The Good Science Project

The Good Science Project is a College-wide initiative aiming to promote debate about contemporary research culture. We aim to celebrate the ideals which brought us in to science, and by which we hope to work. And we look with a critical eye at the way Imperial College can best support our own good practice. 

What is ‘good science’?

What is ‘good science’? And what is ‘good practice’? These phrases are interesting because they point in two directions. On the one hand there is the ‘headline’ success of institutions: grants won, league tables scaled, top journals stormed, media time guaranteed, parliamentary questions asked.  We know too that ‘good science’ suggests also something quieter, less public, more intimate. ‘Good science’ may be the moments of reflection where you have time to consider the direction your work is taking. It may be those conversations with colleagues that are both trustful and creative. Good science may be the style of work where collegiality is valued above straight ambition. Undoubtedly good science is linked to the steady and secure development of your skills. Overall we need our institutions to be successful: otherwise there can be no science. But for the ideas to flow, researchers need time and they need autonomy. How can we get the balance right, and so produce the research culture that helps us all flourish?

 What we’ve achieved so far …

On September 27th 2023 we organised a major conference, The Day of Doubt, to examine and affirm the importance of doubt as a resource for good science. 280 members of the College filled the Sir Alexander Building, with the day introduced by Professor Mary Ryan (Vice-Provost, Research and Enterprise), Sir Paul Nurse FRS, director of the Francis Crick institute, and Professor Ian Walmsley FRS, Provost of Imperial College. The day was structured to be as conversational as possible, with ample opportunity to discuss such features of research culture as excellence, public engagement and interdisciplinarity.

 Next steps …

 The Good Science Project is now planning the next season of Friday Forums, congenial lunchtime discussions on some aspect of research culture. Past Friday Forums have included debates on the importance of technicians, on the science-politics interface, and on the role of architecture and design in producing happy and successful laboratories.

Friday Forums to note in your diary …

  1. Friday February 16th 2024, 12:20 – 14:00. Science on the Move/Nauka Emigrantka. A panel discussion and audience Q and A on the issues – scientific and cultural – that impact on researchers who choose to work abroad. With Urszula Kaczorowska, Polish Press Agency and Dr Szymon Drobniak, Jagiellonian University, Krakow.
  2. Friday March 1st, 2024, 12:20 – 14:00. Museums and the Arts: What is their Role in Science Innovation? How can the fields of art and science make common cause in the research life, both for scientists and artists? With Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Professor Ken Arnold, director of Medical Museion, Copenhagen, and Daksha Patel, artist.
  3. Friday March 8th, 2024, 12:20 – 14:00. Big Science/Little Science. What are the differences between devoting yourself to a smaller problem and a smaller lab, rather than to a big problem and a big team? With Professor Frank Kelly, Battcock Chair in Community Health and Policy, Imperial College.
  4. Friday May 10th, 2024, 12:20 – 14:00. The Ages of Science. How does your age affect the way you do your science? How do your values change, as you move through the science career? When we look back at our careers, or look forward, what ideas emerge? With Professor Denis Wright, Professor Emeritus in parasitology, and others (tbc) including a Sixth Former, a PhD student and a team PI.
  5. Friday May 17th, 2024, 12:20 – 14:00. What do Undergraduates Need to Know about Science Research Culture? As Imperial explores the concept of sustainability as something that foregrounds all its work, we look at how the UG curriculum can best link up with new thinking on research culture. With Dr Stephen Webster, Eliot Stoclet and Milan Paczai (Co-leads, Imperial+)

Friday Forums are open to all, are free and include lunch. The 2024 season is currently in development, and if you would like to contribute ideas, or join a panel, please contact Stephen Webster directly (