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Any 6th through 12th grade student attending a public, private, parochial or home school in San Diego or Imperial Counties may enter a project in a local school science fair. Top projects from each school then move through the online  1) SRC Pre-Approval Process,  where projects are reviewed for safety,  2) Screening, where projects are reviewed for quality, and 3)  Application, where students apply to attend  the GSDSEF.



Junior -- grades 6 through 8 (either individual or 2-person team projects may be entered)

Senior -- grades 9 through 12 (either individual or 2-person team projects may be entered)


All students who develop a project for the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair must read and comply with all Rules and Regulations in this document. Parents, teachers and adult supervisors must also read and understand these GSDSEF Rules & Regulations.



The GSDSEF follows the Ethics Statement of the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).


Student researchers, as well as adults who have a role in their projects, are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards. These include, but are not limited to:


Integrity. Honesty, objectivity, and avoidance of conflicts of interest are expected at every stage of the research. The project should reflect independent research done by the student(s), and represent only one year’s work.

Legality. Compliance with all federal, country, state, and local law is essential. All projects must be approved by a Scientific Review Committee (SRC), and when necessary must also be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and/or Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).

Respect for Confidentiality and Intellectual Property. Confidential communications, as well as patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property must be honored. Unpublished data, methods, or results may not be used without permission, and credit must be given to all contributions of research.

Stewardship of the Environment. It is the responsibility of the researcher(s) and the adults involved to protect the environment and its organisms from harm. All projects involve some amount of risk. Everyone is expected to recognize the hazards, assess the risks, minimize them, and prepare for emergencies.

Animal Care. Proper care and respect must be given to vertebrate animals. The guiding principles for the use of animals in research includes the following “Four R’s”: Replace, Reduce, Refine, Respect.

Human Participant Protection. The highest priority is the health and well-being of the student researcher(s) and human participants.

Potentially Hazardous Biological Agents (PHBAs).  It is the responsibility of the students and adults involved in the project to conduct and document a risk assessment, and to safely handle and dispose of organisms and materials.


Scientific fraud and misconduct are not condoned at any level of research or competition. This includes plagiarism, forgery, use or representation of other researcher’s work as one’s own and fabrication of data.  Fraudulent projects will fail to qualify for competition in affiliated fairs and ISEF. Society for Science and the Public reserves the right to revoke recognition of a project subsequently found to be fraudulent.



These requirements are not limited to the following list. For COMPLETE requirements, please refer to the ISEF Rules and Guidelines.


  1. All students must adhere to local, state, and US Federal laws, regulations and permitting conditions. Note: The GSDSEF may have additional restrictions or requirements compared to ISEF. All projects must adhere to the GSDSEF rules, guidelines, and requirements in order to qualify for ISEF.


  1. It is the responsibility of the student and the Adult Sponsor/Teacher/Advisor to evaluate the study to determine if the research will require forms and/or review and approval PRIOR to experimentation. As necessary, SRC, IRB, IACUC, IBC approvals must be received and documented before experimentation begins.


  1. The use of non-animal research methods and alternatives to animal research are strongly encouraged and must be explored before conducting a vertebrate animal project. 


  1. Introduction or disposal of non-native, genetically-altered, and/or invasive species (e.g. insects, plants, invertebrates, vertebrates), pathogens, toxic chemicals or foreign substances into the environment is prohibited. Please reference local, state, and national regulations.


  1. All students must follow the Ethics Statement and ISEF Rules and Guidelines in order to compete at the affiliated fair (GSDSEF), California Science and Engineering Fair (CSEF) and the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).


  1. Projects may include no more than 12 months of contiguous research and may not include research in the prior year. For example, for the 2021 ISEF competition, research cannot be from before January of 2020.


  1. A research project may be a part of a larger study performed by professional scientists, but the project presented by the student must only be only their own portion of the complete study.



The Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair (GSDSEF) adheres to and complies with the Safety Rules and Guidelines of the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Refer to ISEF Rules and Guidelines for questions regarding general safety and specifically Vertebrate Animals, Research Involving Humans, Biohazards, and other Hazards. Research involving Vertebrate Animals and Humans have additional rules, regulations, and guidelines which must be complied with.  See information in the ISEF Rules and Guidelines for specific rules, regulations, and guidelines.


In addition to ISEF Rules and Guidelines, the GSDSEF:

  • prohibits projects involving tobacco; tobacco products; smokeless powder; black powder; explosives; the manufacture of rocket fuel and/or alcohol/other intoxicants or gasohol (or the production of these).
  • reserves the right to decline any project it deems unsafe.  
  • Any project requiring anything to be burned requires a Hazards Form. 



For questions about this GSDSEF Rule, please contact Steve Rodecker,



GSDSEF Participation Process

Go to Student-->How to Participate Page