Judging Overview

Judging Day 1 – Tuesday May 12, 2020

All judges participate in either the Excellence Awards or the Special Awards for the day. About a week before the Fair, you will receive your Judging Day 1 assignment, which will be either for Excellence Awards or Special Awards. 

You will receive your judging assignment on or around Tuesday May 5. If you are assigned to an Excellence Awards team, you will receive 10-12 project reports to read in advance of judging. These projects will be up to 5 pages in length with additional pages allowed for appendices. Please refer to the Judging Rubric to get a general idea of the type and level of project for each of your assignments. The Excellence Award judging occurs in multi-disciplinary teams of 4. All members of the team judge the same projects independently and then decide on the final score through consensus with the entire team. Judging interviews with the participants are scheduled at 30-minute intervals – 20 minutes is spent in the formal interview portion with the remaining 10-minutes allotted to complete the conversation, make notes and move to the next scheduled judging. The process will be explained in detail during Orientation. Please read Evaluating Projects and Evaluating Reports if you would like additional information before attending orientation.

If you are assigned to the Special Awards team, you will receive project abstracts for approximately 20 projects. Please read through them prior to Judging Day 1. It will be helpful to read the Judging Rubric as well to get a general idea of the types of projects as well as the range in levels. Special Awards judges will be judging independently on Tuesday. Interviews with the participants are 10 minutes in length and are scheduled every 15 minutes. The Special Award judging process itself will be explained in detail during Orientation.

General Schedule for Judging Day 1:
  • Breakfast from 6:30-7:30
  • Orientation from 7:30-8:30 
  • Scheduled judging will take place from 8:30-11:30
  • Lunch from 11:30-12:30
  • Scheduled judging continues from 12:30-15:30 
  • For Excellence Awards: Consensus conversations leading to final scores for the projects will occur among your team beginning at 15:30. These conversations must be concluded, and results submitted by 17:30.
  • For Special Awards: Final decisions and notes on each project must be submitted to the Team Chair by 17:30. 
  • Judging Reception where you’ll be able to enjoy conversation and refreshments with your judging colleagues from 17:00-18:30.

Judging Day 2 – Wednesday May 13, 2020 (Morning only)

You will be assigned to a Special Award or a Cusp judging team for Judging Day 2. The projects that you will be viewing will be determined by the results from Judging Day 1. Special Award teams and Cusp teams will be 2-person teams, working independently and then meeting to arrive at consensus for the final decisions. All interviews on Day 2 are unscheduled and will be occurring at the same time as public viewing.

The processes for Cusp judging and for this round of Special Award judging will be explained in detail during Orientation.

General Schedule for Judging Day 2:
  • Breakfast from 7:30-8:30
  • Orientation from 8:30-9:30 
  • Judging (which will be unscheduled) will begin at 9:30
  • Final results must be submitted to team chairs before 12:30.

Youth Science Canada appreciates that it will be a challenge for some judges to make appropriate baby sitting arrangements for their young children. Finalists have worked very hard and traveled very long distances to get to the Canada Wide Science Fair, and so have earned our undivided attention during judging. Thus we respectfully ask that you make appropriate arrangements for your children while you are judging. They are not permitted in the judging area, or the exhibit hall on judging day.


As a CWSF judge, I understand that the materials I am privy to are confidential and may contain proprietary information that is the intellectual property of the finalists. I therefore agree to maintain strict confidentiality of all such information. I further agree not to share any project or judging materials with anyone or leave them exposed to accidental viewing by others at any time. Judges will not, either before, during, or after the Canada Wide Science Fair:

  1. Discuss any item related to judging with anyone except the other judges on their team.
  2. Discuss any item related to judging where they may be overheard by a Finalist, Delegate or anyone else who is not a judge. This is most likely to happen on the floor of the exhibit hall.
  3. Suggest to any finalist that he or she is (or is not) a good candidate for a particular award, no matter how deserving.
  4. Request permission to take photographs of any exhibit on judging day.
  5. Leave any papers or notes related to judging where Finalists or Delegates can find them.
  6. Reveal the results of the competition.

