Embracing uncertainty: UKRI’s Dame Ottoline Leyser in conversation with RoRI’s James Wilsdon on doubt in research culture

RoRI’s Director James Wilsdon was in conversation with Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on today’s research culture and the values needed for today's science

The Day of Doubt conference, held at Imperial College London on September 27th 2023,  brought together leading scientists to debate doubt’s role as a resource for science and innovation.

In their session, James Wilsdon and Dame Ottoline Leyser discussed doubt as a resource and departure point in research, and pointed to the importance of complicating and disrupting existing narratives.

“The ability to hold alternative models is critical”, Dame Ottoline said. Researchers and scientists are often pushed into a corner where they are supposed to be certain about things about which there is inherently no certainty.

People are desperate for uncertainty to be eliminated

The trick is to create research environments where embracing alternatives is seen as a good thing. 

James and Dame Ottoline noted that we’ve reached a point in research culture where it’s useful to doubt the concept of excellence in its current narrow form, and shift towards supporting a whole range of different activities with a whole range of different outcomes – like having different approaches for funding models, or creating more diversity when it comes to research career paths.

The Day of Doubt conference was organised by The Good Science Project, an Imperal College London initiative. You can find out more about the project here.