Skip to main content

Sona System

Sona is a paid service used by the Psychology department to manage the human subject pool contributing to the department's research. Access to the subject pool is limited to Psychology faculty and Principal Investigators with an established partnership who have a teaching title and assignment in the quarter in which access is requested. All experiments must be registered with UC San Diego Human Subject Research Program in order to obtain an IRB number.

Refer to the Sona User Manual for all support and technical-related issues.

Refer to the Sona Highlights for researchers' most frequently asked questions.

Watch the Researcher Video Tutorial to learn how to use the system and take full advantage of its resources.

Students enrolled in lower-division psychology courses are asked to serve as experimental subjects for three hours per course. Upper-division psychology courses, as well as courses in Cognitive Science and Linguistics, may also offer Sona credits to their students. The requirement is intended to be a positive educational supplement to the coursework. Students always have the right to discontinue participation at any point in any study. Students who are unable to participate or who choose not to participate must contact their instructor for alternative assignments that are designed to serve similar educational goals.

General Information for Researchers and PIs

Sona at UC San Diego

Contact Sona administrator,, to request approval for an account.

Instructors must offer alternative assignments for students who are unable or who choose not to participate in experiments.

Activation/Deactivation Dates

Activation/Deactivation Dates are emailed to Researchers and PIs at the beginning of the academic year from the UCSD Psychology Sona email account.

Please be aware that deactivation dates are different for participants and researchers. Deactivation for participants will occur at 4:00 PM on Wednesday of Week 10 (Week 5 for summer) and for researchers will occur at 11:00 AM on Thursday of Week 10 (Week 5 for summer). This means that NO studies may use timeslots ending later than 3:00 PM of the last Wednesday in the quarter or summer session. This should give you time to immediately award the credit so the participant has time to reassign credit to courses prior to the student deactivation deadline.

Once an account is deactivated, users will have no access to Sona; though the user is prevented from logging in, data is retained. Please refer to the email message you received for the next activation date for researchers. Once re-activated, you will be able to add additional timeslots to your studies, however, participants will not be able to enroll in studies again until the activation date for participants at the start of the next academic quarter or summer session.

Submitting Studies

Once a study is ready to be submitted the researcher should click the "send request" button in the "Study Status." This will bring up a text box, in which the researcher should include specific details for the Sona administrator to better understand the nature of the study. Do not include this information in the Study Information section. The only wording that should be listed here are any eligibility requirements to participate and any information essential for the participant to know regarding participation (e.g., subjects must be male, must have normal or corrected to normal vision, must not have metal in body, etc.) and should not further identify the tasks the participants will perform.

Please note: When submitting your study for approval, assign a general title to reference. Do not assign what you believe to be the next available study number. This can be problematic for labs with multiple researchers.

Managing Unexcused No-Shows

A participant who signed up for a study but who did not show up and never contacted you to cancel is known as an “Unexcused No-Show.”

In order to code them:

  • Click on “My Studies” and select “Time slots” next to the appropriate study name. You will then be able to view the time slots for this study. When viewing a time slot that has already passed, you will see a list of the participants who signed up and have “Awaiting Action” next to their names (whether they showed up or not).
  • The participant in this example must be coded as an “Unexcused No-show” in Sona.
  • Click “Modify” to bring up information on the time slot, click the bubble underneath “Unexcused No-Show,” then “Update Sign-Ups.”

By doing this you are indicating that this participant failed to show up for their time slot without contacting you.

It is extremely important to code “Unexcused No-Shows” correctly. Once a participant has 2 Unexcused No-Shows on their Sona account it is deactivated for the quarter. Coding a participant as an “Unexcused No-Show” should only represent a situation where the participant did not show up to his/her time slots and did not inform the researcher they would not be attending. If they have contacted you in advance or have a documented justification of their missed attendance, they should receive an "Excused No-show". In addition, if you have a 2-part study, the participant can only receive a max of 1 "Unexcused No-Show."