College of Sciences

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Institutional Review Board

These guidelines are only for projects or inventions using animals or humans.

An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that, according to federal law, must evaluate the potential physical or psychological risk of research involving human and animal subjects. All proposed human and animal research must be reviewed and approved by the IRB before student experimentation begins. Although surveys or questionnaires used at the high school level require IRB approval (they involve humans), this is not required at the elementary or middle school level as long as the teacher and/or Science Fair Coordinator approves the content of the survey or questionnaire before the student begins the project.

An IRB at the school level must consist of a minimum of three members. Additional members are recommended to avoid conflict of interest. The IRB might include:

  • The school principal or administrator,
  • The science fair coordinator or science teacher (may not be the student’s classroom or sponsoring teacher),
  • One or more of the following: a psychologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, dentist, physician’s assistant, registered nurse.

Each school should establish an IRB to handle human and animal related science fair projects. This will eliminate the need for approval of these studies from anyone other than the school. IRBs may use the International Science Animal Experimentation rules as guidelines, which can be found on the Society for Science website, especially for the following:

Two basic questions need to be asked:

Projects must have a copy of their IRB and supporting documentation fixed to the back of the project board as described in the display guidelines on this website. SNRSEF safety and display at project check in will not approve projects to compete that do not meet this requirement.

  1. Are humans (other than the student doing the project) involved in the study?
    • If Yes, and the human could be harmed in any way, then the teacher needs to ask the student to have a medical doctor or physician’s assistant provide written certification that he/she has reviewed safe practices with the student researcher prior conducting the research and submit the certification to the IRB along with the IRB Approval form. Make sure the student understands that he/she cannot begin work on the project until IRB approval is obtained.
    • If Yes, and it is obvious that the human will not be harmed in any way, then the teacher needs to ask the student to submit an IRB Approval form to the IRB. Make sure the student understands that he/she cannot begin work on the project until IRB approval is obtained.
  2. Are animals involved?
    • If Yes, and the animal could be harmed in any way, then the teacher needs to ask the student to have a veterinarian review safe practices with the student researcher and check the condition of the animal prior to and after conducting the research. Ask the student to submit the certification of both to the IRB along with the IRB Approval form. Make sure the student understands that he/she cannot begin work on the project until IRB approval is obtained.
    • If Yes, and it is obvious that the animal will not be harmed in any way, then the teacher needs to ask the student to submit an IRB Approval form to the IRB. Make sure the student understands that he/she cannot begin work on the project until IRB approval is obtained.