INORMS 2023: lessons learned from moving ethics approval online

Xavier Roeseler
June 18, 2024

We really enjoyed hosting a Breakfast session at the INORMS conference in Durban, South Africa.

We were joined by experienced research ethics and research management professionals, Maryke Hunter-Hüsselmann and Clarissa Robertson from Stellenbosch University and Tanya Coetzee from University of South Africa (UNISA).

They came to share their experience of how their institutions moved from a paper-based system to a fully cloud-based ethics approval system – aka Infonetica’s Ethics RM. Thanks again to our panelists for giving us their time and wisdom.

Below we highlight the session’s key learnings and talking points that made an impact.

Learn from others – you’re all on the same journey

This was an overarching takeaway from the session. There are plenty of other institutions that have moved online and have learned lessons. Take these lessons on board to support your move.

Infonetica is always happy to discuss best practice in this area. Get in touch to find out how we can support your move.

Engage with your stakeholders through effective change management

This will ensure your internal stakeholders are on the same page, that they feel included and the project moves forward. Consider using a change management specialist.

An online system helps to demonstrate the value of research ethics professionals

It’s not just about improving efficiency, effectiveness, and freeing teams up from paperwork.

Having an online system that works also demonstrates the value research ethics professionals add to researchers, departments, and organisations. This is because they have time to focus on higher value work.

It also raises the profile, importance, and impact of research ethics more broadly.

Have frequent meetings with the project manager when setting up

This will help you to determine challenges and spot issues early.

At Infonetica we always recommend having an internal project manager and we ask to meet with them regularly to ensure a smooth implementation.

Make sure all users are ready to use the system by the time it’s live

Be realistic here with your timescales and make sure users get training so they’re ready to go. Infonetica has a wealth of experience in training users and administrators, so we’ll help to get you ready and equipped to support your end users.

Provide ongoing training for new users as well as refresher training

As part of this, check in often with your committees to make sure they remain confident with the system.

Cumbersome legacy systems hold research ethics back – get online

Our panelists and attendees during the workshop shared some of the common challenges of using paper-based or legacy systems. The main ones revolved around administrative burden imposed on research ethics professionals. For example:

  • Excessive printing and subsequent back-office scanning
  • Constantly chasing reviewers and needing to send reminders to different people

Benefits of using Ethics RM

Some of the key advantages of Ethics RM that Clarissa and Tanya shared were:

  • Collaborative editing. Users (applicants or reviewers) can collaborate on an application all within the system
  • Version control and revision tracking. Ethics RM gives a unique identifier to applications and revisions and users can designate which documents are the most up to date
  • Configurable forms, workflow and document templates. Ethics RM is fully configurable. No matter what questions you ask in your forms, what workflow you follow, or the document templates you wish to have, you can configure it all. And reconfigure it as your needs change
  • Automatic alerts to users. Whether it’s about progress reports or an ethics approval is about to expire, you can automate alerts within the system
  • Reduced back-office intervention. Once you’ve configured Ethics RM with automation, many steps can happen without human intervention.
  • Comprehensive history and audit trail to help reporting. There’s a complete history of the project and associated actions done within the system.

Thanks again to our panelists and everyone that came

INORMS was a real success and we loved meeting and chatting with so many inspiring people.

We’d love to chat about your research ethics needs and see how we can help.

Get in touch.