Communication with requesters

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Resources for Turkers to communicate with requesters

These are resources available to help with the steps described in For Turkers: what can you do when these guidelines are violated?, and other situations in which you may need to contact requesters.


Inform requesters of the guidelines and ask them to sign it

This is a template workers and researchers may want to use to inform other academic requesters of the guidelines and ask them to sign it, through email or the MTurk Contact Requester feature.

[Academic Requester],

There is currently a lot of variability in how academic requesters structure their interactions with workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk. We encounter some academic HITs with issues such as very low pay, arbitrary rejections, or excessive requests for personal information. Academic researchers and their IRBs, used to face-to-face studies, are often ill-prepared to protect Turkers' time, rights, and privacy. Tensions came to a head recently when a social scientist experimented unannounced on Turkopticon, a site where Turkers review requesters; the intervention resulted in much confusion, frustration, and wasted time on all sides. After that incident, and in response to other ongoing concerns, a group of Turkers and researchers drafted guidelines for ethical research on Amazon Mechanical Turk.

University IRBs review and approve proposals for academic research, an increasing amount of which gets done on AMT. The goal is to have a publicly accessible document to help guide researchers and IRBs. This document augments the Amazon Mechanical Turk Terms of Service, setting standards on issues workers face that the ToS doesn't address. The contributors have put in a lot of time and energy over several weeks to get this right.

After the draft was discussed on multiple Turker community forums and modified to address suggestions, we are gathering signatures from requesters such as yourself. We hope you will submit your signature to voluntarily show your support and commitment to follow these guidelines. They cover issues such as the basics of how to be a good requester, how to pay fairly, and what Turkers can do if HITs are questionable.

The guidelines are available here: http://guidelines.wearedynamo.org/

As a requester, you are part of a very powerful group on AMT. Your signature in support of this document will help give Turkers a sense of cooperation and goodwill, and make Mechanical Turk a better place to work.


What to do in case of violations

Please feel free to use the templates below as a starting point. The Dynamo community welcomes you to get thoughts or share drafts of your emails for feedback before you send it, by optionally posting in a private thread in the Dynamo forum.


First step: email the requester

Most academic requesters are very responsive. This template should help solve most problems.


TO: [the requester]

CC: ethics@wearedynamo.org (emails sent to this address will be posted to a private Dynamo thread, so Dynamo users and Dynamo creators can help monitor and step in, if you ask them to; you can also post emails manually in the thread if preferred)

SUBJECT LINE: Research ethics and your Mechanical Turk task

[Academic Requester],

I am a Mechanical Turk worker who noticed your HIT, [HIT title]. I am worried that this HIT is in violation of ethical guidelines for academic requesters on Amazon Mechanical Turk: http://guidelines.wearedynamo.org/ . These guidelines were collectively authored by Turkers and researchers, who have signed onto the document to help set it as a standard for how to practice research ethically on AMT.

I'm optimistic that you can fix your approach pretty easily. The particular problem is that [describe problem here]. The guidelines suggest that you need to [describe fix here]. The relevant part of the guidelines is: [link to specific subsection of guidelines document].

Often these kinds of violations are totally accidental and a result of an understandable misunderstanding. I hope we can fix this quickly so we can get back to working on your HITs! We also hope that you incorporate these guidelines into your research protocols and practices in the future.

Thank you,

[Your name, or pseudonym]

Second step: let the requester know about next steps

If the requester isn't responding or is uncooperative, this second template might prove useful.


TO: [the requester]

CC: ethics@wearedynamo.org

SUBJECT LINE: Contacting IRB about your Mechanical Turk task

[Academic Requester],

I am still concerned that your HIT, [HIT title], is in violation of the ethical standards that the community laid out for research on Amazon Mechanical Turk. It has been [??? days] since the problem was first flagged, and we don't seem to be making any progress. Please get your HIT in accordance with the guidelines: http://guidelines.wearedynamo.org/

On [a date roughly three days from now], if your HIT is still in violation, other Turkers and I will be contacting your Institutional Review Board (IRB) and issuing a formal complaint. Please, we don't want to do this.

Thanks,

[Your name, or pseudonym]


Third step: contact the IRB

If previous attempts have failed, then you may want to first check in with the Dynamo forum for feedback. Contacting an IRB unnecessarily could make it more difficult for all academics at that institution to do future research on Mechanical Turk. So we only want to do this when fully justified. The university's IRB can take action by asking the researcher to pause their research and address and resolve issues they have caused.


TO: [the requester's university IRB board] (To find this information, if you haven't saved it from a survey consent/intro page, you can search the internet for "[university name] institutional review board" and look for contact information.)

CC: ethics@wearedynamo.org

SUBJECT LINE: Research on Amazon Mechanical Turk is in violation of community ethical guidelines

Dear [university name] IRB,

I am a worker on the Amazon Mechanical Turk marketplace (www.mturk.com), and your researcher [researcher name] in the [department] Department is violating our community guidelines for ethical research practices. A number of us are concerned about the negative impact this research is having on Amazon Mechanical Turk. It poisons the water for current and future research on the site.

Researchers and Turkers have collectively authored a set of guidelines for ethical research on Mechanical Turk: http://guidelines.wearedynamo.org/ . [Researcher name] is in violation of these guidelines, and has not responded to previous requests to fix the problem.

[Describe the HIT]

[Explain the violation. Refer to specifics in the guidelines.]

Please help us get [researcher]'s task in line with the guidelines, or pull it down.

Thank you. This is important to address: many of us depend on Amazon Mechanical Turk for critical income.

Sincerely,

[Your name, or pseudonym]