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Display & Safety committee member with Intel ISEF Finalist

Fair Management

Standards and Resources to Support the Management of SSP-Affiliate Fairs

SSP respects the individual nature, character and traditions of each science fair. The diversity of our fairs in the audiences they reach, the territories they cover and their management and organizational structure enriches the global network of science fairs.

However, although we celebrate our differences, fairs also have many elements in common.  It is our goal to create a resource for fairs that will help in the management of their own fairs. 

Beginning with the standards, SSP will continue to gather and share what resources we have.  We are also partnering with the Intel ISEF Advisory Council to ask their aid in soliciting and reviewing documentation from fairs throughout the network to share with the community. 

It is our goal to build a resource that shares the best fair management practices, policies and procedures from around the world built on the spirit of collaboration and community to the betterment of the science fair experience for everyone. Currently we have some resources for judging at your fair and commitee training that you can find below. Future topics we would like to include are Event Management/Logistical Planning, Outreach/Professional Development, Marketing/Fundraising

Judging at your fair 

Every Intel ISEF affiliated fair has its own methodology for judging projects at their fair. We encourage judging chairs to review the Standard for Judging developed to provide several indicators of best practice and areas to consider in policy and procedure.

We provide the following tips and judging criteria as suggested aids in your process. The following points may be of value to you and your judges as they go out to review and score projects.


  • Examine the quality of the Finalist’s work, and how well the Finalist understands his or her project and area of study. The physical display is secondary to the student’s knowledge of the subject. Look for evidence of laboratory, field or theoretical work, not just library research or gadgeteering.
  • Judges should keep in mind that competing in a science fair is not only a competition, but an educational and motivating experience for the students. The high point of the Fair experience for most of the students is their judging interviews.
  • Students may have worked on a research project for more than one year. However, for the purpose of judging, ONLY research conducted within the current year is to be evaluated. Although previous work is important, it should not unduly impact the judging of this year’s project. 
  • As a general rule, judges represent professional authority to Finalists. For this reason, judges should use an encouraging tone when asking questions, offering suggestions or giving constructive criticism. Judges should not criticize, treat lightly, or display boredom toward projects they personally consider unimportant.  Always give credit to the Finalist for completing a challenging task and/or for their success in previous competitions.
  • Compare projects only with those competing at this Fair and not with projects seen in other competitions or scholastic events.
  • It is important in the evaluation of a project to determine how much guidance was provided to the student in the design and implementation of his or her research. When research is conducted in an industrial or institutional setting, the student should have documentation, most often the Intel ISEF Form 1C, that provides a forum for the mentor or supervisor to discuss the project. Judges should review this information in detail when evaluating research.
  • Please be discreet when discussing winners or making critical comments in elevators, restaurants, or elsewhere, as students or adult escorts might overhear.  Results are confidential until announced at the awards ceremony.


  • Provide the students with a brief explanation of the judging process. Provide information such as the rules for student conduct and attendance, the estimated number of judging interviews to expect, and any information possible about the levels or tiers of judging taking place. 
  • Provide an explanation to judges and students about the different types of judging and any rules for each type of judge. Many fairs, including the Intel ISEF, have both category (or grand award) judging and special award judging. Category judging is considered the primary judging process that provides the place winners of the Fair and the special award judging is most often done by the professional scientific organizations, colleges and universities, or governmental agencies who sponsor their award. Understanding who is on the floor helps everyone work together.
  • Take all steps possible to provide a just and equitable judging process without bias. Develop a judges’ code of conduct and a clearly defined set of criteria that your Fair judges must follow. Have procedures in place to eliminate any potential conflict of interest and always have a sufficient number of Fair representatives available during judging to handle any problems that may arise.

Committee Training

Workshop Aids to Support SSP-Affiliate Fair's SRC and D&S Committees

The following resources are intended to support the Scientific Review Committees, Institutional Review Boards and Display & Safety Committees that work at the local, regional and state levels.  They have been created by the Intel ISEF SRC and Intel ISEF D&S Committees to support training that they do at Intel ISEF.  

Intel ISEF 2015 SRC Report

Rules Guidance

Operational Guidelines for SRC and IRB Review Boards
Guidance to SRC and IRBs regarding proper composition and the duties, responsibilities and timelines for each review body.
SRC 101 Powerpoint - 2015 - ppt
SRC 101 Powerpoint - 2015 - pdf
This Powerpoint presentation can be a used as a tool in giving workshops on the ISEF Rules and Guidelines. Share with your IRB and SRC members, teachers and any others interested in an overview of the International Rules. (NOTE: This Powerpoint presentation is an outline and is not meant to be used as a replacement of the ISEF Rules and Guidelines document.)
Checklist for SRC Review 
This document was developed to provide guidance for an SRC to review a project AFTER experimentation.
Common Scientific Review Committee (SRC) ProblemsThis page summarizes SRC reviews leading up to Intel ISEF, with pointers about what NOT to do.
Most Common Reasons for Projects to Fail to Qualify at Intel ISEFThis page summarizes the most common reasons that a project fails to qualify at the Intel ISEF.
Human Participant Risk Assessment Guide -pdf
A document to aid your IRBs in making sound decisions for human participant project approvals and permissions needed. 
Online Survey Consent Procedures
Suggested procedures to conduct online survey research addressing assent and parental permission.
Intel ISEF Guidelines for Biosafety Level 1 Self Assessment Checklist
This document provides direction on how to assess a laboratory for BSL-1 research.
Intel ISEF Guidelines for Biosafety Level 2 Laboratory Facilities & Operations - A Self- Assessment Safety Checklist
This document is intended to aid in assessing whether a laboratory is an appropriate site for conducting BSL-2 studies in locations other than a BSL 2 laboratory in a registered/regulated research institution (e.g. high school laboratory, medical office, diagnostic lab).

Display & Safety

D&S Inspection Training PowerPoint
This PowerPoint was developed to train inspectors and is valuable for any fair D&S committee or for a student to understand what an inspector is reviewing.
D&S Committee Member Application
SSP is calling for applications to join the Intel ISEF Display & Safety Committee.  Requirements and time commitment are explained in the application.  Please submit by December 18, 2015.

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