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.

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. 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?

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. Part of the conference was filmed and, for those interested in thinking more about ‘doubt in science’, here are some edited highlights. The conference was accompanied by a booklet, A Memo on Doubt (PDF).

Next steps ... join us for our new season of Friday Forums

The Good Science Project is now running a new 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 are open to all, are free and include lunch. If you would like to contribute ideas, or join a panel, please contact Stephen Webster directly.