< Submission Guidelines

Vertebrate Animal / Human-Subjects Research

What Needs Research Approval?

All research published in JEI must adhere to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) guidelines for ethical research involving vertebrate animals and human subjects. In most cases, this involves obtaining approval for your project from either a Scientific Review Committee (SRC), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), or Institutional Review Board (IRB) before beginning your research.

What is an SRC?

SRC: a group of people who review each research project to ensure that it meets ethical standards and complies with all legal requirements

An SRC is composed of at least 3 people, including a medical professional with research experience (for human-subjects research) or PhD-level biomedical scientist (for vertebrate animal research), an educator, and a school administrator. The SRC cannot include a parent, research supervisor/mentor, or anyone who is an author of the submitted manuscript.

What is an IRB/IACUC?

IRB/IACUC: a group of people associated with a federally regulated research institution

All research conducted at a regulated research institution should have been reviewed and approved by the appropriate IRB (for human-subjects research) or IACUC (for vertebrate animal research) prior to the beginning of the study.

If you are conducting research with vertebrate animals or human subjects, click below for more details.

SRC or IRB Approval

All studies that involve vertebrate animals must be approved before the beginning of the research project by a Scientific Review Committee (SRC) or Institutional Review Board (IRB), except in cases where all the following conditions apply:

  • There is no interaction with the animals being observed
  • There is no manipulation of the animals' environment
  • The study meets all federal and state agriculture, fish, game, and wildlife regulations

Veterinarian / Animal Care Experts

These types of projects must be pre-approved by an SRC in which at least one member is a veterinarian or animal care expert with training and/or experience with the species being studied, and they must only use non-invasive methods that do not negatively affect and animal's health or well-being.

Where can vertebrate animal research be performed?

All studies involving vertebrate animals must be performed in a regulated research institution and must be approved by that institution’s IRB except for the following cases:

  • Studying animals in their natural environment or in a zoo, with no intentional interference from the student researcher
  • Studies of fish or livestock that use standard agricultural practices

Additional Documents

Projects involving vertebrate animal and/or human research require additional documents for submission.

SRC or IRB Approval

All studies involving human subjects (including interviews and surveys) must be approved by an SRC or IRB before the project begins, with the following exceptions:

  • Projects use data from a pre-existing dataset that is published and/or publicly available, and do not involve any interaction with humans or the collection of any new data from human participants
  • Study uses behavioral observations only, in a public setting (e.g. shopping mall, public park), and ALL the following apply:
    • Student researcher has no interaction with the individuals being studied
    • Student researcher does not manipulate the environment in any way
    • Student researcher does not record any personally identifying data

Informed Consent from Participants

Additionally, most studies must obtain written permission from each human subject before they participate in research. If any of the subjects are minors, written consent is required from both the participant and their parent/guardian. In certain cases, the SRC/IRB may waive this requirement if they determine that the project involves only minimal risk (either physical or emotional) and does not involve the collection of any personal information. Please see the full ISEF guidelines for human-subjects research for a more comprehensive description of requirements and SRC/IRB review criteria.

While we follow ISEF guidelines in general, there is one notable exception where JEI has stricter guidelines. If the student author(s) is/are the only human subject(s) involved in the research project we DO require IRB/SRC approval for these studies. This is to ensure that the student(s) is/are not proposing any experiments that may be harmful to them physically or mentally.

Additional Documents

Projects involving vertebrate animal and/or human research require additional documents for submission.