An operational application of REDCap at La Trobe University

By Dr Sam Ryan


REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a burgeoning research technology at many higher education organisations, including Intersect Member Universities such as La Trobe University (LTU). Intersect Digital Research Analyst Dr Sam Ryan provides extensive consultancy and training to researchers from a broad range of disciplines at LTU on how to use REDCap efficiently and effectively in the conduct of research. REDCap is typically used for researcher- or participant-facing projects to collect and store research data. However, it has operational applications within universities to streamline administrative processes and aid the execution of research. 

There exists a La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences (LIMS) which is a leading research institution in Australia. Researchers within the Institute conduct efficacious investigations into cancer, infection and immunity, molecular design, and nanoscience. This research often involves “bench research” where experiments are conducted in laboratories to form the basis of research studies. By extension, this type of research has heavy physical resource requirements, of which there are a finite amount. As such, LIMS researchers must submit resource requirements to LIMS administrators for suitable allocation of resources. 

The Problem

Prior to 2022, the submission process was largely manual, where researchers would complete a static form and email the document to the administrator to submit their resource requirements. However, there were several issues with this process:

  • One static form (Microsoft Word) for all services that needed to be updated frequently
  • Information had to be manually copied into an external database
  • Unique IDs are manually created and added to the submission form
  • No centralised email contact for submission receipt

Collectively, these issues resulted in extra work for the LIMS administrator, a poor user experience for submitting researchers, and a greater chance of human error in data collection.

The Solution

The LIMS administrator attended Data Capture and Surveys with REDCap (REDCAP101) and Longitudinal Trials with REDCap (REDCAP201) to upskill themselves in the technology with a view to using REDCap to solve some of the aforementioned submission process issues. These are two staple training courses delivered at LTU regularly throughout the year. The administrator also attended a REDCap Community Hour (a fortnightly online question and answer session), and consultancy meetings with DRA Dr Sam Ryan over a period of 2-3 months while they developed their project.

A REDCap project was developed that addressed all workflow issues within the university’s resource allocation process. A streamlined and automated resource request submission process was implemented. This included: a publicly displayed link to a dynamic REDCap survey which triaged researchers to a suitable form depending on their requirements, automatic alerts sent to the LIMS administrators with a PDF of each submission, and secure storage and management of submission data. Importantly, regular changes to the submission form can now be made invisibly to researchers, avoiding the need to promote the use of a new form or process. There is no manual processing of new submissions and researchers see a dynamic and individualised form when submitting their resource requirements.


REDCap is an effective solution to operational workflow issues within universities. The tool can increase automation, enhance data management and security, and improve the efficiency of administrative processes. This application of a research technology was facilitated by Intersect digital research training courses and the work of Intersect DRA Dr Sam Ryan in providing consultancy and ongoing support in the implementation of the project.

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