Does your science fair project involve humans or animals? 

Take the quiz to determine whether your project requires the completion of ethics forms, and if so, which forms you require.

Take the Ethics quiz

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)

After taking the ethics quiz, determine if you need ethics approval in order to qualify for GVRSF. If so, please follow the instructions below:

  1. Use the ethics quiz above to find out which policies and procedures apply to your project.
  2. Do you need to obtain INFORMED CONSENT from your participants? If so, write a Letter of Information and print out permission forms to give to your participants. You can download both documents below.
  3. Do you need to submit a RESEARCH PLAN? If so, download and complete the template below and e-mail it to the regional ethics coordinator at before starting your experiment.
  4. Ask your teacher supervisor to sign off on your project by filling out the appropriate APPROVAL FORM (download 4.1A, 4.1B, or 4.1C below).
  5. Put together a formal REQUEST FOR ETHICS APPROVAL with the appropriate forms attached, e.g. Form 4.1A/B/C, Letter of Information, permission form, etc.
    • Use the REQUEST FOR ADVICE OR RULING FORM to provide a description of your project or write this in the main body of your e-mail.
    • Attach all required forms as PDF files. The GVRSF ethics coordinator will not be able to access VSB OneDrive or SharePoint links
    • Identify yourself clearly — include your full name and school.
  6. E-mail your request to the GVRSF ethics coordinator ( and include your project partner, and your teacher supervisor.IMPORTANT! Please include everyone on all e-mails related to ethics approval. This allows everyone to stay in the loop.
  7. Check your  e-mail regularly for updates on the status of your ethics approval request. Once approved, insert a screenshot of this e-mail and your completed ethics approval forms into your project PowerPoint presentation.

What to include with your ethics approval request


Send one e-mail with all the necessary documents attached (use PDF, not OneDrive links) and provide specific details about your experiment from the start. This will significantly reduce the number of follow-ups required.


Request for advice or ruling ethics committee (Word) | You are not required to use this template, but you should provide the information indicated and address the questions on page 2.

Use of Animals — Research Plan (Word) | This form is only required for projects involving vertebrate animals or cephalopods.


Attach PDF copies of your Letter of Information and a blank consent form with your ethics approval e-mail request. Completed permission forms should be treated like fieldtrip forms, i.e. these should be kept in a secure place and shredded once science fair is over.

Letter of Information template (.docx) | NOTE: If your experiment has not yet received ethics approval, simply state “Request for ethics approval submitted and awaiting reply” or “Ethics approval in progress” for section 10.

Participant Permission Form (.docx) |


Attach the appropriate approval form (filled in with signatures) to your ethics approval e-mail request. Give one copy of this form to your teacher supervisor. Not sure which form to use? Consult this GVRSF ethics flowchart.

Participation of Humans in Research – Low Risk Approval Form (Formerly 4.1A)

Participation of Humans in Research – Significant Risk Approval Form (Formerly 4.1B)

Use of Vertebrate Animals in Research Approval (Formerly 4.1C)

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 Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair (GVRSF) 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 GVRSF.

Complete guidelines regarding the use of humans and animals in student research projects as follows:

2016 GVRSF Ethics Flow Chart


If you have questions, require an ethics committee review of a Research Plan, or require an ethics committee signature on Form 4.1A or 4.1B, please download this form and email it to our ethics team

We are happy to provide advice during a project’s development and hope we can work with you to ensure that our fair is adherent to Youth Science Canada’s ethics policies.

Credits: The GVRSF would like to acknowledge Ms. Chan from the VDSF for compiling the aforementioned instructions. Links and instructions have been amended to be relevant to GVRSF.

Last updated: October 15, 2023