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Science fairs often include excellent projects involving human research participants. These projects are based in the social and behavioral sciences such as psychology, sociology, and education, and in related health sciences such as physiology, kinesiology and nursing.
We need to ensure that participants are safe, that they are treated with respect and dignity, and that the information they provide will be kept confidential. These ethical safeguards are primarily the responsibility of the science fair student researchers and their supervisors.
To help them carry out these responsibilities in accordance with national standards, Youth Science Canada provides a set of guidelines and a procedure for review of the ethical aspects of projects.
Student researchers and their advisers must read these before starting work on their projects.
Select each item in the menu above for a detailed discussion on the participation of humans in science fair projects.
Low Risk Projects
Low Risk Projects involve conditions where the risks of harm are not greater or more likely than those encountered in everyday life. Examples are: some, but not all, surveys of attitudes and beliefs; skill tests; observations of behaviour; everyday food projects. It is sufficient to have the adult supervisor assume responsibility for supervision of ethical as well as scientific aspects of the project, and also complete Form 4.1A Human Participants – Low Risk ensuring that the essential elements of ethics review: consent, confidentiality and the right to withdraw are considered. Written informed consent from parents or guardians is strongly recommended for all projects involving humans, and is mandatory for all food and drink projects. Within a school, this is a good opportunity to have the class learn about the ethics of research involving humans. We strongly encourage all adults who are supervising such projects to take the time to read Policy 18.104.22.168 Participation of Humans - Low Risk.
Significant Risk Projects
All other projects are considered significant risk projects. The student should complete the Research Plan and submit it to at least one person knowledgeable about ethics, preferably a member of the RSF Ethics Committee,. A copy of the Letter of Information and the Informed Consent Permission Form must also be included. Prior to the Fair, Form 4.1 B, Participation of Humans - Significant Riskmust be submitted. All students, adult supervisors and scientific Supervisors must take the time to read Policy 22.214.171.124 Participation of Humans - Significant Risk.
Request for Information.
If you have any questions about your project, and want to be sure it is eligible for presentation, you can request advice and a ruling from the ethics committee of your regional science fair:
- Download this Request for Advice or a Ruling.
- Fill it in.
- Follow the instructions at the end of the form.