Background Information for Judges

This page is intended for judges who are interested in the structure of the judging process at the Canada Wide Science Fair.  It is optional reading for all judges.

  1. Age Categories
  2. Ethics
  3. Finalists
  4. Glossary of Terms
  5. Individual versus Pair Projects
  6. Judging Criteria
  7. National Judging Policy Committee - NJPC

Age Categories

Projects at the CWSF are grouped into three categories based on school grade. Excellence Awards at the CWSF are judged by category. While most Special  Awards are also judged by category, some are open to projects from two or all three categories.

Junior Grades 7 and 8
Secondary I and II in Québec
Intermediate Grades 9 and 10
Secondary III and IV in Québec
Senior Grades 11 and 12
Secondary V, Cégep I and II in Québec


Youth Science Canada has policies that govern all aspects of the organization. Here we focus on those relevant to judging: the participation of humans, the use of animals, safety and academic integrity. All projects on the judging floor have been carefully screened for compliance, and declared eligible for full participation in the CWSF. Judges are not responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations, and therefore may not use compliance, or apparent lack of compliance, in their evaluation.

The Ethics Web Site is devoted to a detailed discussion on the participation of humans and the use of animals.

Participation of Humans

Projects that involve the participation of Humans are classified either as Low Risk, (e.g., simple surveys), or as Significant Risk, which is any other kind of project. Informed Consent is required in all cases, as is an Adult Supervisor; a Scientific Supervisor is required for Significant Risk Projects. Drugs may not be used unless the project is carried out in a University or similar institution. These Policies are extensive and available on line.

Use of Animals (Vertebrate and Invertebrate)

Most experiments that involve invertebrates are allowed at the CWSF. There are very strict limits on the use of vertebrates and cephalopod invertebrates. These Policies are extensive and available on line.

Project Safety Checks

During setup at the CWSF, the Youth Science Canada National Ethics and Safety Committee checks each exhibit for compliance with safety regulations. Safety Checks must be completed successfully before a project may be approved for judging.

Academic Integrity

Youth Science Canada requires all participants in the CWSF, including finalists, delegates and judges, to adhere to the highest standards of academic integrity. If a serious concern does arise, for example a judge detects clear evidence of serious plagiarism, then he/she must contact the YSC National Judge in Chief immediately. Under no circumstances may the judge contact the finalist directly on this matter.


The purpose of the science fair is to give young people the opportunity to actually do some science and engineering. You represent several important roles to the finalists:

  • Facilitator
  • Motivator
  • Role Model
  • Counselor
  • Evaluator

Your most important task is to encourage and motivate the participants. Even those whose projects are of modest quality should finish the day with a sense of accomplishment and pride. This comes before your role as an evaluator of student projects. Clearly, you have a critical responsibility in the success of the Canada Wide Science Fair.

The finalists are in grades 7-12, and come from over 100 Regional Science Fairs across Canada.

The finalists you meet will be proud of their accomplishments and should be able to explain their projects clearly and concisely. This explanation should include what they did as well as their results and conclusions. Their displays should clearly show the intent and outcomes of their work, and they should be able to answer questions about their projects at levels appropriate to their ages and grade levels. In addition, they should describe the methodology and equipment employed and the thought processes that were used to develop their hypotheses, designs, results, and conclusions. Although it is not required, finalists frequently will discuss further hypotheses based on their results. You may ask about that if you choose.

Glossary of Terms

Chair Each Judging Team has a Chair, who is responsible for ensuring all the processes for their award are completed.
CWSF Canada-Wide Science Fair
Cusp Judging The order of the projects close to the boundaries between medals is important. The tenth project gets gold; the eleventh project gets silver. A group of judges is assigned to review the projects close the boundaries of Gold-Silver, Silver-Bronze and Bronze-no award. We refer to this process as Cusp Judging.
CWSF Chief Judge - Recruiting Responsible for:                                                                                      
  • recruiting 160 judges, including approximately 25 bilingual judges.
  • training prior to the fair
  • arranging accommodation
  • liaison with the host committee
  • managing the host committee portion of the judging budget
CWSF Judging Administration Team Assigns judges to teams. Responsible for the judging process on judging day
Delegates All those accompanying the finalists at the Fair
CWSF Deputy Chief Judge - Recruiting Assists the Chief Judge - CWSF as required
Exhibit floor Area where students and judges meet for judges to interview the students
Finalists All those presenting projects at the Canada Wide Science Fair
Judges Do the judging at the CWSF
Judges’ Breakout Area Area where the judges meet, isolated from the finalists, to discuss the projects
National Judge-in-Chief Chair of the National Judging Policy Committee
NJPC National Judging Policy Committee. Responsible for Judging Policy and Rules. This is a standing committee of Youth Science Canada.
Registrar Responsible for recording Judges information.
Special Awards Chair Responsible for the judging of a single Special Award

Individual versus Pair Projects

The criteria for judging pair projects are the same as for those done by individuals. It is important, however, that each member of the pair demonstrates her/his significant contributions to the project and comprehensive understanding of it. This can be accomplished through statements made in the interview by each member and/or by questions asked by the judge. In conducting the interview, the judge should direct questions to an individual to make sure that each has an opportunity to speak. This is especially important if the pair has chosen to have one member make the formal presentation about the project or to direct certain questions to the member with expertise in that area.

