Rule Check


Following the contest rules correctly is even more important when you are competing at the high-school level.

There is very little room for error and the stakes are high.

Make sure you take the time to read through these rules before starting on your project.

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Approval Before Experiment

It is imperative that ALL High School Level projects obtain project approval by either the School Scientific Review Committee (SRC) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) or SARSEF’s SRC prior to starting the project.

Failure to obtain prior approval may result in failure to qualify at the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF), AzSEF, STS, and International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). 

To begin using a new, simple to follow system of questions about your projects, and lead you to the exact forms that you will need to compete at SARSEF and most any other national/international competition. Go to:

SRC and Permission Forms

High school students must use the forms required for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Knowing which forms are required is now easier than ever!

Just go to this page and take the quiz:

Before a student starts a project, there are several important checkpoints. These are not only to protect the student, but also to teach the proper scientific protocols.

Scientific Review Committee/Institutional Review Board

The SARSEF SRC/IRB is properly constituted according to the affiliation requirements, and the committee has access to University of Arizona faculty who serve as adjunct members. They also have access to other specialty faculty if there are questions of safety beyond the committee’s expertise. There can be NO EXCEPTIONS to compliance with SRC prior review and approval — regardless of the age of the student.

Science fair competitors at the high school level (Grades 9-12) must submit the appropriate forms to their school SRC for approval prior to their experiment, and will be checked by the SARSEF SRC prior to competition.

Schools may set up their own SRC/IRB (following SSP guidelines as a pre-screen, for more details please see ).  The official SARSEF SRC will evaluate all high school projects prior to the Fair.

Many questions can be answered by an e-mail to the University of Arizona’s Dr. Paula Johnson (D.V.M.) at She can advise competitors about methods that will lead to approval, and ways to avoid risking rejection by the Scientific Review Committee.


Approval and Required Forms

High school: Review and follow the ISEF rules questionnaire at: for high school students. After review, if you are in doubt as to which forms or approvals need to be obtained, contact SARSEF Scientific Review Committee at

If the school SRC is in doubt, members may submit the forms to the SARSEF Scientific Review Committee (SARSEF SRC, 7380 E. Snyder Road, Tucson AZ 85750.) Allow at least two weeks for processing.

Specific items SRC members consider in reviewing a project include:

  • evidence of library/literary search (Internet, journals, books, etc.)
  • evidence of proper supervision
  • use of accepted research techniques
  • completed forms, signatures and dates
  • evidence of search for alternatives to animal use
  • humane treatment of animals
  • compliance with rules and laws governing proper care and housing of animals
  • appropriate/safe handling and use of recombinant DNA, potentially pathogenic organisms, tissues and hazardous substances, devices and activities
  • adequate documentation of the substantial expansion of continuing projects.

Upon reviewing a project, the SRC arrives at one of three decisions:

  1. Approval: If a project is approved, the SRC chairperson signs the appropriate forms and returns paperwork to students as soon as possible, so experimentation may commence.
  2. Disapproval: The SRC chairperson will provide the student and sponsor with a list of reasons for disapproval — as well as suggestions for changes that may lead to approval. If suitable corrections are made, the revised project forms should be re-submitted for review. If the project is approved, the student and sponsor will be notified immediately, so that the student can begin experimentation.
  3. Not allowed: Some projects are unethical or should not be done by pre-college students. Examples would be projects designed to kill vertebrate animals, toxicity studies using vertebrate animals, improper treatment of animals, proposed use of potential pathogens at home, and lack of appropriate supervision. The SRC will notify the student and sponsor promptly and provide them with a complete list of reasons why the project may not be done.

High school students must prepare the SSP defined ISEF forms as they apply to their projects which are provided at  Click on the link to be taken to a simple to follow online questionnaire.

All high school projects which require SRC approval before the project begins must submit the forms to either their School SRC or SARSEF SRC: (SARSEF SRC, 7380 E. Snyder road, Tucson AZ 85750) IMPORTANT: Submit early, and allow two weeks for processing, as the volume of applications increases as the year goes on.

For a complete list of all Forms, please go to:

Forms 1, 1A and 1B and Abstract are required for ALL  projects Grades 9-12

Forms 1C to Form 7 are only required for those projects to which they apply.


Informed Consent

Remember, all projects, regardless of grade level and relationship to the 
human subjects must have SRC/IRB review, and obtain approval where necessary before experimentation is started.

Fill out and send in all of the material requested on the appropriate ISEF Forms (Grades  9-12).

IMPORTANT: Failure to receive approval BEFORE experimentation will result in failure to qualify for SARSEF, AzSEF, ISEF and ISWEEEP, as well as many other national competitions.