Judges will:

  1. Leave all papers related to judging in the judges meeting area, where they will be collected and filed.
  2. Delete or shred all notes, five page reports and pictures of exhibits taken during orientation. This must be done no later than one week following the end of the Canada Wide Science Fair.
  3. Refer to the CWSF Chief Judge any requests for information about the judging process from a Finalist, Delegate or anyone else who is not a judge. Youth Science Canada has a process in place to respond to such requests.

Thank you for your careful attention to these important details that help to ensure the integrity of the judging process.

Conflict of Interest
1. Principles

1.1 The judging process at the Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) must adhere to the highest standards of integrity, so that it is seen to be fair and without bias.

2. Judges at the CWSF

2.1 A CWSF judge shall immediately identify any potential conflict of interest to the CWSF Chief Judge Recruitment. This may include, but shall not be limited to, having a child, grandchild, or other youth living in his/her household registered as a current CWSF finalist. 4.2 Parents and other individuals with a potential conflict of interest with a current CWSF finalist shall not judge at the CWSF. 4.3 A CWSF judge shall not judge a project with which he/she has had significant prior interaction - for example, as a mentor or a judge at a school or regional science fair. The CWSF Chief Judge Recruitment shall make decisions regarding this type of conflict. Where the situation is unclear, the CWSF National Judge in Chief, CWSF Deputy National Judge in Chief and/or the Chief Judge Operations may be consulted. A record of the decision made shall be maintained until seven (7) days after the final day of the CWSF.

Evaluating Projects
These four items refer to aspects of evaluation, which may be helpful to you as you assign your Level and Rating.
Organization and Completion

Good organization is part of conducting an effective investigation. This includes a clear objective, a plan for carrying out that objective, well-organized and comprehensible data, and a lucid discussion of experimental conclusions and implications. This means, too, that the investigation will have been completed and not simply ended because the finalist may have run out of time. In other words, the project should represent a completed body of work even if the results do not support the hypothesis. Finally, the implications of the project need to be addressed. Some aspects of organization and completion include:

  • Well-defined goal/objective. This can be embodied in the hypothesis or consist of additional statements regarding the project goals.
  • Well-organized and executed experimental procedures.
  • Data recorded in orderly manner.
  • Experiments repeated as needed.
  • Project represents a completed body of work.
  • Implications of the project fully addressed.
  • Well-organized display board.
Effort and Motivation

One measure of this is the amount of time spent on the project, including background reading and project execution. More difficult to determine, but possibly more important, are the depth of reading and resulting project quality as well as what the finalist learned from his/her experience. An additional measure of effort is the quality of the display, particularly its effectiveness in communicating. To the extent that an attractive display may communicate more effectively and indicate greater effort, that aspect also may be considered. Some aspects of effort and motivation include:

  • Amount of time spent on project.
  • Amount of time spent on background reading and study.
  • Extent to which the depth of background reading and study was reflected in the project.
  • What finalist learned.
  • Display board informative and attractive.

Although clarity is a theme found in all of the judging criteria, it applies specifically to certain elements such as notebooks. Some aspects of clarity include:

  • Original project notebook available for inspection.
  • Project notebook clear, well organized and accurate.
  • Hypothesis, purpose, procedures, results, and conclusions clearly stated.
  • Project title accurately portrays the project.
  • Abstract clear and well written.
  • Oral presentations are clear.
  • Audio-visual materials, including the display board, clear and relevant.
Comparing projects with widely different levels of sophistication

Sometimes finalists have access to sophisticated laboratories, have advanced scientific equipment available to them, and/or carry out their projects under the guidance of a professional scientist. Comparing such projects with those done in a home environment can be difficult. As a judge, you should not be in the position of assuming that a project would have been better or worse with or without the advantages of better equipment or instruction. The critical issue here is not the level of the tools used. Rather, it is what the finalist has done with the resources at his/her disposal. If advanced instrumentation is used to further a strong scientific investigation, and that is clearly communicated in the interview, such a project should do well. However, a finalist who does better science and has superior understanding but used only items found in an ordinary kitchen deserves a better rating. The use of sophisticated equipment in a weak project and/or by a finalist who does not understand the scientific principles involved should receive little or no credit. It is important that the finalist’s knowledge should be appropriate to the project and its goals. If advanced instrumentation is used, for example, the finalist should be conversant with the principles underlying that use, and how results obtained from the equipment relate to conclusions reached.

