Rules and Regulations
Scientific fraud and misconduct are not condoned at any level of research or competition. Such practices include plagiarism, forgery, use or presentation of other researcher’s work as one’s own and fabrication of data. Fraudulent projects will fail to qualify for competition in affiliated fairs or the ISEF.
Eligibility/Limitations for Finalists and Student Observers
- Each ISEF-affiliated fair may send to the International Science & Engineering Fair the number of student observers provided by their affiliation agreement. For the Ritchey Science & Engineering Fair, each year we send four senior fair finalist projects to compete at the International Fair and up to three student observers, who do not compete at ISEF. These finalists and student observers attend schools in the Ritchey SEF service area: Box Elder, Cache, Daggett, Duchesne, Logan, Morgan, North Summit, Ogden, Rich, and Uintah districts as well as charter, private (except St. Olaf and St. Joseph) and home schools in Davis and Weber Counties.
- A student observer must be selected by an ISEF-affiliated fair, and be in grades 7-9 or equivalent. (The Ritchey SEF selects student observers from the 8th and 9th grades only.)
- A student finalist (competitor) must be selected by an ISEF-affiliated fair, and be in grades 9-12 or equivalent and not have reached age 20 on or before May 1 preceding the ISEF.
- Each student (or team) may be judged on only one project. That project may include no more than 12 months of continuous research and may not include research performed before January of the year preceding the year of the competition.
- Team projects may have two or three members. The Ritchey SEF has elected to not send to ISEF more than 2 teams of two members OR one team of 3 members in any given year. Teams may not have had more than three members at a local fair. Teams may not substitute members in a given research year. All members of the team must attend the fair. Projects that begin as a team, must compete as a team.
- Students may compete in only one ISEF affiliated fair, except when proceeding to a state/national fair affiliated with the ISEF from an affiliated regional fair. This includes students from the Davis and Weber school districts, who may attend the Ritchey SEF and compete in all category (Botany, Chemistry, etc.) judging, but not compete for the Ritchey SEF finalist or observer allocations. Davis and Weber school districts hold their own and separate competitions for their ISEF finalists at the Ritchey SEF. At this time, Davis and Weber school districts do not select student observers.
- Projects that are demonstrations, ‘library' research or informational projects, ‘explanation' models or kit building are not appropriate for the ISEF.
- All sciences (physical, life, social) are represented at the ISEF. A complete list of categories with descriptions is at https://student.societyforscience.org/isef-categories-and-subcategories. Ritchey SEF includes only 11 categories.
- A research project may be a part of a larger study performed by professional scientists, but the project presented by the student must be only their own portion of the study.
- All domestic and international students competing in an ISEF-affiliated fair must adhere to all of the rules as set forth in this document.
- All projects must adhere to the Ethics Statement above.
- All projects must adhere to the requirements of the affiliated fair(s) in which it competes to qualify for participation in the ISEF. Knowledge of these requirements is the responsibility of the student and Adult Sponsor.
- Projects must adhere to local, state and U.S. Federal laws, regulations and permitting conditions. In addition, projects conducted outside the U.S. must also adhere to the laws of the country and jurisdiction in which the project was performed.
- The use of non-animal research methods and the use of alternatives to animal research are strongly encouraged and must be explored before conducting a vertebrate animal project.
- Introduction or disposal of non-native species, pathogens, toxic chemicals or foreign substances into the environment is prohibited.
- ISEF exhibits must adhere to ISEF display and safety requirements.
- Maximum Size of Project: Depth (front to back): 30 inches or 76 centimeters; Width (side to side): 48 inches or 122 centimeters; Height (floor to top): 108 inches or 274 centimeters. Our tables are approximately 36 inches tall so please plan on a display board height of not more than 72 inches or 183 centimeters.
The following items are not allowed at the fair. You are encouraged to take pictures and include the photos in your presentation.
- Living organisms, including plants
- Soil, sand, rock, cement and/or waste samples, even if permanently encased in a slab of acrylic
- Taxidermy specimens or parts
- Preserved vertebrate or invertebrate animals
- Human or animal food
- Human/animal parts or body fluids (for example, blood, urine)
- Plant materials (living, dead, or preserved) that are in their raw, unprocessed, or non-manufactured state
- All chemicals including water. Absolutely no liquids can be utilized in the Project Display
- All hazardous substances or devices (Example: poisons, drugs, firearms, weapons, ammunition, reloading devices, grease/oil and sublimating solids such as dry ice)
- Items that may have contained or been in contact with hazardous chemicals (Exception: Item may be permitted if professionally cleaned and documentation for such cleaning is available). Filters (including microbial) may not be displayed unless the Display & Safety Committee can reasonably determine that the device was cleaned or was never used (please include receipts in your notebooks and/or logbooks)
- Sharp items (for example, syringes, needles, pipettes, knives)
- Flames and highly flammable materials
- Batteries with open-top cells or wet cells
- Drones or any flight-capable apparatus unless the propulsion power source removed.
