About Monash University

Monash is one of the prestigious Group of Eight research-intensive universities in Australia, processing over 2,200 ethics applications each year through 10 ethics committees.

  • Ranked 44th globally in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023
  • Over 150 active fields of research, 10 faculties, and over 4,700 Higher Degrees by Research students
  • More than 86,000 students and 17,000 staff at 9 campuses including 5 international locations

Powerful configuration tools and opportunities for collaboration

Monash selected Ethics RM, a digital solution, in 2015 to replace a manual,paper-based process. The old system resulted in long delays in processing ethics applications and didn’t engage researchers or staff.

The ability for Monash to configure Ethics RM has been crucial for not only its initial success but also today to ensure the system meets the ongoing needs of all stakeholders. The powerful configuration tools mean the team ‘own’ the system and can adapt the forms and workflows as new internal requirements and legislation require.

Dr Simon Barrett, Director for the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity points to the intuitiveness of the system,saying “It’s so simple to use that we can make these changes ourselves without the need for our IT department. We, the research management experts, own the system.”

Collaboration at the review stage is another differentiating factor for Ethics RM. Reviewers can post their comments directly on a digital application and view the comments of others. This avoids repetition, has created great efficiencies and enhanced stakeholder engagement in the ethics process.

Transformation of the review process and saving valuable time

Over 30% reduction in time taken to review ethics applications

It previously took up to 90 days for an ethics submission to be approved. Now with Ethics RM, it takes 50-60days. Such is the efficiency of the digital solution, Monash has reduced the committee process by one full cycle.

With the time and resources saved, Monash has replaced the administrative tasks of committee secretaries. The highly skilled team now:

  • Provide feedback and advice to researchers on their applications
  • Supportwider initiatives such as improving and monitoring compliance at the university

Monash recruited Dr Jo Denyer as Senior Systems Analyst to further progress the use of Ethics RM. Using the rich data held in the system she acts on insights to support business operations and further improve the ethics process.

Adapting the system independently to meet changing needs quickly

“The configurability is a hugely important function of the system. We change the forms when we need to and how we want to”, says Jo.

This flexibility enables Monash to update forms or create new ones in response to government requirements or internal business needs.

For example:

  • Reconfiguring the system so it channels relevant applications to a new committee
  • Adding new data fields into the system to capture information

Jo explains how she creates new fields to record what the committee secretaries write down during meetings, “I want whatever they were writing to be captured in the system for audit purposes”.

This level of flexibility and control was recently highlighted by the internal auditors who “were very impressed with how Ethics RM enables Monash to respond to and comply with changes in legislation quickly” says Simon.

Attracting and retaining experts for committee meetings

The legal requirement to have experts and lay people sitting on ethics committees is challenging in both recruiting and retaining them.

Through Ethics RM, Monash can “attract great talent to participate in the committee process without the need for them to physically travel and be on campus, this is a massive advantage” explains Simon.

Monash has found Ethics RM to be very intuitive to the point where users don’t need formal training on the system. This supports the wider recruitment and retention drive.

Sharing best practice and ideas across Australia and New Zealand

With a well-established user community group, “…a big thing for us is the Ethics RM user group in Australia and New Zealand. We bounce ideas off other institutions who are using the system to address the same government criteria, regulations, and guidelines… there is lots of sharing and that experience amongst the group is really valuable” says Jo.

What is next for Monash and Ethics RM?

Monash wants to ensure the human ethics policies continue to be world class and reflect it’s standing as one of the top universities in Australia, and the world. The plan is to review and update the digital forms by:

  • Leveraging the latest features in Ethics RM
  • Embedding over 7 years’ worth of experience using and configuring the system
  • Consulting the Ethics RM user group to capture best practice