ERGO – Ethical Research Governance Online

October 7, 2009 at 10:07 am | Posted in systems | Leave a comment

I’ve just had a 30 minute meeting in Adobe Connect with Alex Furr (Psychology) at his home in Bristol – and the audio, video and screen-sharing worked really well with his consumer broadband connection. We were discussing ERGO, a system he has built which enables Schools to manage the submission and approval of ethical consent documentation for research projects.  In the past, this involved a great deal of photocopying and administrative effort, especially if changes needed to be made and resubmitted.

ERGO aims to streamline this process (best viewed in IE) by storing the documents online and using emails to alert members of School ethics committees when submissions (or resubmissions) need reviewing. Each School has an administrator who assigns each new submission to one or more committee members for approval – and once they have reviewed the documents on-screen they can approve or reject the proposal and add comments. The researcher and their research coordinator(s) get an email letting them know the decision. They can easily resubmit the proposal with updated or missing documents. Once a proposal is approved, ERGO also alerts the Research Governance Office, who can add any comments they wish. A history of the whole process is kept, and this audit trail is easy to access.

The system can be customised by each School, who can add their own exemplar documents and templates for download, as well as a submission checklist of statements which the researcher has to tick in order to proceed (e.g. “I have read the ethics guidelines as laid out on the RGO website”).

It all works really well and is easy to use, with an attractive Web 2.0 interface. This is a great example of a system that can really simplify and improve one of the fundamental processes of a research-active university. 10/10 Alex!


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