The Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), in collaboration with Mbale Regional Referral Hospital and Busitema University, has developed a national online system where scientific researchers can upload their work for review.
The system is dubbed the National Research Management System (NRIMS), it will be used by scientists engaged in clinical trials, medical research and student researchers undertaking scientific research work.
Dr Martin Ongol, acting executive secretary of UNCST, said the COVID-19 pandemic presented glaring shortcomings in the efficiency and effectiveness of reviews of scientific research.
Ongol said this presented the UNCST with an opportunity to speed up its research review process flows as part of the online system development project.
This was during the Capacity Building of Research Ethics Committees in Uganda (SCRECU) dissemination meeting.
The two-year project was funded by the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnerships (EDCTP) between October 2019 and December 2021. The ceremony took place at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Kampala.
The project aimed to build a sustainable National Research Management System (NRIMS) framework for all Research Ethics Boards (REBs) in Uganda with capabilities to facilitate multi-REB ethical review of research, national research registration and subsequent monitoring of approved studies in Uganda. .
During the event, Helen Opolot, the Deputy Executive Secretary of UNCST read a speech for Ongol.
Ongol said the project has achieved tremendous results, especially in rolling out the electronic research regulatory system, the National Research Information Management System (NRIMS) in Uganda.
The professor led the Maxwell Otim-Onapa project which provided both technical and infrastructural capacity for 25 RECs.
Ongol said the NRIMS has been piloted in the East Africa region through the Consortium for Clinical Research Regulation and Ethics Capacity in the East Africa Region project. Is (CCREEA), under another EDCTP grant, UNCST, a Center of Excellence in Electronic Research Regulatory Tools. .
“We are pleased to note the successful implementation of the two research studies integrated into the project; the feasibility and effectiveness of NRIMS for reviewing, recording and monitoring research in Uganda and assessing the economic costs of implementing the system,” Ongol said.
He thanked the project partners for implementing the project and wished for continued collaboration in achieving Vision 2040 through creating an enabling environment for research and innovation.
NRIMS has reduced paperwork volumes and printing costs.
It improved the response time to one to four days compared to the four weeks it took before. It made it easy for regulators to receive clear studies.
Onapa noted that the system underpins the concept of “digital natives,” meaning a generation of people who fully utilize and benefit from digital technology.
The other concept is that of “digital migrants” who are in and out of digital technology, preferring to print documents for confidence.
The new system sends reminders to different users to respond to pending requests.
The project established a sustainable National Research Management System (NRIMS) framework for all Research Ethics Boards (RECs) in Uganda.
It has the capacity to facilitate multi-REC research ethics review, national research registration and subsequent monitoring of approved studies in Uganda.
Specifically, the project aims to develop the capacity of RECs to adopt and implement the NRIMS as an electronic research review and registration tool in Uganda, by conducting training for RECs to use and maintain the NRIMS for REC review processes.
He set out to test the feasibility and effectiveness of NRIMS for research review, registration and monitoring in Uganda and to assess the economic costs of implementing the system.
Onapa said there was an identified gap in research ethics in Uganda that the project aimed to fill.
“There is a research safety culture issue, coordinating the submission of research protocols to multiple ethics regulatory authorities, including REBs. This process is slow and time consuming,” Onapa said.
Onapa noted that Uganda was among the best countries in Africa in attracting a lot of research resources.
“We want to improve the quality of research reviews using online resources, improve reviews from multiple REBs,” Onapa said.
Photo caption: Onapa (second from right) and Opolot (seated front row, first from left) at the Uganda Research Ethics Board Capacity Building Dissemination Meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Kampala. Photo by John Odyek