Voluntary participation refers to a human research subject's exercise of free will in deciding whether to participate in a research activity. International law, national law, and the codes of conduct of scientific communities protect this right. In deciding whether participation is voluntary, special attention must be paid to the likely participants' socioeconomic circumstances in determining which steps must be put in place to protect the exercise of free will. The level of effort involved in clarifying voluntariness is not fixed and depends on several circumstances, such as the respondents' abilities to resist pressures like financial inducements, authority figures, or other forms of persuasion. Special care, therefore, must be taken to eliminate undue pressure (real and perceived) when research subjects have a diminished capacity to refuse.

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