Because a pair has more physical and possibly intellectual resources than an individual, it is appropriate that pairs be expected to produce higher quality projects than those working alone. Further, pair projects should show evidence that their interactions had positive results – a synergistic effect, in other words. You should expect pair projects to exceed individual efforts in at least the following:

  • Background research.
  • Data collection – quantity and quality.
  • Number of experimental repetitions.

The best project should win, whether it is an individual or team effort.

Judging Criteria

The following criteria are used to evaluate each project:

Scientific Thought and Understanding - 50%

This is the most important criterion for judging a project’s merit. The major purpose of the Science Fair is to provide a vehicle for the student to engage in the process of science through an Experiment, an Innovation or a Study. In an experimental project, that process includes physical acts such as data gathering. In an Innovation project, the process involves the scientific evaluation of new devices, models, theorems, physical theories, techniques, or methods in technology. In a Study, the process may involve the scientific analysis of pre-existing data. Such physical processes are meaningless if they are not accompanied by scientific thinking. Once results are obtained, devices built or data analysed, it is the interpretation of those results that is significant. Some aspects of scientific thought include:

  • a hypothesis or project design that is clear and well stated based on reading, study, and/or observation. The depth of study is a factor here.
  • an experimental procedure that is effective in testing the hypothesis, or an innovative design that is an effective solution to the problem posed, or a study designed to produce significant new insights.
  • results and conclusions that are clear, honestly stated, logical, and relevant to the project.
  • a clear discussion of any experimental results, design or data analysis.
  • carefully considered suggestions for extending the project.
  • a demonstration of the deep knowledge of the scientific and/or engineering principles involved.
  • a careful extrapolation from what was learned to the subject in general or to related subjects.
Originality & Creativity – 33%

Science Fair projects are not expected to be publishable research (although some are). However, originality or creativity is possible even if the project is relatively trivial scientifically or covers well-trodden ground. It is important to take the grade level and age of the finalist into consideration. What is new and creative for a finalist in Grade 7 might well be superficial for a high school finalist in Grade 12. Some aspects of originality/creativity include:

  • an original problem or an original approach to an old problem.
  • a creative approach to the design of the experiment, the innovation or the project overall.
  • an ingenious use of materials and equipment.
  • creative or original thinking in the application and the interpretation of any data obtained.
  • a project that goes beyond textbooks written at the finalist’s grade level.
Communication - 17%

Communication is composed of four components: the visual display, the oral presentation, the project report with background research and the logbook.

Visual Display: A good display tells the story of the project in a logical progression. It uses headings, bullet points, graphs and text in appropriate ways. It can be read from a distance of 1 metre. It uses attractive colour schemes. Judges will evaluate the Visual Display in the absence of the students immediately following the Judges Orientation.

Oral Presentation: The presenter is logical and enthusiastic. The presentation is well thought out and rehearsed, but not memorized verbatim. Questions are handled clearly and show sound knowledge of the project and the associated background.

Project Report: There are specific rules for the Project Report1. It is five pages double spaced, with two extra pages allowed for references and bibliography. It tells the story of the project with clarity and accuracy. Typical section headings for an experimental project might be: Introduction; Hypothesis; Experiments; Analysis of Data; Conclusion. The grammar is good, and there are no spelling errors. SI units are used. The reports will be available to the judges for download a few days before the fair opens.

Project Log: The Project Log may consist of a few pages, or a few binders of over 100 pages each. Judges will evaluate the Project Logs in the absence of the students immediately following the Judges Orientation. You will not have time to read them on judging day.

This completes those components of evaluation to which we assign a Level and Rating. These are used in the judging for Excellence Awards to allow a single judge to decide in a systematic way whether project A is better than project B.


National Judging Policy Committee - NJPC

Jeff Hoyle Judith Soon Ben Newling
Jeff Hoyle
National Judge-in-Chief
Judith Soon  
NJC Member
Ben Newling 
NJC Member

The National Judging Policy Committee (NJPC) is responsible for policy, monitoring and support of the judging process in the National Science Fairs Program, including Regional Science Fairs and the CWSF. Its primary purpose is to provide a framework that ensures integrity and consistency in the judging process at successive CWSF’s. The committee supports the judging process both prior to, and at the upcoming CWSF.