The process of obtaining informed consent provides information to the subject about the risks and benefits associated with participation in the research study, and allows the subject to make an educated decision about whether or not to participate. Informed consent is an ongoing process, not a single event that ends with a signature on a page. It must incorporate procedures that do not involve coercion or deception.

Documentation of informed consent is required:

  • When the IRB determines that a research study involves physical or psychological activities with more than minimal risk
  • When the IRB determines that the project could potentially result in emotional stress to a research subject
  • When the IRB determines that the research subjects belong to a risk group and the study does not meet any of the criteria below for a waiver

Documentation of informed consent is required for most research projects. However, the IRB may waive the requirement for documentation of written informed consent if the research involves only minimal risk and anonymous data collection and if it is one of the following:

  • research involving the observation of legal public behavior
  • research involving collection or study of existing publicly available data or records
  • research involving normal educational practices
  • research on individual or group behavior, or characteristics of individuals where the researcher does not manipulate the subjects’ behavior — and the study does not involve more than minimal risk
  • surveys and questionnaires that are determined by the IRB to involve perception, cognition or game theory and do NOT involve gathering personal information, invasion of privacy or potential for emotional distress. If there is any uncertainty regarding the appropriateness of waiving informed consent, it is strongly recommended that informed consent be obtained.
  • studies involving physical activity where the IRB determines that no more than minimal risk exists and where the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater (in and of themselves) than those ordinarily encountered in DAILY LIFE or during performance of routine physical activities.

If a research subject is under 18 years of age, it is recommended that, in all cases, informed consent be obtained. Both the parent/legal guardian and the school-age research subject must sign an Informed Consent Form. (For high school researchers ISEF Form 4 (Human Subjects and Informed Consent Form).

However, an IRB may decide that informed consent is not required because of the allowable exceptions listed above. When the IRB waives informed consent of research subjects under the age of 18 for studies involving surveys or questionnaires, documentation justifying this waiver must accompany Informed Consent Form high school ISEF Form 4.

Form 4 – Human Subjects Form and Informed Consent (Prior to experimentation)

Display and Safety Rules for SARSEF

Items Not Allowed At Project or In Booth

  • Living organisms, including plants, molds, bacteria
  • Taxidermy specimens or parts
  • Preserved vertebrate or invertebrate animals
  • Human or animal food
  • Human/animal parts or body fluids (for example, blood or urine). Teeth that have been decontaminated may be exhibited if kept in sealed containers.
  • Plant materials (living, dead or preserved) that are in their raw, unprocessed, or non-manufactured state. (Exception: manufactured construction materials used in building the project or display)
  • Chemicals, including water
  • Poisons, drugs, controlled substances, hazardous substances or devices (for example, firearms, weapons, ammunition or reloading devices)
  • Dry ice or other sublimating solids
  • Sharp items (for example, syringes, needles, pipettes or knives)
  • Glass or glass objects unless deemed by the Display and Safety Committee to be an integral and necessary part of the project. (Exception: glass that is an integral part of a commercial product such as a computer screen)
  • Flames or highly flammable materials
  • Batteries with open-top cells
  • Awards, medals, business cards, flags, endorsements and/or acknowledgments (graphic or written) unless the item(s) are an integral part of the project. D&S decision
  • Photographs or other visual presentations depicting vertebrate animals in surgical techniques, dissections, necropsies or other lab procedures

Any apparatus deemed unsafe by the Scientific Review Committee or the Display and Safety Committee (for example, large vacuum tubes or dangerous ray generating devices, empty tanks that previously contained combustible liquids or gases, pressurized tanks, etc.)

Items Allowed but with the Restrictions Indicated

  • Soil or waste samples if permanently encased, as in a slab of acrylic
  • Postal addresses, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and fax numbers of finalist — but only listed in the journal or on required forms.
  • Any apparatus with unshielded belts, pulleys, chains, or moving parts with tension or pinch points if for DISPLAY ONLY, and not operated
  • Any apparatus producing temperatures that will cause physical burns if inadequately insulated.

Photographs and/or visual depictions,

  • they are not deemed offensive or inappropriate by the Scientific Review Committee, or the Display and Safety Committee. This includes, but is not limited to, visually offensive photographs or visual depictions of invertebrate or vertebrate animals, including humans. The decision by any one of the groups mentioned above is final.
  • credit lines of their origins (“Photograph taken by …” or “Image taken from …”) are attached. If all photographs being displayed were taken by the finalist or are from the same source, one credit line prominently displayed is sufficient.
  • they are from the Internet, magazines, newspapers, journals, etc., and credit lines are attached. (If all photographs/images are from the same source, one credit prominently displayed is sufficient.)
  • photographs or visual depictions (not portrait style) of the finalist conducting the project.
  • they are photographs of human subjects for which signed consent forms are at the project or in the booth.


Every Child. Thinking Critically. Solving Problems.