50 Years of PRIM&R: The Founding  

This year, PRIM&R proudly marks the milestone of our 50th anniversary. In honor of this occasion, we are thrilled to celebrate and reflect upon five decades marked by an unwavering commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards in research.  

To begin our celebrations, we’re excited to revisit a People & Perspectives interview featuring PRIM&R’s Founder and first Executive Director, Joan Rachlin, JD, MPH. In the interview, learn how her early passion for social justice and civil rights, as well as her life experiences, led to establishing PRIM&R as an organization in 1974. 

“Joan’s contributions to PRIM&R and the field of research ethics was extraordinary in her almost 40 years leading PRIM&R. Most important was her tireless dedication to the education, development, and certification of professionals to help ensure research subject safety across the human and animal fields. The field of research ethics would not be where it is today without Joan’s efforts to grow the field of research professionals,” said Jori Leszczynski, DVM, DACLAM, Chair of PRIM&R’s Board of Directors. 

PRIM&R has steadily supported the evolution of research ethics, beginning in 1975, just a year after the passage of the National Research Act and the establishment of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. During PRIM&R’s first decade, the public was grappling with the revelation of the US Public Health Service Syphilis Study in Tuskegee, The Belmont Report was published, and human research regulations were advancing.  

With near clairvoyance, Ms. Rachlin understood the need for research ethics education from the start of her career with PRIM&R. She organized PRIM&R’s first educational conference in 1977; fueled by the events of these decades, never relented in her quest to offer more and better educational programming during each of the years that followed. PRIM&R came to fill a unique role in the emerging field of research ethics education. 

During PRIM&R’s second decade, significant amendments were made to the Animal Welfare Act, The Common Rule was adopted by 16 federal agencies, and the exposure of a US government published report “Human Radiation Experiments: The Department of Energy Roadmap to the Story and Records (“The DOE Roadmap”) in 1995 where ethical issues raised by human radiation experiments included lack of informed consent, lack of fairness in the selection of subjects, failure to report the existence or results of the experiments, and failure to maintain proper records of the experiments.  

Ms. Rachlin planned and organized more than 200 conferences and educational events, as well as produced and distributed their proceedings. In collaboration with two of PRIM&R’s Board members, she produced a CD-ROM for research scientists, Investigator 101, the rights to which were acquired by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) for distribution to every major academic health center and university in the country. 

During PRIM&R’s third decade, AIDS activists and cancer survivors positively transformed the public’s view of human subjects research by showing the life-changing effects science can have on people’s lives. The terrible tragedy of Jesse Gelsinger, an 18-year-old research subject who died as a result of taking part in a clinical experiment using gene transfer (an FDA investigation concluded that the informed consent provided to Gelsinger was inadequate for a number of reasons), also occurred during that decade, spawning widespread recognition of the urgency for effective education in research ethics and the responsible conduct of research.   

Under Ms. Rachlin’s stewardship, PRIM&R developed its highly acclaimed educational programs, for both IRB and IACUC professionals, including IRB 101sm, IRB Administrator 101, and Essentials of IACUC Administration. She shepherded the development of PRIM&R’s two certification programs, the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) and the Certified Professional in IACUC Administration (CPIA®) credentials, both of which have successfully certified thousands of research professionals contributing to excellence in their respective fields. One of PRIM&R’s notable accomplishments is the growth of its membership from a small group of 61 Charter Members in 1986 to the large and active membership community of today, which includes more than 3,000 research professionals from around the world. 

During PRIM&R’s fourth decade, the internet and other technological advances dramatically altered the way research is conducted, giving rise to new ethical problems that were difficult to accommodate within a regulatory framework developed in a previous century. 

As a gesture to recognize Ms. Rachlin’s tremendous contributions, PRIM&R’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to her on November 9 at the 2013 Advancing Ethical Research Conference. 


In this landmark of PRIM&R’s 50th anniversary, we celebrate the foundational leadership of Joan Rachlin. Her profound commitment to fostering professional and personal relationships with a shared vision of societal betterment.  

PRIM&R continues to uphold her vision of creating a world in which all who contribute to and benefit from research embrace ethics, welfare, inclusion, and trust as central to science and medicine. Together through mentoring, collaborating, and celebrating the PRIM&R community takes immense pride in honoring 50 years of achievement.