MSEF Ethics Statement

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 Statement

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:

  • Complete all the necessary paperwork and permission forms, before, during and after experimentation honestly.
  • Document their work in a dated notebook recording development of the project including all references, procedures, original data and other relevant material.
  • Include a bibliography as part of their background research.
  • Cite the author of any original statement that is not their own.
  • Give credit to anyone giving assistance to the student. If another person(s) performed any part(s) of the experiment, data, collection, etc., credit must be given in the student’s journal/log, display, and report.

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.

Students MUST NOT:

  • In any way falsify a permission form or scientific paper.
  • Use another person’s results or thoughts as their own even with the permission of this person. This includes work done by a family member or a mentor.
  • Use information or data obtained from the internet without proper citation.
    • Enter a project for a second or third year with only minor changes.


Statement on Scientific Integrity
It is the expectation that the Ethics statement will be reviewed by students, teachers, parents, mentors, and supervisors so that they are individually and collectively aware of and monitoring for scientific integrity.
If an issue of concern arises related to scientific integrity or other grievance such that it needs to be brought to MSEF, the following process should be followed.
Email [email protected]
Subject: Grievance/ Accusation of wrong-doing
Body of email:
• Include your First and Last Name
• Your affiliation: school or company
• Your contact information (phone and email)
• The Fair at which the concern is placed/originated
• Indicate whether you are a: Student Participant, Parent, Teacher, Advisor/Mentor, or Concerned Citizen
• Please provide a brief description of the issue. Be sure to include your concern, any actions that have been taken, any responses received (or not), etc.
• Please indicate any other people that you have already spoken with about your concern.
Please note:
• Grievances shared more than 60 days after a Fair may not be possible to address, as MSEF does not have access to some
student paperwork after that time.
• MSEF will keep the identity of the reporting individual anonymous in any resulting communication
• MSEF is not obligated to share any subsequent details about the resolution with the individual/institution that issues the
• If action is warranted, MSEF will coordinate with the fair, teacher, and student for corrective action.
• If anonymous information is received, no action will be taken.

Use and Abuse of Artificial Intelligence
We recognize that there are new tools that can support idea generation, writing, and data collection. It is MSEF’s expectation that projects are always the students’ own work. Students and teachers can work together to determine if the use of supports that rely on artificial intelligence are appropriate for use. This should follow any school policies and be based on maintaining scientific integrity and avoiding plagiarism.

For additional information from the Society for Science, you can review the statement of Scientific Integrity for each national and international competition they host.