Adults Involved

It is important that students retain signed copies of ALL paperwork. Even though copies were sent with registration papers, students must bring the original signed copies to Intel NWSE.

Adult Sponsor
An Adult Sponsor may be a teacher, parent, college or university professor, or scientist in whose lab the student is working. This individual must have a solid background in science and should have close contact with the student during the course of the project. The Adult Sponsor is ultimately responsible not only for the health and safety of the student conducting the research, but also for the humans or animals used as subjects. The Adult Sponsor must review the student's Research Plan (1A) to make sure that: a) experimentation is done within local, federal, and these Rules, and b) that forms are completed by other adults involved in approving or supervising any part of the experiment. The Adult Sponsor must be familiar with the regulations that govern potentially dangerous research as they apply to a specific student project. These may include chemical and equipment usage, experimental techniques, research involving human or nonhuman animals, and cell cultures, microorganisms, or animal tissues. The issues must be discussed with the student when completing the Research Plan (1A). Some experiments involve procedures or materials that are regulated by state and federal laws. If not thoroughly familiar with the regulations, the Adult Sponsor should help the student enlist the aid of a Qualified Scientist. The Adult Sponsor is responsible for ensuring the student's research is eligible for entry in the International Science and Engineering Fair by submitting all the appropriate forms. All projects require Forms 1, 1A, 1B and Research Plan Attachment.

Designated Supervisor
The Designated Supervisor is an adult who supervises a student's experiment. In the case of hazardous substances or devices, a Designated Supervisor is directly responsible for overseeing student experimentation. A Qualified Scientist may or may not be necessary. The Designated Supervisor need not have an advanced degree, but should be thoroughly familiar with the student's project, and must be trained in the student's area of research. The Adult Sponsor may act as the Designated Supervisor. If a student is experimenting with live vertebrates and the animals are in a situation where their behavior or habitat is influenced by humans, the Designated Supervisor must be knowledgeable about the humane care and handling of the animals.

Qualified Scientist
A Qualified Scientist should possess an earned doctoral/professional degree in the biomedical sciences. However, a master's degree with equivalent experience and/or expertise is acceptable when approved by a Scientific Review Committee (SRC). The Qualified Scientist must be thoroughly familiar with the local, state, and federal regulations that govern the student's area of research. The Qualified Scientist and the Adult Sponsor may be the same person, if that person is qualified as outlined above. A student may work with a Qualified Scientist in another city or state. In this case, the student must work locally with a Designated Supervisor (see above) who has been trained in the techniques the student will use.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)
An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that, according to federal law, must evaluate the potential physical or psychological risk of research involving human subjects. All proposed human research must be reviewed and approved by an IRB before experimentation begins. This includes any surveys or questionnaires to be used in a project. The IRB must consist of a minimum of three members. Additional members are recommended to avoid conflict of interest. The IRB should include: a) science teacher b) school administrator (preferably a principal or vice principal) and c) one of the following: a psychologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, physician's assistant, registered nurse, or licensed social worker. Due to the federal regulations requiring local community involvement, an IRB must be established at the school level to deal with human research projects. Notes:

  • If the project is behavioral, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or individual with human behavioral training must serve on the IRB.
  • For subjects under 18, student researchers must obtain written informed consent (Form 4) from all subjects and their parent/guardian when the IRB determines that more than minimal risk is involved.
  • Neither the Adult Sponsor nor the Qualified Scientist who oversees a specific project is permitted to serve on the SRC or IRB reviewing that project.
  • Consequently, neither the Adult Sponsor nor the Qualified Scientist may sign the SRC portion of (1B) Approval Form. This eliminates conflict of interest.

Scientific Review Committee (SRC)
An SRC must consist of a minimum of three persons. Additional members are recommended to avoid conflict of interest. The SRC must include:

  • biomedical scientist (Ph.D., M.D., D.V.M., D.D.S., or D.O.)
  • science teacher
  • at least one other member


  • If you live in a rural area and do not have access to a degreed biomedical scientist, you must enlist the services of someone from another geographic area. You should send the Rules and necessary forms to that person so he or she is familiar with the procedures.
  • One of the SRC members must be familiar with proper animal care procedures when animal research is involved.
  • Neither the Adult Sponsor nor the Qualified Scientist who oversees a specific project is permitted to serve on the SRC or IRB reviewing that project.
  • Consequently, neither the Adult Sponsor nor the Qualified Scientist may sign the SRC portion of Approval Form (1B). This eliminates conflict of interest.

A Scientific Review Committee (SRC) examines projects for the following:

  • evidence of library search
  • evidence of proper supervision
  • use of accepted research techniques
  • completed forms, signatures and dates
  • humane treatment of animals
  • compliance with rules and laws governing human and animal research
  • appropriate use of recombinant DNA, pathogenic organisms, controlled substances, tissues and hazardous substances and devices
  • appropriate documents and substantial expansion for continuation projects

The SRC follows this three-step process:
BEFORE EXPERIMENTATION, the Local SRC reviews and approves experimental procedures for projects involving human subjects, nonhuman vertebrates, pathogenic agents, controlled substances, recombinant DNA, and human/animal tissue to make sure they comply with the Rules and any pertinent laws. Human studies reviewed and approved by a properly constituted IRB do not have to be reviewed by the SRC until the Research Competition.
AFTER EXPERIMENTATION AND SHORTLY BEFORE THE REGIONAL FAIR, the Regional SRC reviews and approves projects entering their fair to make sure that students followed the approved Research Plan (1A) and the Rules.
AFTER EXPERIMENTATION AND SHORTLY BEFORE THE STATE FAIR, the NWSE SRC also reviews all projects to make sure students followed the applicable Rules. The NWSE SRC is made up of a group of adults knowledgeable about regulations concerning experimentation in restricted areas. The NWSE SRC reviews and approves the Checklist for Adult Sponsor, Research Plan (1A), and Approval Form (1B) in addition to all other required forms for students who enter the competition.

ISEF provides additional descriptions that explain the SRC and the IRB.

Examples of SRC worksheets are in the Document Library.

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