The UK’s National Research Ethics Service (NRES) has reported an “exceptionally positive” response from researchers to the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) during its consultation in-use phase.

The first phase of implementation for IRAS, which combines the application forms for seven ethical and other review bodies that assess proposed health and social-care research in the UK, was completed at the end of June. Researchers were encouraged to supply feedback on their experiences with the system.

The amount of feedback received was “considerable and, more importantly, it was exceptionally positive”, commented Dr Janet Wisely, director of the NRES, the division of the UK’s National Patient Safety Agency that has led the IRAS project. “IRAS is proving to be the time-saving application system researchers were looking for,” she added.

Uptake of IRAS was also encouraging, with 31% of applications for research ethics approval already submitted via the new system. Other regulatory organisations involved in IRAS were also reporting good usage, Wisely noted.

Further improvements and functionality, including the remaining data fields for full compatibility with EudraCT, the European Union’s clinical trials database, will be added to IRAS on an ongoing basis. Use of IRAS is not yet mandatory, although it will completely replace existing systems in due course.

As data cannot be transferred from the old online application form for research ethics approvals to IRAS, and the new system will be the entry point to systems including the National Institute for Health Research Coordinated System for Gaining NHS Permission in England, researchers and research managers “are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with the system and start using IRAS now”, said the NRES and the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, under whose umbrella the IRAS project has been taken forward.