Julian A Jacobs, PhD candidate, School of Journalism and Media Studies
Walking into the Research Office in the Administration Building where newly appointed ethics coordinator Mr Siyanda Manqele sits, I was directed to his office. I found research ethics books lying neatly on his desk.
Mr Manqele arrived at Rhodes University towards the end of the 2018 academic year when he was appointed as the first-ever ethics coordinator at Rhodes since its inception in 1904. “I am happy to join Rhodes, which is known as a research intensive institution and look forward to being involved with something new to the university community,” he said.
Manqele explained how the need for an online ethics review system came about. “Together with the various chairpersons of the human and animal ethics sub-committees and my colleague, Ms Noelle Obers, we set about making changes as per the audit findings of the National Health Research Ethics Council,” said Manqele. One of the key findings of the audit report recommended that an online system needed to be developed. This new system is called the Ethical Review Application System (ERAS).
This new system will not only enhance the old paper-based system but it will make it more flexible and interactive. “The old way of doing things meant that applications could often not be tracked. Applications have gone missing often resulting in delays and frustrations from the end-users. With ERAS, the applicant will be involved in every step of the application process,” he said.
ERAS will enhance the ethics application process for all researchers and post graduate students at Rhodes University. “Every aspect of the application process has been looked at and benchmarked against other universities using a similar system and we know that once everyone is on board, the experience will be beneficial to all,” said Manqele.
He further explained that it is hoped that all applications would take up to three weeks to be approved, barring no major problems with the applications. He encourages all staff to test it first and if need be, staff could contact him to come to their departments for training on the system. He reassures all applicants that the process has been made simpler, easier to understand and “we have encouraged ethics reviewers to be constructive in their comments to all applicants”.
“The key to having your application approved the first time, is to meet all criteria as set out and to ensure those partnering with you or those who supervise you, complete their validations as well,” he said.
Manqele hails from a small town called Hlabisa in the northern part of KwaZulu Natal. He previously was an ethic integrity officer and a publications officer at two other universities where he gained invaluable experience.