Institutional Review Board (IRB)

An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that, according to federal regulations (45-CFR-46), must evaluate the potential physical and/or psychological risk of research involving human subjects. All proposed human research must be reviewed and approved by an IRB before experimentation begins. This includes review of any surveys or questionnaires to be used in a project.


Federal regulations require local community involvement. Therefore, it is advisable that an IRB be established at the school level to evaluate human research projects. If necessary, the local or Intel ISEF-affiliated SRC can serve as an IRB as long as it has the required membership. An IRB must:

  1. Consist of a minimum of three members.
  2. Include an educator.
  3. Include a school administrator (preferably principal or vice principal).
  4. Include an individual who is knowledgeable about and capable of evaluating the physical and/or psychological risk involved in a given study. This may be a medical doctor, physician’s assistant, registered nurse, psychologist, licensed social worker or licensed clinical professional counselor.

Additional Expertise: If an expert is not available in the immediate area, documented contact with an external expert is recommended. A copy all correspondence with the expert (e.g. emails) must be attached to Form 4 and can be used in lieu of the signature of that expert.

No Adult Sponsor, parent or other relative of the student, the Qualified Scientist, or Designated Supervisor who oversee the project may serve on the IRB reviewing that project. Additional members are recommended to help avoid a potential conflict of interest and to increase the expertise of the committee.