Standards for Science Fairs

The following standards have been established by Society staff based in consultation with fair directors from within the ISEF network. They were first drafted in 2012 and have been shared and discussed in multiple forums including the ISEF Advisory Council and at symposium sessions at ISEF each year. These standards are provided as best practices and a goal to achieve. We believe that it is an ongoing dialogue among the leadership of fairs within the affiliated fair network and welcome feedback or suggestions. Please contact us at


The Society’s Standards for Science Fairs offer best practices for the management of science fairs. The Standards are intended to provide guidance and expectations for the management of a science fair affiliated with ISEF. [1]

The Society’s Standards for Science Fairs describe how the most well-managed and responsibly-governed science fairs should, and do, operate. They provide benchmarks to determine how well a fair is fulfilling its obligations to those who benefit from its work and to provide core concepts and recommended policies from which a science fair will benefit.

The Society’s Standards for Science Fairs serve several important functions. Most important, they serve as a mechanism to improve individual fairs, thereby raising standards for science fairs as a whole. The purpose of the Standards is not to make all science fairs look alike. The Society respects the individual nature, character and traditions of each science fair. The diversity of our fairs in the audiences they reach, the territories they cover and their management and organizational structure enriches the global network of science fairs. Although the Standards for each affiliate fair are the same, there are significant differences in the ways fairs can adhere to them.


Indicators of Quality have been developed for each Standard. Neither the Indicators nor the Standards are to be used as a checklist. Rather, Indicators amplify a Standard and show possible ways that a science fair, fair director, board member, judge, participating teacher or student can demonstrate that a particular Standard is met. Indicators provide greater clarity regarding best practices for each Standard. Society-affiliated science fairs and those involved in their management are encouraged to expand upon the Indicators in order to emphasize unique characteristics of each fair.

Society-affiliated fairs represent a highly diverse group. The standards serve as expectations for quality in a science fair and as guidelines for improvement through planning and future development. The Indicators provide multiple ways to apply Standards. Although it is expected that all affiliated science fairs will meet the Standards, not all Indicators will apply to or be appropriate for each fair.

As the standards are developed, subsets of Indicators will be developed to enhance the standards. For instance, a fair’s management structure may affect its governance and finance standards. Likewise, state, national and multi-national fairs might have indicators that are specific to their multiple jurisdictions and additional considerations that would not apply to a local or regional fair. Each science fair uses only the Indicators that are applicable and appropriate for their situation.

[1] The structure and language of these standards are derived from the Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools, Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, “Standards for Educational Service Agencies” (© 2010), and is used with permission. Additionally, several of the indicators have a basis in the language of the Maryland Non-Profits Association’s, “Standards of Excellence.” These two guiding documents are based on fundamental values that apply to science fairs – fundamental values such as honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, compassion, responsibility, and accountability.



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