Better Research Ethics Application Process

IT Innovation ChallengesStaff project based at the Department of Computer Science.

2019 staff round

For more information, please contact .


This project will improve the Research Ethics application process at Oxford, by putting everything online using Oracle Policy Automation. At present, applicants must digest about 90 pages of background reading in order to decide what kind of application to submit and how to address relevant ethics issues. Up to half of all ethics applications are incomplete when they are first submitted, because of the complexity of the process. Our project will:

  • Make applications easier: guide the applicant through the process, minimise unnecessary questions, focus on relevant information, auto-generate auxiliary documents to minimise mistakes, and point applicants to relevant guidance documents. Most students will only ever submit one ethics application at Oxford, so they do not have a chance to learn from experience: we want to help them get it right on the first try.
  • Make it easier for reviewers to comment on documents and for applicants to reply, with everything in one place (currently this is done in a mix of formats – Word documents, emails, etc.).
  • Improve our information security and compliance processes, by keeping all of the application information in one contained system rather than relying on a combination of Microsoft Word (application form), email (for submission), SharePoint (document storage) and individual reviewers’ workflows for reading and commenting on applications.

In addition, Oracle Policy Automation is a promising tool for other administrative processes in Oxford: this project will pilot OPA as a proof of concept.

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