OmniStar Ethics

How Technology Will Shape Research in 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt workplaces all over the world, Australians have turned to health and medical researchers to help them navigate the impacts of the virus.

Social distancing guidelines meant that researchers were prevented from meeting with and taking samples of patients in clinical trials. The March lock down had practical limitations, especially for health and medical researchers who could not conduct laboratory experiments from home and brought research to a halt.

Many researchers have teaching duties while others split their time between research and clinical work. The time needed to prepare for remote teaching as campuses closed and the additional demands of clinical work added additional pressure and drew researchers away from their research. Interruptions to supplies, equipment and materials as transport and supply chains were broken was also a factor. 

Research Australia’s researchers echoed these concerns in an online survey, with 90% of the health and medical researchers surveyed indicate that while Australia’s response has been timely and effective, the impact on their livelihoods and Australia’s future research capacity is significant.

To solve much of the current and post-COVID related issues, an agile research response will need to be implemented which will require timely collaboration across multiple institutions, organisations and industry sectors, flexible and time efficient allocation of research funding and research staff, and rapid decision making.

Technological changes and advances will define the effectiveness of research efforts in coming months, facilitating collaboration across different disciplines and institutions, increasing opportunities to share data and learnings, and supporting researchers with tools that facilitate the research process and enable greater research impact.

One such organisation making these technological enhancements is South Australia Health.

South Australia Health (SA Health) recently announced in December 2020 that they went live with  OmniStar Ethics as their new SA Health Research Ethics and Governance Management System (Research GEMS), enabling consistent management and reporting for research ethics and governance activities.

OmniStar Ethics from F1 Solutions replaces Online Forms and paper applications, allowing researchers to complete their HREA and SSA forms, monitor approval progress and submit post approval monitoring directly to their local Research Office.

The transition to Research GEMS will enable a more consistent and streamlined process for research applicants who wish to conduct research within SA Health.

The benefits include:

Streamlining of processes

  • Research Offices will transition to common application and post approval monitoring forms
  • Researchers will have greater clarity on application requirements, approval/authorisation process and post approval monitoring requirements
  • Reduction in duplication of effort for Researchers

Streamlined approval

  • Local site approval/endorsement, ethics approval and governance authorisation will be managed within Research GEMS
  • SA Health HREC ethics application decisions will be shared with SA Health sites
  • Amendments and annual reports approved by a SA Health HREC will be automatically shared with SA Health sites


Researchers will have greater visibility over their research projects, and will be able to:

  • Track the progress of their application
  • Access all of their applications and approved/authorised research studies in one location
  • View post approval monitoring requirements within Research GEMS and receive automated reminders

Greater oversight

  • Improved visibility and greater reporting on research being conducted, enabling strategies to be put into place to attract more research projects to South Australia
  • Improved oversight of projects being conducted at SA Health sites
  • Monitoring of application processing times and metrics, to enable further process improvement

What does that mean for researchers?

Research GEMS will provide researchers, committee members and approvers with up-to-date information regarding the current status of all applications in real-time. Streamlined online application and electronic approval processes means more time for researchers to do what they do best while providing substantial staff resource capacity savings and a better user experience for every stakeholder.

OmniStar Ethics – Supporting world class research.

Collaboration streamlined

Managing your ethics review panels can be a difficult and complex task as you may have multiple panels, each with any number of members, all with different roles. Add to that the need to manage the meetings, decisions and communication between panel members and researchers and the task can be complicated and time consuming.

To help administrators manage panels effectively, organisations should invest in tools and systems that simplify processes and improve transparency. Quality systems and processes will also provide additional assurances to researchers that their applications are being reviewed in a fair and impartial manner in accordance with industry standards.

Clear communication and consistent documentation of ethics reviews contributes immeasurably to the quality and integrity of the process.

In the latest release of OmniEthics (version 4.8) the panel functionality has been significantly improved to provide more flexibility and usability for organisations who use panels as part of their ethics review process.

Some of the new features include:

Centralised Management

Internal administrators can view all panels in a single list and see the type of panel, its members, associated applications, projects, and reviews easily. You are then easily able to send emails and arrange meetings.

Conflict of Interest Declarations

Panel members can logon and submit a conflict of interest declaration. If a panel member declares that there is a conflict, an automated notification is sent to the administrator who can logon, view the declaration, and act as necessary.

Panel Roles

Administrators are able to allocate different roles and responsibilities to individual panel members. These roles can also vary between panels so if someone is on more than one panel, they can have a different role on each panel.

Personalised communications

The Panel Type configuration allows for specific email templates to be allocated to certain panel types for tailored communications to panel members. This allows for consistency when communicating to the members and also acknowledges that each panel is different and has its own requirements.

Meeting management

The meeting wizard is used to create panel meetings where you can define attendees and attach applications, projects, or other documents that need to be reviewed. The administrator can also create the meeting agenda and circulate the meeting to the attendees. Panel members have access to all documentation including the agenda from their portal. Administrators can also conduct the meeting through OmniEthics and at the conclusion create meeting minutes and email researchers if further information is required.

