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

The Good Science Project is a collaboration between the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) and the Science Communication Unit. It is funded by Research England.

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. 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?

 

Our activities

1. The Triptych of Science
Currently in development, The Triptych of Science is an artwork made by a group of Imperial scientists, working under the guidance of artist-in-residence Ella Miodownik. Our Triptych, due for exhibition at the end of July, is an exploration of the life scientific, especially in relation to issues of time, balance and emotion. Just as in science, where instruments and theories serve to reveal aspects of nature, so the Triptych of Science will trace out and illuminate the intimate details of laboratory life. 

2. The Friday Forums
We have just finished our 2023-2024 series of Friday Forums, congenial lunchtime discussions that focus on a particular aspect of research culture. Topics included ‘The Ages of Science’, a debate about the way our science changes as we age; ‘Big Science/Little Science’, a look at the advantages and disadvantages of working in big groups; and ‘Art/Museums/Science’, a survey of the ways different elements of culture can contribute to scientists’ working lives.

Friday Forums are brief intervals in our busy day, and give scientists the opportunity to step back for a short hour, so as to consider wider perspectives on their craft. Lunch is provided, outside speakers allow for yet broader glimpses, and it is a strict rule that half of the time is given over to audience discussion. Many of the Friday Forums are described on our blog pages.

We are now planning the 2024-2025 series of Friday Forums, which will include sessions on the ethics of animal models, new developments in science metrics, the relation between religious faith and research culture, and the relation between the natural sciences and the social sciences at imperial College. If you have a suggestion for a Friday Forum topic, please contact Dr Stephen Webster directly.

 

Looking back: The Day of Doubt

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. The day was filmed and you can view the different sections of the conference on YouTube. The conference booklet, called A Memo on Doubt (PDF), is also available.