Ethics in Research

Ethics and Safety in Student Research

The Central New Mexico Science & Engineering Research Challenge is committed to the safety of the students and the ethical treatment of human participants as well as animal subjects. The event also conforms with State and National legislation, rules, and regulations regarding laboratory and research subject ethics and safety. Learning about accepted research standards is part of the experience a student gains when participating in a Science Fair. We also comply with the ISEF Rules & Regulations which are available from their website.

Why All These Rules for a Simple Research Project?

The safety of student researchers and their research subjects is of the utmost importance. Participation in Science Fair projects exposes students to new issues of ethical risks and potential benefits, makes students consider humane treatment of humans as well as animals, and makes them aware of potential legal implications associated with their projects.

This may sound intimidating, but that is what we are here for! We help all students, parents, mentors/consultants, and teachers with these issues, and help insure that they are aware of potential risks in their projects.

Risk assessment is an integral part of the Intel ISEF Rules and Forms and is intended to provide student researches the opportunity to consider the risks involved in a project and the precaution that must be put in place.

Early in any project, students and their teachers/sponsors must answer the following ethical/safety questions regarding their project:

Am I studying humans? Is there a physical or psychological risk to my human subjects?

Am I studying animals? Will I treat my mice or frogs humanely?

Am I using chemicals, lasers, hazardous devices/activities, or controlled substances in my project?

Am I using hazardous biological agents, such as pathogens in my project?

Perhaps my project does not use any humans, animals or hazardous substances. What procedures do I follow?

Every science project has a basic set of forms which will be included with every student’s proposal. If the proposal involves humans, animals, potentially hazardous biological agents,or hazardous substances/devices/activities, an additional set of forms, called protocol forms, and their accompanying approval process by a Scientific Review Committee (SRC), must be included in order to participate in the Research Challenge.

If the project involves human participants, your proposal packet must include the forms for review by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

If vertebrate animals are part of the project, your proposal packet must include the forms for review by the Regional Scientific Review Committee Animal Reviewers here at UNM.

The boards and committees for this year’s New Mexico Research Challenge projects are found at: Board and Committees. The Intel ISEF has its own boards and committees that will re-review the same forms and proposals originally submitted for the Central New Mexico Research Challenge.

The application process in this website contains detailed information about what forms and what reviews are necessary in the Forms Finder page. It is important to note that the forms and accompanying SRC approval processes needs to be in place BEFORE any data collection can begin for projects requiring prior approval by a Scientific Review Committee and or Institutional Review Board.

For projects involving hazardous substances/devices/activities, Form 3 – Risk Assessment must be in place before any chemicals, agents, controlled substances or other hazardous items are procured. The Risk Assessment identifies safety issues that may be involved with a project and outlines, in detail, how those risks will be addressed appropriately by the student researcher and/or the adult supervising the project.

Ethics and Prizes

Students have the opportunity to compete for prize money and awards each year. Additionally, many projects are chosen to move on to regional and state competition. It is critical that we maintain a high degree of integrity in the research that is conducted at our school and in our programs. The following list includes behaviors which are NOT allowed, and infractions that can result in significant consequences up to and including disqualification from competition or stripping of awards if infractions are discovered after the competition.

Not following the procedure(s) in the approved experimental design. This does not include minor logistical and other convenience alterations, but applies to changes that may affect human safety and privacy, humane treatment of animals, property damage, liability issues, protocols and regulations, or the intent of the project. When in doubt, please talk with your teacher and/or an SRC member. Violations of any of these rules will result in a zero score on the project as well as return of all money, awards, plaques, and other recognition that may have been won.

Misrepresenting experimental results in any way, which includes the following:

  • Altering collected data
  • Adding trials that were not performed
  • Any other form of data fabrication (don’t make up your data…)

Claiming credit for work not done by the student. If it’s not your work or idea, make sure you cite the proper owner.

Making up the entire project.

Conducting the project before SRC approval, if it is required as part of your topic. This does not include preliminary background research done (literature searches) for hypothesis development.

Forging or backdating any signatures on required paperwork.

Human subjects: Not following the exact protocol submitted on Form 4 and in the project design. This is particularly important because of Federal regulations governing human subject research.