Evaluating Reports

A few days prior to judging day, you will be given access to the reports submitted by the finalists.

  • Background: how the project came to be.
  • Purpose: why the project was conducted and what was hoped to be achieved.
  • Hypothesis: proposition to be tested, if applicable.
  • Procedure: A brief outline of the materials and methods used.
  • Results or Observations: A summary of the results of the Experiment, Innovation or Study.
  • Conclusions: what can be concluded from the results and why it is important.
  • Five pages plus two extra pages for the references and bibliography
  • Double spaced, 12 point type.
  • Full details are in Policy CWSF Project Report

Interviewing the Finalists

Consider sitting, so that you and the finalist are more nearly the same height. Introduce yourself and ask each finalist to do likewise. Ascertain, through questioning, each participant’s contribution to and knowledge of the project. The physical display is secondary to the participant’s understanding. Pose your questions in a positive, non-threatening manner. Even if you experience a sense of dismay at a project, be careful not to convey this to the finalist via tone of voice, body language or lack of attention. Give any appropriate feedback, and note this on the judging form. Be sure that it is done in a positive and encouraging way. Thank each participant for his or her time. Be discreet and confidential when discussing any judging matter, so that no finalist or delegate can hear you.


Judging sheets with clear criteria will guide your discussions with the young scientists and assess their work.

Thanks to Judges

Your generous contribution of time and professional expertise to the judging process is enormously important to the young Canadians who have qualified for the Canada-Wide Science Fair. They are the next generation of scientists, and they benefit greatly from your participation. On their behalf, Youth Science Canada thanks you. There will be a reception for all judges at the end of judging day to acknowledge your significant contributions to the CWSF.


Questions regarding judging or registration should be directed to: CWSF Chief Judge Youth Science Canada sponsors involved in judging special awards should direct their questions to: Lori Murray, Administrative Assistant 866-341-0040 ext. 230

Mentored Projects - Considerations for Judges

Mentorship may take many forms and often occurs on a continuum. Some projects require no mentorship, while others require extensive mentorship in a specialized facility. The appropriate level of mentorship is influenced by the nature of the project, the needs of the student, and the support mentors are able to provide. As the level of mentorship increases, both mentors and mentees must be increasingly diligent to ensure that the project is the work of the student. Higher level mentorships in which the project idea, research question(s) and/or procedure are prescribed or provided by the mentor violate the spirit of the Mentoring Code of Conduct Youth Science Canada defines the following levels of mentorship:

  1. Student does not receive any mentoring.
  2. Student exchanges a few emails or phone calls, and/or meets with the mentor once or twice to discuss the student’s ideas.
  3. Student occasionally contacts the mentor by email or phone, and/or meets occasionally with the mentor who provided some advice or materials.
  4. Student has regular contact with the mentor by email or phone, and/or meets regularly with the mentor who provides advice, materials, assistance with design/testing, or data analysis.
  5. Student has regular face-to-face contact with the mentor and regular access to advice, materials, space, equipment, design/testing, or other personnel in a specialized facility.
  6. Student works closely with the mentor over an extended period of time to develop the project idea, plan and conduct the research/development, and analyze the results or test the innovation.
Responsibilities of Judges

The training of scientists is based largely on a mentoring model. Graduate students at both the MSc and PhD levels all have mentors, usually called supervisors. Nonetheless, some in the science fair community feel that mentorship confers an unfair advantage on science fair projects. Judges must be sensitive to these concerns and ensure that judging focuses on students’ scientific thought, understanding and creativity. Some projects involving the use of sophisticated or expensive equipment and exotic materials are scientifically simple and less creative than projects using more common materials. Sophisticated equipment or materials can unduly impress some judges, while others may be unduly impressed by the project carried out by a lone student in his/her garage using only household or commonly available materials. In all cases it is essential to look beyond the setting in which a project was carried out and to evaluate what science the student has actually done. Many, perhaps a majority, of science fair judges are involved in professional science and thus have an understanding of the nature of mentoring in the scientific enterprise and have some degree of experience in evaluating the scientific merit of work in this context. Judges with this background and experience have a responsibility to enlighten and assist judges who have no such context or experience. It is most often the case that a team of judges will be evaluating a group of projects, each of which has a different level of mentoring and one or more of which may be non-mentored. In this context judges have the following responsibilities:

