CSEF Scientific Review Committee
The Scientific Review Committee (SRC) exists at the local level to evaluate those projects that involve vertebrate animals and potentially hazardous biological agents prior to the student’s experimentation. At the regional and state level, this group reviews all students’ projects paperwork to determine if it is eligible to compete, based on the rules set forth by the ISEF.
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) exists at the local level to evaluate those projects that involve human subjects prior to the student’s experimentation prior to the student’s experimentation.
Learn more about the SRC & IRB and some frequently asked questions regarding the review process.
The term SRC is actually used in two ways. The acronym SRC stands for Scientific Review Committee, so one meaning refers to the group of people who form a committee that reviews each project application to ensure that all safety and legal requirements will be met and that the appropriate forms have been completed. The committee is composed of at least three people: a biomedical scientist, a science teacher and one other member.
SRC also refers to the process of a project being reviewed. You may be asked if a project “requires SRC approval” or if it has “passed SRC”. In Colorado, there are three to four levels of SRC review that a student’s project may need to pass through for competition purposes.
- 1st is the local or school SRC – depending upon the type of project the student is working on, the procedures must be approved by the local SRC before a student may begin working on the experimental portion of their project. This group may require a student to refine or change their procedures for safety or ethical reasons.
- 2nd is the regional SRC – this group of people will review the student’s paperwork for compliance with the rules set forth by the International Rules & Guidelines for Pre-College Research and paperwork completion. If this group feels that there was a serious breach of ethical or safety protocols when the student did the project, they can deem the project has failed to qualify and not allow it to compete – even if a local SRC/IRB approved the project.
- 3rd is the state SRC – this group of people will review the paperwork for the students who have qualified to compete at the state level for compliance with the rules and paperwork completion. If this group feels that there was a serious breach of ethical or safety protocols when the student did the project, they can deem the project has failed to qualify and not allow it to compete – even if a regional SRC approved the project.
- 4th is the international SRC – this group of people will review the paperwork for the students who have qualified to compete at the state level for compliance with the rules and paperwork completion. If this group feels that there was a serious breach of ethical or safety protocols when the student did the project, they can deem the project has failed to qualify and not allow it to compete – even if a state or regional SRC approved the project.
An IRB (Institutional Review Board) is a committee that, according to federal regulations (45-CFR-46), must evaluate the potential physical and/or psychological risk of research involving human subjects. All proposed human subjects research must be reviewed and approved by an IRB before experimentation begins. This includes any surveys or questionnaires to be used in a project.
Federal regulations require local community involvement, therefore, an IRB should be established at the school level to evaluate research projects. An IRB at the school or Regeneron ISEF Affiliated Fair level must consist of at least three people: an educator, a school administrator (preferably a principal or vice principal), and someone who is knowledgeable and capable of evaluating the physical and/or psychological risk involved in a given study (psychologist, medical doctor, licensed social worker, licensed clinical professional counselor, physician’s assistant, doctor of pharmacy or registered nurse).
If the IRB needs an expert as one of its members and one is not in the immediate area, then documented contact with an external expert is appropriate and encouraged. A copy of the correspondence (i.e. email, fax, etc.) should be attached to Form 4 and can be used as the signature of that expert.
IRBs exist at federally registered institutions (i.e. universities, medical centers, NIH, correctional facilities, etc.). The institution’s IRB must initially review and approve all proposed research conducted at or sponsored by that institution. The Adult Sponsor/local SRC is responsible for ensuring that the project is appropriate for a pre-college student and adheres to the ISEF rules.
An IRB generally makes the final determination of risk. However, if in reviewing projects just prior to a science fair, an SRC judges an IRB’s decision as inappropriate, thereby placing human subjects in jeopardy, the SRC may override the IRB’s decision and the project may fail to qualify for competition.
Schools and regional science fairs may find this IRB power point presentation useful in familiarizing themselves with the rules and regulations regarding Human Subject testing in science fair projects.
All Colorado Regional Science Fairs and the Colorado Science & Engineering Fair follow the rules of the International Science and Engineering Fair. The Society for Science, the organization that administers the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), has created an on-line ISEF Rules Wizard to help you determine what forms and approvals you may need for your type of project.
CSEF has also created this handy flow chart that will also aid you in deciding if you need prior SRC or IRB approval.
AVOID CONFLICTS of INTEREST: The Adult Sponsor, parents, Qualified Scientist, Mentor, and Designated Supervisor who may be assisting the student with the project MUST NOT serve on the IRB or SRC reviewing the project.
There are certain problems with student paperwork that come up every year at CSEF that require students to visit with the SRC prior attending the event. Here are some things to help you avoid that:
- Double check ALL dates and signatures before sending in copies of your paperwork.
- When using animals, microbes, or possibly toxic or caustic substances in your research, be certain that the lab setting is adequate. You should not be doing these types of experiments at home!
- Be sure that your adult sponsor and/or qualified scientist is not signing off as an IRB or SRC member.
- Be very SPECIFIC in your research plan – we can’t read your mind and we need details on what you actually did when reviewing your project.
- Ask for help from the CSEF before starting your project. We are very happy to review research plans ahead of time and give guidance in regards to the rules. Email us at email@example.com!
- Make sure to send in COPIES of ALL forms at the same time.
If you need to make changes to your procedures after you have received SRC/IRB approval – STOP!!! Have your Adult Sponsor contact your local SRC and explain what you need to change and why. DO NOT proceed with your project until you have received further approval from the SRC.
There are many reasons why we are so strict when it comes to following the rules and guidelines. Such as:
- Student Researcher safety.
- Other human and animal subject safety.
- Compliance with federal and state laws in regards to scientific research.
- Avoiding legal/litigation issues.
- Being able to send students on to other competitions:
- Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair (grades 9-12)
- Regeneron Science Talent Search (grade 12)
- Thermo Fischer Scientific Junior Inventors Challenge (grades 6 – 8)