Out damn bot, out: Recruiting real people into substance use studies on the internet

Alexandra Godinho, Christina Schell, John A. Cunningham*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    While the Internet has become a popular and effective strategy for recruiting substance users into research, there is a large risk of recruiting duplicate individuals and Internet bots that pose as humans. Strategies to mitigate these issues are outlined and categorized into two groups: (1) automatic techniques which are often embedded into surveys and (2) ongoing manual techniques implemented during recruitment. Potential limitations of these strategies are discussed, and an example of the prevalence of duplicate data within a substance using sample is provided. Overall, it is recommended that researchers consider the use of routine strategies to mitigate the risks associated with recruiting online samples such as: verifying participant contact information, IP address checks, and ongoing cross-checking of participant information for duplicates, similarities and inconsistencies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-5
    Number of pages3
    JournalSubstance Abuse
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


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