- 3D Printers unless the power source is removed.
- Inadequately insulated apparatus capable of producing dangerous temperatures are not permitted
- Any apparatus with belts, pulleys, chains, or moving parts with tension or pinch points that are not appropriately shielded
- Any display items that are deemed distracting (i.e. sounds, lights, odors, etc.)
- Personal items or packaging materials stored underneath the booth
- Any apparatus or project material deemed unsafe by the Scientific
- Review Committee, the Display & Safety Committee, or the Society
Approval and Documentation
- Before experimentation begins, a local or regional Institutional Review Board (IRB) or Scientific Review Committee (SRC) associated with the ISEF-affiliated fair must review and approve most projects involving human participants, vertebrate animals, and potentially hazardous biological agents.
- Every student must complete the Student Checklist (1A), a Research Plan and Approval Form (1B) and review the project with the Adult Sponsor in coordination with completion by the Adult Sponsor of the Checklist for Adult Sponsor (1).
- A Qualified Scientist is required for all studies involving BSL-2 potentially hazardous biological agents and DEA-controlled substances and is also required for many human participant studies and many vertebrate animal studies.
- After initial IRB/SRC approval (if required), any proposed changes in the Student Checklist (1A) and Research Plan must be re-approved before laboratory experimentation/data collection resumes.
- Projects which are continuations of a previous year’s work and which require IRB/SRC approval must undergo the review process with the current year proposal prior to experimentation/data collection for the current year.
- Any continuing project must document that the additional research is new and different. (See Continuation Projects Form (7))
- If work was conducted in a regulated research institution, industrial setting or any work site other than home, school or field at any time during the current ISEF project year, the Regulated Research Institutional/Industrial Setting Form (1C) must be completed and displayed at the project booth.
- After experimentation, each student or team must submit a (maximum) 250-word, one-page abstract which summarizes the current year’s work. The abstract must describe research conducted by the student, not by the supervising adult(s).
- A project data book and research paper are not required, but are recommended. Regional or local fairs may require a project data book and/or a research paper.
- All signed forms, certifications, and permits must be available for review by all regional, state, national and international affiliated fair SRCs in which the student(s) participate. This review must occur after experimentation and before competition.
Continuation of Projects
- As in the professional world, research projects may build on work performed previously. A valid continuation project is a sound scientific endeavor. Students will be judged only on laboratory experiment/data collection performed over 12 continuous months beginning no earlier than January of the year preceding the competition and ending no later than May of the year of the competition.
- Any project based on the student’s prior research could be considered a continuation project. If the current year’s project could not have been performed without the outcome of a past year’s research project, then it is considered a continuation for competition. These projects must document that the additional research is a substantive expansion from prior work (e.g. testing a new variable or new line of investigation.) Repetition of previous experimentation with the same methodology and research question, even with an increased sample size, is an example of an unacceptable continuation.
- Display board and abstract must reflect the current year’s work only. The project title displayed in the Finalist’s booth may mention years (for example, “Year Two of an Ongoing Study”). Supporting data books (not research papers) from previous related research may be exhibited if properly labeled as such.
- Longitudinal studies are permitted as an acceptable continuation under the following conditions:
- The study is a multi-year study testing or documenting the same variables in which time is a critical variable. (Examples: Effect of high rain or drought on soil in a given basin, return of flora and fauna in a burned area over time.)
- Each consecutive year must demonstrate time-based change.
- The display board must be based on collective past conclusionary data and its comparison to the current year data set. No raw data from previous years may be displayed.
- All continuation projects must be reviewed and approved each year and forms must be completed for the new year.
NOTE: For competition in the ISEF, documentation must include the Continuation Project Form (7), the previous year’s abstract and research plan and the abstract for all other prior years. Documentation must be labeled clearly with the year (ex: 2016-2017). Retention of all prior years’ paperwork is required and must be presented to the ISEF SRC upon request.
- Team projects compete and are judged in the scientific category of their research at the ISEF.
- Teams may have two or three members. Teams may not have had more than three members at any level of affiliated fair. Teams may not substitute members in a given research year.
- Team membership cannot be changed during a given research year, including converting from an individual project to a team project, or vice versa. In future years, the project may be converted from an individual to a team project, from a team to an individual project and/or change team members.
- Each team is encouraged to appoint a team leader to coordinate the work and act as spokesperson. However, each member of the team should be able to serve as spokesperson, be fully involved with the project, and be familiar with all aspects of the project. The final work should reflect the coordinated efforts of all team members and will be evaluated using similar rules and judging criteria as individual projects.
- Each team member must submit an Approval Form (1B). Team members must jointly submit the Checklist for Adult Sponsor (1), one abstract, a Student Checklist (1A), a Research Plan and other required forms.
- Full names of all team members must appear on the abstract and forms.