Arbitration/Appeals FAQ

What is the arbitration committee and what do they do?

VASO appoints a group of individuals with deep content knowledge and broad Science Olympiad experience for the purpose of adjudicating appeals brought forth by coaches in situations where the coach believes that one of their teams may have been the recipient of an unfair ruling.

The arbitration committee operates on the principles of fairness, impartiality, reasonableness and kindness. It considers both the letter and spirit of the rules and the various policies in its decision. Rulings made by the committee are final.

We recognize that competitors have put a great deal of time into their preparation. Similarly, coaches and Event Supervisors have also been giving of their time and energy. As such, questions around appeals can be charged. We ask all parties to be respectful and calm with one another at all times, even in disagreement.

Who may request an appeal?

Only coaches may request an appeal. Appeal requests will not be accepted from parents, event mentors, students or school administrators.

What kinds of situations are appropriate for an appeal?

In general, situations appropriate for an appeal are questions of rule interpretation and questions of procedures used in the tournament. We strongly recommend that coaches, parents and participants familiarize themselves with our Event Clarifications and Tournament Policies. Usually the building events are the largest source of appeals, since a team may not agree when its device is "tiered down" or disqualified. However, questions can be asked if inappropriate material appears on a subject test or a procedure is followed in conflict to the rules. Appeals are disallowed if filed based on how an event was run at another tournament.

What is the procedure for an appeal (for competitors)?

Competitors will be told by the Event Supervisor if a ruling is being made against them or their device (such as their device being tiered down for a construction violation). Competitors are encouraged to ask questions so they understand the ruling completely.

If a competitor has reason to believe there is cause for an appeal, the competitor needs to speak with their team coach as soon as possible. Coaches need to file an appeal within an hour after the team has finished competing in the event. Before a competitor speaks with their coach, they should review the rules, the clarifications and the policies and know exactly what rule, clarification, or procedure has been violated and how. If possible, competitors should accompany the coach back to the event supervisor as they discuss the issue raised.

BUILDING EVENTS: If the event is a building event, before leaving the competition area, the competitor must respectfully inform the Event Supervisor that they intend to discuss a possible appeal with their coach and ask to leave their device with the Event Supervisor. Usually this will result in replacing the device back into impound.

What is the procedure for an appeal (for coaches)?

Coaches will need to file an appeal within an hour of the end of the session in which the team competed in the event. When questioning your team member on the situation, be sure to review both rules and clarifications for the event.

The coach must first attempt to resolve the dispute directly with the Event Supervisor. If the coach remains genuinely dissatisfied with the results from meeting with the Event Supervisor, then the coach may present a written Appeals Form to the arbitration committee.

The coach must fully complete and sign the Appeals Form prior to submitting it to the Arbitration Committee. Using the form, the coach must:

  • Identify the specific rule, clarification, or procedure that is believed to have been misinterpreted or misapplied, including the specific page number and section from the rules manual (or the date of the clarification).
  • Describe how the rule or procedure was not followed.
  • Offer a suggestion of how the situation should be resolved. Describe the event supervisor's response or opinion.
  • Obtain the Event Supervisor's signature. Please do not interrupt the supervisor while the event is being judged.

If the Event Supervisor is otherwise engaged, the coach should simply request the event supervisor initial in the designated space on the Appeal Form to signal his acknowledgment of the appeal. The coach can then present the Appeals Form to the arbitration committee. The Event Supervisor or arbitration committee will communicate with the coach and resolve the appeal before event scoring is finalized.

A member of the arbitration committee will inform the coach once the ruling is made. Rulings of the arbitration committee are final.

What are the responsibilities of an Event Supervisor in an appeal situation?

  • Be well versed in all rules and clarifications.
  • Run the event and make judgments as fairly as possible, recognizing that we all make errors.
  • Kindly tell competitors if a ruling is being made against them or their device.
  • Answer any questions that competitors may have, remembering that it can be very difficult for competitors to speak up with an unknown adult.
  • Remind the competitors of the necessity of leaving the device (if applicable) with the Event Supervisor.
  • Find time to meet briefly with the coach and, if applicable, the appeals committee.

If too busy to resolve the coach's concerns during the event time, the event supervisor should initial on the appropriate section of the appeal form. This constitutes an acknowledge but not necessarily an acceptance of the coach's issue. The coach will submit this form to the arbitration committee, who will contact the event supervisor to resolve the appeal before the event score is finalized.