Research Ethics – Why Do We Need It?

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with right and wrong and the development of guidelines that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Scientists who carry out research projects involving humans or animals spend a lot of time thinking not only about the scientific content of their work, but also about the potential impact on the health, privacy, and dignity of the subjects participating in their studies.

All projects at the Ottawa Regional Science Fair (ORSF) must meet the Youth Science Canada ethics policies, which also apply to projects at the national Canada-Wide Science Fair. We encourage students and teachers to become familiar with these guidelines – not only to avoid disqualification and disappointment, but also to understand the basic principles of research ethics.

Ethics Policies

Youth Science Canada (YSC) has developed ethics policies that apply
to science fair projects completed by all elementary and high school
students in Canada. You must follow these guidelines in order to qualify
for participation in the ORSF.

Does your science fair project involve humans or animals?

You will need to determine if you need ethics approval in order to qualify for ORSF. Please review the guidelines below.

Ethics approval is not required in the following cases:

  • experiments involving invertebrates (e.g. mealworms, earthworms, waxworms, silkworms, fruit flies) or single-celled micro-organisms (e.g. diatoms)
  • observations of subjects in a public place without identifying them (e.g. counting pedestrians at an intersection)
  • testing personal care products on synthetic samples (e.g. testing shampoo on synthetic hair or yarn)
  • using data from an open database (just requires proper citation)

How to determine what you need to do

Look at this guide; it will help you work through the ethics requirements of your project and figure out the approvals you need to get.

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Special Mentions

The Graham Family Foundation