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COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the McMaster Decision Science Laboratory?

We are located in LR Wilson Hall, Suite 5803, on McMaster University campus in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  Take the elevator or stairs to the 5th floor and follow the signs.  

Tell me more about McEEL and its history.

The McMaster Experimental Economics Laboratory opened in March 1994. Although there were similar facilities at universities in the United States and Europe, McEEL was the very first laboratory in Canada to be dedicated to computer-mediated interactive experiments in economics and related disciplines.  Since that time, labs have opened at other universities across Canada, operating in both English and French.

The McEEL laboratory has called a few places home over the years.  When we first started back in 1994, McEEL was located in the basement of Brandon Hall at McMaster University.  It was here that we began our research and conducted experiments for over 12 years.  In 2006, we relocated to Togo Salmon Hall, TSH 111 where we upgraded our computer equipment and ran experiments for six years and in 2012, we moved into our current location next door in TSH 112/A.  The initial costs of renovations and the acquisition of equipment were financed by a grant from Environment Canada's Green Plan to the Tri-Council administered McMaster Eco-Research Program for Hamilton Harbour, and contributions from DuPont Canada and McMaster University. The Tri-Council funding was obtained by founders David Feeny, Stuart Mestelman, and R. Andrew Muller to investigate economic instruments for achieving environmental objectives and to study alternative methods of managing common pool resources such as Hamilton Harbour.   Our most recent move into TSH 112/A was made possible with generous support from the Office of the Dean of Social Sciences at McMaster University.

The McEEL laboratory is available to faculty and graduate students at McMaster University who are studying market institutions and collective decision-making and who wish to use laboratory methods in their research.  Currently, we have twelve networked participant computers and two administration computers along with a large center table and projector suitable for discussions.  Our facilities are available to researchers outside of McMaster University, and we have hosted researchers from a number of other universities including York University, Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, and University of Guelph.

What do you do at McEEL?

Simply put, we use experimental, laboratory methods to test theories and explore economic questions.  Our work covers a number of different areas of research, including: auctions, environmental regulations and markets, common pool resources, market communication dynamics, public and private goods provisions, and most recently, health care funding and financing.   We use computerized software to create scenarios and ask our research participants to make decisions, which we have designed into interesting experiments.  Our participants often tell us how fun our experiments are.  And the best part … we pay you when you participate in our experiments.  Real cash, right away.

What do I have to do in an economic experiment?

We run a lot of different experiments here at McEEL but generally when you arrive, you take a seat at a private computer.  We explain a specific scenario, provide you with some information and ask you to make decisions.   Sometimes you may be asked to make decisions about dividing some resource between two or more people or groups; or maybe decide what you think is fair or not fair, or perhaps who you think might have the greatest need for something; or maybe chat with other participants and vote for a preferred tax rate.  Sometimes you participate on your own, other times you participate in small or large groups of fixed sizes.  What we ask you to do will likely be different each time, but our experiments are all now computerized and everything is explained to make things easy.  Our experiments usually include detailed instructions, which are narrated automatically and are designed to introduce you to the experiment as well as the computer interface.   For most of our experiments, there are no right or wrong answers.  We don’t presume that you are an expert in economics and everyone is welcome to participate in our research.  That’s the beauty of what we do here … we want to know what you think.

How do I sign up for an experiment?

We encourage everyone to participate in our experiments.  It’s really simple, all you have to do is register with McEEL and watch your email.  Click here to register.

When you register, we ask you to provide your name and contact information.  We contact everyone using our automated scheduling and contact system called ORSEE.  ORSEE was designed by Ben Greiner at Harvard University (now at the University of New South Wales in Australia) and it’s the most popular system used by labs like McEEL all over the world.

Once you have registered, your name and email will be used to contact you when we have experiments scheduled.  You will receive an email inviting you to participate in an upcoming experiment and we will usually offer a few different dates and times from which you can choose.  You can then just click and select one of those time slots (which we call a “session”).   We expect that you will show up if you have agreed to show up and we count on that.   All of this is explained in detail on the registration ORSEE pages. 

Do I have to be taking economics to participate in an experiment?

No, we are interested in everyone participating in our experiments and we want undergraduate and graduate students from all years and disciplines, as well as faculty members, staff, and friends and neighbours of the McMaster community.

Will I be paid for participating?

Yes.  The specific amounts paid will differ according to each experiment. Most experiments pay participants in two ways.

Firstly, there is often a show-up fee paid to all participants who show up at least 5 minutes early and who participate in the experiment.  Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t show-up and we might be left scrambling to get enough participants to run the experiment that day, so we sometimes allow more people to sign up than we might need.  If you are one of the last people to arrive after enough people have already shown up, we will still pay you that $5 show-up fee, and you are free to sign up for another session of the same experiment over the next few days.

Secondly, you may receive money based on the decisions you and others make during an experiment and this is explained during the experiment.  Generally our experiments pay between $15 to $40, for 30 minutes to two hours. All payments are made in private after the experiment is complete.  We also sometimes have quick surveys and we pay a flat fee for completing them, usually $8 for about 20 minutes.  We always explain how much each experiment or survey pays when we invite you to participate. 

How long does an experiment usually last?

Most experiments last from one to two hours but sometimes there are exceptions. Your invitation email will contain that information so you will always know how long the experiment lasts before you accept your invitation and sign up.  You are always free to withdraw during an experiment. However, if you withdraw before the end of the experiment you may forfeit any money earned during the experiment. (You will keep your show-up fee).

Can I participate in more than one experiment?

Yes, you can participate in as many different experiments as you want but you can only participate in each experiment once.   We need to ensure this to get reliable results.  When you receive an invitation to an experiment, you will likely be able to select ONE session for that experiment.  Once you select that session, our ORSEE system will prevent you from signing up for another session of the same experiment.  If you receive another invitation to a different experiment however, you can also participate in that other experiment too.

Can I bring a friend to an experiment?

We encourage you to tell your friends about McEEL so they can register in our ORSEE system.  But, only participants who have properly registered in ORSEE,  and received a personal experiment invitation email and then specifically selected one session are eligible to participate.  Of course, you can come with your friend if you have both already registered and signed up for the same session, but you cannot just show-up without registering and signing up for a session.

What about privacy?

Any personal information collected during an experiment will be used only for the purposes of the experiment and will not be released to others.  Some personal information is required when registering in our ORSEE system but this information is used only for recruiting and will not be made available to anyone.  Steps have been taken to secure all information in the online database.

If I have other questions, who can I contact?

Feel free to email us.