Daniel K. Nelson, MSc, CIP was selected as the 2013 recipient of the ARENA Legacy Award.
Mr. Nelson is a longtime national, institutional, and organizational leader whose career has been characterized by a passionate and tireless commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of research subjects. One of the many ways in which he has demonstrated this exceptional commitment is through tireless service to PRIM&R, as well as via his generosity in mentoring and supporting countless professionals working in the field.
Mr. Nelson received his bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Luther College, and his master’s degree in physiology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Trained in medical physiology, Mr. Nelson has held faculty appointments at the Mayo Clinic and at the University of Rochester, where he was director of research in a clinical gastroenterology unit. He made his first foray into human subjects protections work when he became the IRB chair at a hospital affiliated with the University of Rochester.
Mr. Nelson is currently a professor of social medicine, an adjunct professor of pediatrics, and the director of the Office of Human Research Ethics at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. Since joining UNC in 1998, he has worked to transform the UNC IRB system from a fragmented, school-based IRB model into a centralized, comprehensive human research protections program that provides IRB oversight for the entire university. On campus, Mr. Nelson is viewed as a leader who has successfully built bridges between the IRB and the research community.
Mr. Nelson is also a co-investigator on several projects, including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study examining the clinical, ethical, and social questions surrounding the responsible use of whole exome sequencing; a pilot study comparing local and central IRB review; and a project designed to strengthen the bioethical training and research capacity in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition to being a hands-on researcher and skilled instructor, Mr. Nelson is an accomplished writer who has made extensive contributions to textbooks, journals, and the news media. Among his publications are: “Obtaining Consent from Both Parents for Pediatric Research: What Does ’Reasonably Available’ Mean?” (Pediatrics, 2013); “IRB Chairs’ Perspectives on Genotype-Driven Research Recruitment” (IRB: Ethics and Human Research, 2012); “Recommendations for Ethical Approaches to Genotype-Driven Research Recruitment” (Human Genetics, 2012); “Researcher Conflict of Interest” and “IRB Member Conflict of Interest” (with E. Bankert and R. Amdur in Institutional Review Board Member Handbook (3rd edition), 2010); and “Getting from A to IRB: Developing an Institutional Review Board at a Historically Black University” (Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 2010).
Given this long and venerable list of high profile and high impact professional activities, it is all the more remarkable that Mr. Nelson has been able and willing to devote so much time to PRIM&R for almost 20 years. He served as the president of ARENA, PRIM&R’s former membership division in 2002; as a member of the Council for Certification of IRB Professionals (CCIP); as faculty for countless PRIM&R programs; and as a member of several of our conference planning committees. Additionally, in 2003, he received PRIM&R’s Special Service Award.
Mr. Nelson’s service to the field extends well beyond his “day job” and PRIM&R activities, as he is also a highly sought after member of innumerable committees and councils for many other nonprofit and governmental organizations. He is a charter member of the AAHRPP Council for Accreditation; consults for the OHRP; was a founding co-chair of the IRB Sponsor Roundtable; and served as a liaison to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. For the past nine years, he has co-chaired the Subpart A subcommittee of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP), the body that advises the US Department of Health and Human Services on the regulations that govern human research protections (the "Common Rule").
Beyond his remarkable professional achievements, though, Mr. Nelson is a sterling human being who models wisdom, thoughtfulness, common sense, integrity, and “respect for persons” in all he does. He has worked continuously and energetically to promote the ethical conduct of research, and so many of those working in the field today have been touched by his generous willingness to mentor, support, teach, and otherwise help them.
PRIM&R’s 2013 ARENA Legacy Award was presented to Mr. Nelson on November 7 at the 2013 Advancing Ethical Research Conference.