Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair, Inc. has adopted an ethics statement that each student is required to adhere to and will be asked to sign as a part of the research plan and application process.
The primary reason that science/engineering project work enables such a wide range of learning to take place for each individual student is that the students themselves “own the question”. Students pose a scientific/engineering problem and seek the necessary avenues to find a solution. When students work with a mentor either at school, in a lab or wherever project work takes place, adults working with students should bear in mind that it is the student’s project. The mentor’s job is to help students acquire background information; teach the techniques required to test the purpose or hypothesis and above all to look out for the safety of young scientists.
The mentor should not suggest or assign a specific topic to the student (the idea must come from the student), take data for the student (unless the student is willing to give credit to the data taker and does not claim the data as their own) or analyze the data for the student. These actions take away the opportunity for students to do these activities on their own and devalue student science/engineering project work in general. The motive for introducing science and engineering projects to young people is to help encourage responsible future scientists. The behavior of adult mentors should model the honesty and integrity expected of scientists in our world.
Before experimentation begins each student is required to complete a Research Plan, which includes signing the Ethics Statement that the student will, “adhere to all MSEF/ISEF rules when conducting research.” Students may compete in only one MSEF affiliated fair, except when proceeding to the state fair from their affiliated Regional Fair. Students are only eligible to compete in their assigned science and engineering fair region, which is determined by the MSEF. The student(s) will be judged only on the most recent year’s research.
Any act of plagiarism associated with science project work exhibited at the Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair will lead to disqualification. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines plagiarize as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (a created production) without crediting the source: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.”
In terms of science/engineering project work this means the student MUST:
In the lab – It is generally assumed that work discussed at science and engineering fairs is the work of the student. When this is not the case the student needs to make this very clear in their oral and written presentations of the project.
Photographs and Visuals – Any photographs included in the student’s paper or on their presentation board are assumed to have been taken by the student. Any photographs NOT taken by the student MUST be clearly labeled giving credit to the photographer. This includes any visuals taken from magazines, newspapers, journals, the internet or texts where appropriate permission must be solicited and included. The use of photographs of persons requires a photo release signed by the subject, and if under 18 years of age, also by the guardian of the subject. Sample consent text: “I consent to the use of visual images, (photos, videos, etc.) involving my participation/my child’s participation in the research.”
Scientific/engineering 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 and MSEF reserves the right to revoke recognition of a project subsequently found to have been fraudulent.