The Belmont Report and Beyond: My Introduction to Research Ethics

by Alysa Perry 
Alysa Perry recently joined the staff of PRIM&R as program coordinator. Prior to joining PRIM&R, she worked at a start-up that hosted alumni job fairs throughout the country. At PRIM&R, Alysa will be working as an integral part of the team that plans, organizes, and executes PRIM&R’s one-day educational courses, including regional programs, pre-conference programs, and At Your Doorstep offerings. Here, Alysa reflects on her first weeks on the job and her entry into the field of research ethics. Welcome to PRIM&R, Alysa!
I’m amazed by just how far reaching the world of research ethics can be. Before coming to PRIM&R, I had a basic understanding of research standards and their relevance to everyday life. I knew of the Nuremberg Trials and the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee, but had very little idea about the whole range of professionals dedicated to making sure history doesn’t repeat itself.  
Institutional review boards and institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) were foreign concepts to me. So it may come as no surprise to you when I say that the learning curve has been steep and thrilling. It feels as though I have peeked behind the magician’s curtain, and an entire world I never knew existed has been revealed to me. “Compliance,” “protections,” and “oversight” are fast becoming my new favorite vocabulary words.  
As I was, those unfamiliar with the field of research ethics may not be aware of the comprehensive federal regulations, or the human subjects protections and animal care and use systems to which they have given rise.  The research professionals at the heart of these systems are responsible for ensuring the welfare of research subjects, a role that, I can now appreciate, helps to further public trust in research. So I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to meet some of the individuals who have chosen to take on this responsibility at the 2012 IACUC Conference and subsequent March Regional Program in Boston next week. 

I’ve been told that the new-job glow will fade and the honeymoon phase will end, but with so much left to learn, I think my new friend, Belmont, and I are in it for the long haul.