Please note there are additional protocols for running in-person experiments in the BESC laboratory during the COVID-19 ‘Return to Work’ period. Read and familiarise yourself with the procedures here

The University of Queensland Behavioural and Economic Science Cluster (BESC) Laboratory is located on level 2 of the Colin Clark Building (#39) at room 209.

UQ BESC lab is managed by the School of Economics (SoE) and is available for booking by all staff members and postgraduate students affiliated with UQ's Behavioural and Economic Science Cluster with the scope of conducting experimental research in social sciences such as economics, psychology, management and political science.

The lab contains 48 computers plus an instructor machine. The desks contain dividers, which can be used to separate participants during the running of an experiment.

If you are interested in participating in an experiment, you can sign up here. For more information, please contact the Laboratory Manager,  Zachary Breig at

Guidelines for using the laboratory

If you are a researcher interested in conducting an experiment at UQ BESC lab you must adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The lab is available for booking by staff members and postgraduate students affiliated with UQ BESC for conducting experimental research. All researchers using the laboratory agree to abide by the principles widely accepted by experimental economists (see Friedman and Sunder, 1994). In particular, experiments should not contain deception (explicitly lying to the participants).
  • Subject to availability, researchers not affiliated with BESC may use the lab for a bench fee of $1000/day + GST if payable. This fee includes access to the lab as well as to the subject pool but does not include any assistance with programming or running of the experiment.
  • Researchers affiliated with BESC are encouraged to put a $1000/day bench fee in externally funded research grant applications or consultancy bids whenever possible.
  • All researchers using the laboratory agree to protect the reputation of the laboratory to its subjects. This implies that experiments should start on time and finish on time. Advertised SONA timeslots for which participants have been invited should be scheduled carefully to match the approved booking times. Approved timeslots should not be cancelled, nor should the advertised time/venue be changed. To prevent this from happening researchers should take all possible care (e.g. run test sessions and pilots) prior to recruiting subjects. Deviations from these principles jeopardise the credibility of all experimental data and as such will not be permitted.
  • The required ethics clearance must be obtained prior to running any experiments. Evidence of such clearance must be provided to the laboratory administration officer at the time of booking.
  • At least one week’s notice is required to run a session, in order to facilitate scheduling and to recruit subjects.
  • Participants should be paid $25 per hour or more on average and must be guaranteed a minimum of $10 per hour. Registered participants who show up but are turned away by the researcher (i.e. as ‘reserve’ participants for a fixed-number session) must be paid $10.
  • UPDATE 07/2020: Until further notice, researchers must also adhere to the additional COVID-19 protocol for all in-person experiments.

Running an experiment

The BESC lab uses the online software SONA to manage experiments. All researchers affiliated with UQ who wish to run experiments must create a SONA researcher account. Please send a request to the lab administration officer and include your UQ id. After approval, you can create a SONA account here.
Note: If you are not eligible for a SONA account, please contact the lab administration officer for help with setting up your experiment.

Please familiarise yourself with the SONA tutorial documentation, which the lab administration officer will send to you once your account is approved, before creating your first experiment/study in SONA. You can also watch the SONA video tutorial for a quick guide to setting up and managing studies, or contact the lab administration officer.

Within the SONA web interface, researchers can create studies, which is the interface name for an experiment. To run a session for your study, researchers should book the laboratory by sending a request to the lab administration officer via email at least one week in advance, providing the name of the SONA study, the timeslots for which you want to run sessions, and any prerequisites or disqualifiers to be applied to recruitment. Bookings must also be made for testing of software or running pilot sessions.

Once approval for sessions is granted, the lab administration officer will place a booking in the experimental calendar and add the approved sessions as timeslots into your SONA study. Eligible students can begin signing up for your timeslots, and you can see the list of registered participants in your SONA account. You can also contact your sign-ups in an individual timeslot or across timeslots, or ask the lab administration officer to do it for you, and you can report your session no-shows. Note that your sign-ups receive an automated email reminder of their study appointment the day before it is scheduled. Please do NOT send bulk-emails to the SONA database; if you are having trouble meeting your recruitment requirements, please contact the lab administration officer.

After a session

After each session, researchers should:

  1. Report in their SONA study those participants who actually participated in the experiment and those who did not show up. Participants who cancel by sending an email prior to the session should be classified as “excused”, while those who simply don’t show up should be classified as “unexcused”. Participants who were paid the show-up fee but did not participate should have their enrollment cancelled so that they can sign up for future timeslots of the same experiment.
  2. Email the lab administration officer the total number of participants,  average payment, number of no shows, and number of show-up fees given.
  3. Finalise payments.

Do not ever delete studies from the Sona System. If you are done collecting data from a study, you should deactivate it, but do not delete it.

Planning Bookings

Researchers can submit booking requests up to eight weeks in advance subject to the following conditions:

  • During any weekday, a user can make a request for advanced booking for the next eight weeks, starting from the Monday of the following week, and such requests will be processed on a first-come-first-serve basis. However, for such advanced bookings, a user cannot reserve the lab for more than 3 days for a particular week.
  • Once a week has started, that is, starting from 9am, Monday, users can send in requests for booking the lab for any days in the following week for running experiments or in the current week for testing purposes. The restrictions stipulated in the point above do not apply for such short notice bookings.
  • Users may book the lab for non-research purposes (e.g. teaching). However, bookings for non-research purposes of the lab will only be accepted occasionally and such bookings cannot be made more than a week in advance.
  • If the laboratory is not reserved, then normally it will be available for software testing on a first-come-first-served basis. Researchers affiliated with BESC are normally given swipe card access to the lab. If the user is a student of an affiliated researcher a request for swipe card access should be requested from the lab administration officer. Note: Researchers must also create timeslots for testing and pilot sessions in SONA. This is important in order to keep a record of the lab’s usage for experiment activities.

Prerequisite and disqualifier conditions for participant recruitment are based on the pre-screening questionnaire that SONA participants must complete. This survey is updated annually. Should you wish to add pre-screening questions for future studies, please contact the lab manager.


The lab is equipped with the software z-tree. However, z-tree requires that every individual researcher obtains his or her own personal license (which is free, see A pre-condition for conducting experiments using the z-tree software installed in the lab is that the user has obtained this license from z-tree, and it is the responsibility of the user to satisfy this licensing requirement prior to using the facilities at UQ BESC lab.

If researchers plan to use software that does not exist in the lab, they must notify the laboratory manager and ensure that the software is installed in the computers in the lab before inviting subjects to participate in an experiment. It is the researcher’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary software is installed.

For assistance with IT problems when using the lab, researchers should contact directly the UQ ITS Help Line on +61 7 336 56000 or on A brief email should also be sent to the laboratory manager after completing the session describing the IT issue to enable them to monitor any recurrent issues.

Complaints and violations

Complaints regarding the use and operation of the laboratory should be sent via email to the laboratory manager. Complaints regarding the laboratory manager should be sent via email to UQ School of Economics Director of Research.

In case of a violation of the guidelines, the laboratory manager is expected to raise the issue with the responsible academic. If the problem is not resolved, the laboratory manager is obliged to inform the SoE Director of Research.

The laboratory manager has the right to restrict access to the laboratory to any party that systematically violate the guidelines thus undermining the reputation of the laboratory. Appeal against an access restriction decision can be made to the SoE Director of Research.

These guidelines should be applied in addition to and subject to compliance with all UQ Policies and Procedures.