Roles & Responsibilities of Students & Adults


The Student Researcher

The student researcher is responsible for all aspects of the research project including:

  • enlisting any needed supervisory adults (adult sponsor, qualified scientist, etc.),
  • obtaining necessary approvals (SRC, IRB, etc.),
  • following the Rules & Guidelines of the SSTFI & ISEF, and
  • doing the experimentation, engineering, data analysis, etc. involved in the project.

The student must be in grades 6-12 or equivalent and must not have reached age 21 on or before May 1 preceding the Intel ISEF. Students may compete as a team of up to 3 members.

Scientific fraud and misconduct is not condoned at any level of research or competition. Such practices including plagiarism, use or presentation of other researcher's work as one's own, forgery of approval signatures, and fabrication or falsification of data will not be tolerated. Fraudulent projects will fail to qualify for competition in affiliated fairs or the ISEF.

The Adult Sponsor

An Adult Sponsor may be a:

  • teacher,
  • parent,
  • 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 Student Checklist (1A) & Research Plan to make sure that:

  • experimentation is done within local, state, and federal laws and these Rules;
  • that forms are completed by other adults involved in approving or supervising any part of the experiment; and
  • that criteria for the qualified scientist adhere to those set forth below.

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 vertebrate animals,
  • cell cultures,
  • microorganisms,
  • or animal tissues.

The issues must be discussed with the student when completing the Student Checklist (1A) and Research Plan. 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 any Intel ISEF affiliated fair.

The Qualified Scientist

A Qualified Scientist should possess an earned doctoral/professional degree in the biological or medical sciences as it relates to the student's area of research. However, a master’s degree with equivalent experience and/or expertise in the student's area of research 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 below) who has been trained in the techniques the student will use.

The Designated Supervisor

The Designated Supervisor is an adult who is directly responsible for overseeing student experimentation. 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.

Please also see the Scientific Review Committee page for information about the Scientific Review Committee and the International Review Committee.