Mechanical Turk

The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables individuals and businesses (known as Requesters) to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are currently unable to do. It is one of the sites of Amazon Web Services. The Requesters are able to post tasks known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), such as choosing the best among several photographs of a storefront, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music CDs. Workers (called Providers in Mechanical Turk's Terms of Service, or, more colloquially, Turkers) can then browse among existing tasks and complete them for a monetary payment set by the Requester. To place HITs, the requesting programs use an open application programming interface (API), or the more limited MTurk Requester site. Requesters are restricted to US-based entities.

Reimbursements for payments to AMT are not allowed.

Ordering and Additional Information below:

  1. P-Card Holders, liaisons and departments are responsible for setting up specific processes to account for funds distributed through AMT.  A $2500 “purchase” with AMT will show up as a charge on your P-Card, but that “charge” requires additional supporting documentation.  A detailed Requester Report from AMT showing the date/time, “worker id” to whom fund were distributed and the amount paid must be provided for each charge.  In addition, all services done through AMT must have a qualifying question asked on every survey/service request that asks the participant “Are you an employee of Clemson University, family member of a Clemson employee, or Clemson student involved in this particular research?”  If they answer Yes, then they cannot be allowed to participate in the service.  As our requirement for fiscal accountability and conflict of interest, we must ensure funds are NOT distributed to Clemson employees/students involved in the actual research.  All this must be done in a timely manner to reconcile P-Card charges as required by policy.  The excuse that funds have not been paid out yet is not an excuse, thus guidance to limit funding to no more than $2500 or, more ideally, what you need as you need it.
  2. For Fund 20 projects:
    •  Use of Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) or other online incentive contracts must be included in the proposal budget and narrative with a specified amount in order for the charge to be allowed on a Fund 20 project.
    •  The Department that initiates the charge and makes the payment must ensure that a refund is requested/issued if the requested number of HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) is not used.
  3. Clemson MAY choose to establish “business” accounts with AMT in the name of the University, with the approval of the budget center/college and department head or approver of funds.  We are NOT setting up parent-child accounts as AMT discussed below. Each account set up needs to be approved as a new and separate Clemson business account and will be tied to a specific payment account (P-Card) based on how you set up each account.
  4. You MAY use a P-Card to make charges of no more than $2500 at a time to AMT.  Do NOT split purchases and make back to back charges exceeding $2500 or you may lose your P-Card privileges.  A $2500 charge followed by another $2500 charge the following week after funds are expended/distributed will be acceptable at this time but two charges on the same day or back to back days that exceed $2500 to fund a specific project will be viewed as a split charge and result in an unauthorized procurement.
  5. AMT business accounts may still be tied to an individual’s and other Amazon related accounts. As such, it is even more critical to ensure that personal and P-Card charges are made to the correct accounts at time of payment in Amazon.  We caution strongly against this with the regular use of the P-Card in Amazon, and if this is abused or results in unauthorized procurements, this guidance may be revoked and the use of AMT will be suspended.
  6. As previously noted, Amazon in general has a difficult time linking businesses to specific accounts. I am unsure at this time how a P-Card will be used to fund an account as you may run into issues if the P-Card is not in the name of the “Requester” on the account and/or the addresses don’t match up. This is the responsibility of the Requester and Card Holder to work out with Amazon.  This is NOT an issue Procurement needs to be involved in to assist.  This may be an issue that will cause a user/card holder time to get straightened out and it is your responsibility to do so. It may require getting a P-Card issued in the Requesters name – just a possibility.

For the same reasons AMT is making a big deal about setting up and verifying accounts and payment methods, Clemson needs to be aware that this entire process contains countless opportunities for issues, fraud, lack of accountability, etc…  The guidance put out above is guidance at this point, but should issues arise that we were not aware of and/or cannot control, or processes not put in place to properly manage this situation, the guidance may be retracted and use of AMT may be prohibited.  We recognize the value of this service to researchers and want to support our faculty, but at the same time the faculty must recognize the very sensitive nature of the fiscal accountability this process creates and support the necessary requirements/processes to make this work.

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