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GSDSEF Roles and Responsibilities of Students and Adults


Student Researcher


The student researcher is responsible for ALL aspects of the research project including enlisting the aid of any required supervisory adults (Adult Advisor, Qualified Scientist, etc.), obtaining any necessary approvals from the Scientific Review Committee/completing certification forms or any other forms, following the Rules & Guidelines of the GSDSEF, and performing the experimentation, engineering, data analysis, etc.

Students are expected to follow and abide by the Ethics Statement of the International Science and Engineering Fair adopted by the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair.

Scientific fraud and misconduct are not condoned at any level of research or competition. This includes plagiarism, forgery, use or presentation of other researcher’s work as one’s own, and fabrication of data. Fraudulent projects will fail to qualify for competition in at the GSDSEF and subsequent affiliated national and international fairs.



Adult Advisor (Teacher/Advisor or Sponsor)


The Advisor is a usually a student’s teacher, but can be a professional scientist (senior division) in whose lab the student is working. This individual must have a solid background in science and should have close contact with the student during the course of the project.

The Advisor must be familiar with the regulations that govern potentially dangerous research as they apply to a specific student project. These may include chemical and equipment usage, experimental techniques, research involving human and/or vertebrate animals, and cell cultures, microorganisms, or animal tissues. Regulations must be discussed with the student when completing the project proposal/research plan. Some experiments involve procedures or materials that are regulated by state, federal or non-U.S. national laws. If not thoroughly familiar with the regulations or there is a question concerning safety or possible risks, the Adult Advisor should contact the Scientific Review Committee and, if necessary, help the student enlist the aid of a Qualified Scientist or Designated Supervisor to oversee the student’s experimentation.

The Advisor must be familiar with the rules and regulations of the GSDSEF, and in Senior Division, also familiar with the rules and guidelines of the International Science and Engineering Fair.



The Advisor is responsible for working with the student to:

a)  evaluate any possible risks involved in order to ensure the health and safety of the student conducting the research and the humans and/or animals involved in the study. The Advisor must review the student’s project proposal/research plan to certify that:

  • experimentation is within local, state, and Federal laws and Intel ISEF rules;
  • certification forms are completed, as necessary (i.e. Hazards Control, Live Vertebrate, etc),
  • forms are completed by other required adults or participants (i.e Regulated Research Institutions, participant consent forms), as necessary; and
  • criteria for the Qualified Scientist adhere to those set forth below.

b)  is in ongoing communication/close contact with the student(s) throughout the timeline of the project.

c) is responsible for ensuring the student’s research is eligible for entry in the GSDSEF and other affiliated fairs.

d)  keeps copies of completed/signed Certification forms and SRC Pre-Approval Signature form on file.

e)  ensures students follow all deadlines.

f)  ensures students submits project for screening before the deadlines.

g)  informs students of status or project (Recommended/Not Recommended) and screener’s comments, as needed.

h)  ensures students who have been “recommended” has submitted the Application and fee by the deadline.


The Qualified Scientist


A Qualified Scientist should have earned a doctoral/professional degree in a scientific discipline that relates to the student’s area of research. A PhD, MD or a master’s degree with additional experience and expertise in the student’s area of research is acceptable when approved by a Scientific Review Committee (SRC). The Qualified Scientist must be thoroughly familiar with local, state, and federal regulations that govern the student’s area of research.

The Qualified Scientist and the Adult Advisor may be the same person (senior division only), if that person is qualified as described above and must follow the Responsibilities of the Advisor.


Designated Supervisor


The Designated Supervisor is an adult who is directly responsible for overseeing student experimentation. The Designated Supervisor need not have an advanced degree, but must be thoroughly familiar with the student’s project, and must be trained in the student’s area of research. The Adult Advisor may act as the Designated Supervisor.

If a student is experimenting with live vertebrates and the animals are in a situation where their behavior or habitat is influenced by humans, the Designated Supervisor must be knowledgeable about the humane care and handling of the animals.


Note: To see if a project must be directly supervised by a Qualified Scientist or Designated Supervisor, or be done in a laboratory (high school or regulated research institution), please refer to the ISEF Rules and Guidelines and complete the Designated Supervisor box on the ISEF Qualified Scientist Form (2) when applicable.




These are people who can give you specialized technical guidance in the specific area of the student's project. They can be professionals in the different areas of science and engineering or from the trade areas (such as in construction, plumbing, landscaping, etc.), a parent, a university student/professor, etc). Mentors can offer suggestions and advice on how to build something, use certain equipment, share background information from their related field. You will give these people credit in the Acknowledgement section of your notebook.