Monash University 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.
Monash selected Ethics RM 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 Monash University ethics system is ‘owned’ by the team, who can adapt the forms and workflows as new internal requirements and legislation require.
“It’s so simple to use that we can make 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.
It previously took up to 90 days for an ethics submission to be approved. Now with the Monash University ethics system powered by Ethics RM, it takes 50-60 days. 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:
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.
“The configurability is a hugely important function of the system. We change the forms when we need to and how we want to.”
This flexibility enables Monash to update forms or create new ones in response to government requirements or internal business needs. For example:
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.
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.
“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.”