  • to avoid with diligence any biases for or against mentored versus non-mentored projects;
  • to identify carefully, via documents provided by the student(s) and face-to-face discussion, the level and nature of any mentorship;
  • to assess the degree and accuracy to which the student(s) disclosed and described any mentoring;
  • to assess thoroughly the degree of independence in: topic selection; design of the study, experiment, or innovation; project undertaking; analysis of data; and project write-up;
  • to assess the level of scientific understanding of the project and its scientific context displayed by the student(s);
  • to assess and rank a project on: the creativity of its concept; scientific merit of its design and results, the level of scientific understanding displayed by its author(s), the clarity of communications and dissemination; and, in the case of mentored projects, on the degree of independence from the mentor(s), all in relation to the age/grade-level of the student(s).

Numbering the Projects
Challenge Category Counter
01 Discovery 01 Junior 01
02 Energy 02 Intermediate 02
03 Environment 03 Senior 03
04 Health     04
05 Information     05
06 Innovation     06
07 Resources     07
99 International     09

020316 = Energy - Senior - Project 16 040105 = Health - Junior - Project 5. 990302= International - Senior - Project 2 Projects are laid out in the exhibit hall in numerical order.

Photographing the Projects

Some judges like to take pictures of the projects during their review of the projects in the absence of the students.  These pictures are to be used for study later that night.  These pictures are to be treated just like the Reports, and must be deleted after the judging process is over. Judges may not request permission to take photographs on judging day. Judges are free to return to the fair during public viewing after judging is over, and request permission to take photographs then. The CWSF official photographer will take pictures of all the exhibitors, and these will be available on the web, a few weeks after the fair: https://secure.youthscience.ca/virtualcwsf/

Timetable for Judges
Prior to Judging (estimated May 6) The finalists' reports will be available for download. Read them before arriving at the Fair.

Tuesday May 12, 2020 - Medal Judging

From To Event
06:30 07:30 Breakfast
07:30 08:30 Judge Training
08:30 11:30 Judging
11:30 12:30 Lunch
12:30 15:30 Judging
15:30 17:00 Judging Discussions
17:00 18:30 Judges reception.

Wednesday May 13, 2020 - Special Awards Judging

From To Event
07:00 08:00 Breakfast
08:00 09:00 Judge Training
09:30 12:30 Judging
12:30 14:00 Lunch


Types of Projects

The evaluation of scientific thought constitutes 50 percent of the project mark and requires special attention. One important consideration is the three types of projects

  • Experiment
  • Innovation
  • Study

While the criteria for judging scientific thought vary slightly for each, the three types of project are equally eligible for awards at the CWSF.


An experiment involves the undertaking of an investigation to test a scientific hypothesis by the experimental method. At least one independent variable is manipulated; other variables are controlled. The best experimental projects involve original experimental research in which most significant variables are identified and controlled, and in which the data analysis is thorough and complete.


An innovation involves the development and evaluation of new devices, models, theorems, physical theories, techniques, or methods in technology, engineering, computing, natural science or social science. The best innovation projects either integrate several technologies, inventions or social/behavioural interventions or else they design and construct an innovative application that will have human and/or commercial benefit.


A study consists of the analysis of, and possibly collections of, data or facts using accepted methodologies from the natural, social, biological or health sciences. These include subjective studies involving human subjects, biology field studies, data mining, pattern recognition in physical data, etc. The best projects of this type correlate information from a variety of peer-reviewed publications and fromsystematic observations, and reveal significant new information or original solutions to problems. Quantitative studies should include appropriate analysis of some significant variable(s) using arithmetic, statistical or graphical methods. Qualitative and mixed methods studies should include a detailed description of the procedures and/ or techniques applied to gather and/or analyze the data.