The University of Cape Town has a range of long-term projects underway to build robust and efficient research support, suitable to serve UCT’s rapid growth in research and ensure research excellence, some of which require development over several years. These drive towards increasingly online and integrated support systems.
One such project has been guided by UCT’s Ethics Governance Review Project teams to bring the research ethics processes at UCT online, thereby facilitating efficient operation, good record keeping and “work from anywhere”. Working in close collaboration with the Senate Ethics in Research Committee (EiRC) and Faculty Research Ethics Committee (REC) Chairs, the electronic research administration (eRA) ethics team is in the process of developing and testing an online ethics application and review module that will integrate into the eRA system and apply a risk-based approach to ethics review that has been benchmarked against and aligned with national and international best practices. The eRA focus group, including academic researchers, research support staff and developers, is providing great insight and steering us in the final stages of the refinement process, paying particular attention to meet the ethics needs across the disciplinary spectrum, from the social sciences to biomedical research.
This new online application and processing platform will provide greater transparency throughout the ethics process, with researchers being able to track the status of their applications and report back to their research teams and funders on its progress. It is also expected that the online system will enhance efficiency of the process.
By having an online home for the entire pre- and post-awards research support process on eRA, we are able to track aspects of these processes, reduce risk, conduct sustainable research, and track trends in our research cohort and our research expertise to better respond to the global call for research for impact. At the same time this should allow us to build synergies into UCT’s research and efficiencies into our support to facilitate research excellence. We continue to develop and refine the eRA system to better meet this expectation, and this project is one such development.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the faculty research ethics committees for their tireless work to keep research processes at UCT running smoothly to meet both the UCT values around research ethics and standards of international compliance. I trust that the new addition of the ‘ethics in research’ workflow to the eRA platform will mitigate many inefficiencies and obstacles of the prior paper-based and stand-alone systems to enable effortless research support at faculty level and centrally.
I look forward to meeting with our faculty deans, deputy deans responsible for research and Research Ethics Committee chairs to discuss this new process with you in much more detail. Research Systems Support will hold meetings across all faculties to introduce the eRA ethics process and demonstrate it fully.
UCT’s Research Systems Support and ICTS will also provide in-depth training sessions for all staff and will be available in a supporting role once the new process is online. ICTS is working closely with Research Systems Support on the project rollout and it is expected that this new ethics process will be fully implemented across the university by the end of 2022.
My thanks go to all members of the UCT community interacting with our “ethics in research” systems, both as users to ensure high ethical standards and to our research support and development teams who work to provide robust systems for increasingly efficient research support.
Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation
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