What happens when a cancer research institute's only remit is to be the best it can be? For more than 100 years, one laboratory in London has operated on just that premise. With a generous budget, inspired leadership, and a stable of scientific thoroughbreds, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories produced some of the 20th century's most exciting advances in molecular biology. In its 21st century incarnation, as the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, it continues to inspire a new generation of researchers.

In this book, written with the assistance of the past and present inhabitants of the London Research Institute, Kathy Weston tells the inside story of the lab's greatest voyages into the scientific unknown, revealing the personalities behind the dry passive voice of the scientific paper. Science is an art, a vocation, a complicated landscape of data in which, just sometimes, the trained and alert eye can detect a glint of gold. In these pages, the gold is present, but equally to be treasured are the all-too-human scientists stumbling towards its seductive glimmer.

This website is a collaboration between the CRUK London Research Institute and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, providing the content of the book in HTML and PDF format. Access the book chapters by using the links below. If you'd prefer to purchase Blue Skies and Bench Space in print form, click here. All royalties from the sale of the book go towards ongoing research funded by Cancer Research UK.

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Kathy Weston's Blog

Writing science papers: plain English or cultural hegemony?

Sunday 19th October, 2014

“Always do what scares you” has been my mantra for most of my adult life, although to be honest I do have some exemption clauses relating to not wanting to break bones, die, or go anywhere near a snake. Intellectually though, it’s a decent rule to live by, as getting stuck in a comfortable rut … Continue reading >>

How to manage your lab (not)

Sunday 3rd August, 2014

The Personal Development Record, or PDR, is a document guaranteed to induce extreme scepticism in anyone doing bench science. Whilst enumeration of one’s expected achievements over the next year is realistic in some jobs, it is distinctly daft when it comes to doing experiments. I have a vision of Max Perutz filling out a PDR … Continue reading >>

Dr Weston’s twelve steps to conference success

Sunday 8th June, 2014

Here, just as the summer conference season begins once again, is my infallible guide to Scientific Conference Etiquette. 1. First, pick a good conference. Try not to be too swayed by where it is, although obviously, all other things being equal, if you have a choice of, say, Acapulco or a hotel at Heathrow Terminal … Continue reading >>