Research ethics approval at UCT

13 April 2023 | Professor Sue Harrison

Dear colleagues and students

The University of Cape Town (UCT) research endeavor is a dynamic and productive one. We can be proud that our research activity continuously pivots to address the challenges and opportunities of our time. To support this, UCT’s various research support structures strive to enable our research and keep up to date with research requirements, collaborating across offices on a regular basis to also pivot the ways in which we support the UCT research community to fit your needs.

The roll-out of the ethics module on the electronic Research Administration (eRA) system, announced in July 2021, is one such instance.

We first completed an ethics governance review process. Then, working in close collaboration with the ethics committees at faculty and senate level, the ethics implementation team has designed and refined this new ethics application process on eRA.

The roll-out process of the ethics module commenced in 2021 and will be brought to a close during 2023. The process has already been adopted by the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment; the Centre for Higher Education and Development; and the Faculty of Commerce.

The Faculties of Law, Health Sciences and Science are currently being engaged to facilitate the roll-out, and introduction to the Faculty of Humanities will follow together with Animal Ethics, Biosafety and some research compliance processes supported by the Office of Research Integrity.

It is worth stressing that all research conducted under the auspice of UCT needs to seek ethics approval via the eRA system as soon as it has been rolled out to your faculty or department. Once the eRA ethics module has been rolled out to your faculty or department, it will no longer be possible to seek ethics approval through Submittable or similar processes, as these will no longer be supported or endorsed by UCT.

Moving away from an old school, paper-based and fractured ethics-approval system and to a UCT-sponsored online environment enables the UCT research enterprise to maintain a risk-based approach to research integrity and build behaviours which strengthen responsible research.

By identifying and managing risks, we can ensure that our research does not unintentionally harm individuals or communities and that it meets regulatory and legal requirements. This includes compliance with local and international ethical review boards and large funders.

The eRA ethics module allows for submissions and review to progress more efficiently and mitigates the risk of inconsistency. eRA’s standardised workflows ensure that applications are complete and accurate and that the review process is consistent and transparent.

My sincere thank you to every colleague, postdoctoral fellow and post-graduate student in those faculties that are already using the eRA ethics module for adapting to and embracing change. As I hope you know, you can access eRA support, including support in navigating the ethics module, by visiting the Research Support Hub or logging a call on ServiceNow. You can also access monthly training sessions on SuccessFactors.


Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation

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