the Lite plan, which essentially pay for itself (the Standard Plan costs $10 a month). For researchers who routinely run 100 and more participant entries, the Pro Plan pays for itself as well. For big labs that run hundreds of participants each month, the Pro plan still offers significant savings, or you can sign your whole lab up for Pro plans via the “Plus 1” feature to achieve even greater savings.

Session Fee Will Always Be Applied to a Saved Payment Card Post-hoc

A session fee charge will always be generated after a session has finished collecting data and participant data are downloaded from that session. The charge can be paid with any payment card saved in the researcher’s account.

We may later support paying Session Fee using funds in your account that are normally used to pay participants, but this feature will not be immediately available for 2021.

Partial Teaching Waiver for the Session Fee in 2022

Starting in 2022, FindingFive will partially waive the session fee for a researcher account if the owner of the account is a student enrolled in (or teaching) an experimental design (or similar) course using FindingFive as a pedagogical tool. Once granted the waiver, the researcher will be able to collect data from 25 participants each month for free for the entire duration of the course. Starting with the 26th participant per month, the fee structure as outlined in the above session fee table applies. 

Faculty are not eligible for this waiver. A request for this waiver can be submitted either by the instructor of the course to waive the fee for the entire class or by individual students. We will release a form for submitting this request, and registrar records will be required as evidence for this request. The teaching waiver can only be used exactly once per researcher account in a 12-month period.

Net Financial Impact

In this final section, we outline the expected financial impact on researcher users as a result of these changes.

Lower Cost for Researchers Paying Participants Directly via FindingFive

A study paying $10 to each participant currently has a flat payment processing fee of 15%, which is $1.5 per participant. After these changes are in effect, even researchers with a Lite plan will pay $0.75 (the new payment processing fee) + $0.5 (the highest session fee rate) = $1.25. The cost will be even lower as more participants take the study, since the session fee rate decreases over more participant entries.

Lower Cost for an Entire Lab to Get Paid Plans

Under the new plans, signing up an entire lab of 5 members (1 PI + 4 students) for the Pro plan, for example, will cost $35 + $20 * 4 = $115 dollars a month. After a 10% off discount for paying annually, the cost will be only $1,242 a year. Each Pro Plan account also comes with 100 free participant entries per month, for whom the session fee does not apply. This means that the lab of 5 can run up to 500 participant entries a month, in aggregate (that is, each account runs 100 participant entries), without incurring session fee charges.

Similarly, the cost for a lab of 5 to get Standard Plans for all is $10 + $8 * 4 = $42 a month, or $453.6 a year. A total of 125 free participant entries are included each month.

Running Course-credit Studies is No Longer 100% Free

When these changes become effective on 09/01/2021, running course-credit studies will result in some session fee charges for most researchers, as detailed in this post. Our fee rate is highly competitive compared to other for-profit online experiment software services. By supporting FindingFive financially via these session fee payments, you will help ensure FindingFive remain as an accessible service to behavioral researchers.

Cost Comparison with other Platforms (Gorilla, MTurk, Prolific)

Under the new fee structure, FindingFive remains the most affordable platform that integrates study creation, recruitment, and payment all in the same place. For example, imagine you are using for creating studies and then posting those studies to Prolific or Mechanical Turk to recruit participants. At $10 per participant, you will be paying these platforms a hefty amount to conduct your study (under the best-case scenario by taking advantage of the plans and bundles offered by each platform):

Annual Participant Count100 participants300 participants1K participants
(for creating studies only)
(for recruitment & payment only)
MTurk mini-batches
(for recruitment & payment only)
MTurk regular
(for recruitment & payment only)
MTurk “mini-batches” is an optimization strategy where researchers submit HITs of 9 assignments to keep the fees lower instead of a large HIT of >=10 assignments. Some platforms, like CloudResearch, can automate this “mini-batches” process, but it also requires researchers to pay an additional fee to achieve this automation of “mini-batches”.

Because researchers would need to use Gorilla AND a recruitment platform, the actual total cost would be even higher, compared to doing everything on FindingFive:

Annual Participant Count100 participants300 participants1K participants
Gorilla + Prolific$448$1,319$4,347
Gorilla + MTurk mini-batches$318$929$3,047
Gorilla + MTurk regular$518$1,529$5,047
(all-in-one for creating studies, recruiting, and payment)
Comparison is made on an annual basis because alternative platforms only offer discounts for annual packages. When compared in monthly terms, FindingFive is even more affordable than the other platforms.

In other words, excluding participant payments per se, researchers running 100 participants a year can save almost $300 by using FindingFive. Large research labs can save over $3,000 by using FindingFive. We can offer these competitive prices because of our nonprofit nature – we are not seeking to maximize profit, but just enough revenue to keep operations going.