Managing your committees and panels doesn’t need to be difficult or overwhelming. OmniEthics is a purpose-built Ethics management system designed to manage every aspect of the Ethics process. It has been designed with the user in mind and with these enhancements, it makes managing your panels simple, easy, and more efficient for immediately visible benefits.

In 2013-14 the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia decided to develop a new ethics application form for use in human research. This new application form would replace the existing National Ethics Application Form (NEAF).
It had a lot to deliver on.

The new human research application form had to be intelligent and versatile. It had to meet the needs of all researchers who wish to conduct research involving humans. It also had to meet the needs of Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs).
While NEAF collected a lot of data, much of this information was redundant. The questions weren’t personalised based on the user and their type of research. This resulted in applicants filling out a lot of unnecessary questions. And because NEAF did not categorise information, reviewers received a lot of meaningless data. Both these key problems needed to be addressed in the new Human Research Ethics Application.
In 2015 NHMRC went out to tender to develop the new Human Research Ethics Application. They asked for responses to develop a forms based solution housed in a content management system. We responded to their request with a compliant solution using a straight smart forms based solution. We also offered an alternative solution based on our OmniStar product that uses an embedded smart forms engine. Our OmniStar product is the option they chose.

Introducing OmniStar

OmniStar is disrupting the research management, grants management and ethics management industries. This is thanks to OmniStar’s unique architecture. We engineered it to meet a range of general business problems with easy configuration.
And it is this — OmniStar’s advanced configurability — that is setting it apart from competitors.
The flow of information in existing solutions does not support processes in their entirety. To process missing information humans must intervene and send emails or make phone calls.
But OmniStar is different.
OmniStar is engineered to provide two-way communication. After submitting an application an applicant can log in and track its progress. It also lets applicants know if information is missing. These automated tasks minimise human intervention and free up resources. It also ensures a much smoother, intuitive application process.
OmniStar makes this possible by allowing users to control what is important to them.

Human Research Ethics Application

NHMRC’s new Human Research Ethics Application benefits from OmniStar’s advanced functionality.
It ensures a timely process with minimal disruptions. Applicants are able to see where their application is incomplete in real time.
The Human Research Ethics Application will also only ask questions relevant to an applicant’s field. This results in many benefits. It increases the quality of data. It decreases administration time. It decreases time spent submitting an application. And it creates a better user experience.
The Human Research Ethics Application can also benefit from an applicant’s profile information being used to pre-fill fields. An applicant can also export any of their information at any time.
These advanced features create more immediate access to feedback, updates and status changes, which create new opportunities.
It is a huge leap forward in capability. And it is why OmniStar is disrupting the research, grants and ethics market segments.
But this is only one of the reasons OmniStar is disruptive. It is also architecturally engineered to empower users.


Architecturally Engineered to Empower Users

As touched on earlier, OmniStar’s engineering makes it disruptive. It configures for almost any workflow, reporting, templates, triggers or access authorisation. All this is achieved without any code changes.
Perhaps most impressively, you manage your own configuration. Business users can make most changes independent of IT involvement. As your business needs change you can change the configuration within OmniStar. This ensures it continues to meet your needs.
It makes OmniStar the perfect solution for today, tomorrow and also years from now. And this was something that impressed NHMRC.


Other Benefits of OmniStar for the Human Research Ethics Application

  • Reduces user administration overheads through self-registration.
  • Better uptake of system by providing solution for anonymous users.
  • Lower data entry and greater data accuracy. This is thanks to the in-built CRM that allows users to create and maintain profiles. These profiles auto-populate fields.
  • Unprecedented reporting and data visualisation functionality using the in-built data warehouse.
  • Improves the quality of applications by facilitating collaboration. It allows several people to work on the one application.
  • Allows you to export forms in a variety of digital formats. These can be used for reports such as Board Papers, Annual Reports, websites and external stakeholder reporting.
  • Decreases administration time. Applications are submitted to a review committee in a digital format. This eliminates the need to re-key application information.
  • Provides a feedback loop to make the forms more efficient by reporting on fields’ usage.
  • Better application experience. SmartForms make the application process intuitive, low effort and low error rate.
  • Consistent with Commonwealth Government’s digital direction as it is as Software-as-a-Service.

OmniStar Makes Integration Easy

The Human Research Ethics Application provides HRECs with a few options for integration. HRECs are offered a choice of postal, email or electronic submissions.
It is the electronic submissions that provide the biggest benefit. It can take the entire form and import relevant data in to their systems. This maintains the existing processes and functionality in their IT systems. It is instantaneous and doesn’t need users to do extra work.
The integration approach is based on industry standards. It is compatible with a large number of systems and it is opt-in. It can be used for any type of application submission integration. If additional data is required, OmniStar’s web-services are available. It is all secured via certificate-based authentication, which NHMRC controls (the owning entity).
This results in efficiency, timeliness and accuracy of information.
HRECs are also able to see the changes made to applications over various iterations. Track changes and version metadata illustrate these changes. All the functionality available to end users is also available to HRECs, which allows them to effectively assess applications.
To find out more about our OmniStar products, view our OmniResearch, OmniGrants or OmniEthics pages.

Zarthost Boman
Written by: Zarthost Boman March 2016

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