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Streamlining Processes with Technology: The Research Ethics Committee

, , University of Johannesburg, South Africa

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Victoria, Canada ISBN 978-1-939797-03-2 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


This paper reports on the conceptualization and design of a set of documents and procedures to streamline the task of ethical review by an Academic Ethics Review Board within a Faculty of Education at a South African University. The motivating factors for redesigning these documents and procedures include emerging societal problems that impact on the current educational space and the demands of academia for ethical research practice. To this end, a set of electronic documents were initially set up to address the four tenets of ethical research, namely respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. With reviewers uncertain about certain ethical issues and students and other researchers with conflicting opinions about these matters, it was decided to streamline the review process by including reasons why ethics applications are normally rejected by neighbouring university RECs and by then adding items related to research misconduct, vulnerability of participants, and researcher responsibilities. After a process of critical review and feedback by REC members, further items were added to the review documents that pertain to ethical research conduct. These include legal issues, procedural issues, issues of language and writing style, as well as the scientific basis for doing the research in the first place - as poor science is in essence, inherently unethical. Five academic departments within the Faculty of Education then had the opportunity to add to the documentation at a series of ethics workshops. The review document, along with the procedural documents and the revised charter of the REC, has led to a more efficient review process largely due to more coherent and focused ethics applications as well as better informed and motivated reviewers. This paper and associated presentation will offer interested parties and REC members worldwide an insight into ethical issues and processes that may impact on all educational research done with human participants.


Lautenbach, G. & Batchelor, J. (2013). Streamlining Processes with Technology: The Research Ethics Committee. In J. Herrington, A. Couros & V. Irvine (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia 2013--World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 1-7). Victoria, Canada: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved April 1, 2020 from .