The Imaging Science Group (ISG) was formed in 1920 under its original name of the ‘Scientific and Technical Group’ of the RPS. It is one of several Special Interest Groups of The Royal Photographic Society. The Group’s fields of interest cover all aspects of the science and technology of imaging, embracing both conventional photography and electronic imaging with image analysis, aerial and satellite technology and much more. The Group channels these interests in three main directions, scientific publications, scientific meetings and education. The Group plays a major role in the Society’s scientific publication, the Imaging Science Journal.
When it was founded in 1853, the stated aim of the Photographic Society (later to become “Royal”) was to “promote the Art and Science of Photography” and its earliest meetings and publications clearly show that that the latter aim was considered to be an important reason for its existence. Early photographic science was carried out primarily by “Victorian gentlemen” scientists but with the advent of large commercial photographic companies (e.g. Wratten and Wainwright, Croydon, in 1878; Eastman Photographic Materials Company Limited, London, in 1889) this progressively became more industrial based.
The Imaging Science Group (ISG) was formed in 1920 (we had a 75th ‘birthday party’ at the Royal Society in March 1995) under the original name of the ‘Scientific and Technical Group’ of the RPS.
The people involved in it at that time were largely scientists and technicians working in the photographic manufacturing industry, notably for Ilford or Kodak, or any one of the relatively large number of smaller photographic companies which existed at the time. It was formed primarily to produce Photographic Abstracts, a publication that was supported financially by the photographic industry. The Group also provided a forum for the discussion of photographic science and regular evening meetings were held in London at the then RPS HQ.
As a result of the growing interest in photographic science fostered by these discussions, The Photographic Journal, which had been published continuously by the RPS almost since its inception, began to be published in two sections – Phot.J. (A), devoted to pictorial photography and matters of general interest to members of the RPS, and Phot.J. (B) which contained ‘technical’ contributions. In order to clarify the basically scientific nature of the latter journal (i.e. with peer-reviewed, academically sound papers) its name was changed to the Journal of Photographic Science (JPS). More recently, in 1997 the journal was again renamed as the Imaging Science Journal in order to reflect coverage of all modern forms of imaging.
Since its inception, the ISG has had very close links with a formal Committee of the RPS, the Science Committee. The ‘original’ Science Committee was a curious arrangement in that it only occasionally came into being. When it did it was almost the same in terms of membership as the S&T Group Committee; the only difference was the addition of the RPS Secretary and the President of the Society. It was formally responsible for the publication of JPS and for the organisation of conferences – for which the ISG acted as its agent.
The Group evolved significantly over the years following WW2. One reason for the changes was that the Companies that had been supportive of the Group, in particular by providing financial support for Phot. Abs., had begun to question the need for (and cost of) their involvement.
The then Group Secretary, Chris Roberts suggested that the technical meetings of the Group could be made into large-scale international conferences which could generate sufficient profit to support Phot. Abs. This initiative was successful in that the Group conferences not only provided the necessary backing for the Journal but also generated a large number of technical papers for publication in the JPS.
The membership of the Group was also changing throughout this period. It began to attract the interest and involvement of academics, the police, armed services and other government institutions (as reflected in the present composition of the Group Committee). Commercial competition grew, and with it came commercial confidentiality – trade secrecy – which has had a continuing impact on the exchange of technical information.
In the early 1990's the name of the Group was changed from the ‘Scientific & Technical Group’ to the ‘Imaging Science & Technology Group’ (IS&T Group), the emphasis being on ‘imaging’ rather than just photography. Subsequently the name was shortened to the ‘Imaging Science Group’, in order to avoid confusion with the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, based in the USA, which had also changed its name and was commonly referred to as the IS&T.
At about the same time it was suggested by the RPS Executive and the ISG Committee (amongst others) that there was a need for properly regulated ‘vocational’ qualifications for those engaged professionally in the science and technology of imaging in general, to complement the distinctions available for photographic practice. One driving force behind this interest in qualifications concerned the matter of reciprocal recognition of professional competence throughout Europe. To establish suitable qualifications it was found necessary to re-establish a reformed Science Committee, appointed by the RPS Council rather than elected by the members of any particular Group. So the ‘new’ Science Committee came into being. Initially its primary role was to establish the vocational qualifications scheme and to act as an advisory body to the RPS Executive. Its relation to the IS&T Group and subsequently the ISG is largely undefined in any formal sense except that the Group Committee is elected and manages its own finances whereas the Science Committee is a body appointed by the Society and, as such, has no resources of its own. Some commonality of members ensures their work is complementary and responsibilities are divided as appropriate.
The ISG is actively involved in the convening of various scientific meetings. In recent years the tendency has been to concentrate on one-day meetings with fairly tightly defined topics but residential conferences are also convened which are intended to provide a forum for imaging science in general. The IS Group also co-sponsors meetings with other organisations with similar interests, examples of recent collaborators are EFSI (European Federation for the Scientific Image), the UK Thermographic Association, the Association for High Speed Photography and Photonics, the Forensic Society and IAG (International Gelatin Association).
To view archived presentations and reports from our events please click here.
To view other presentations made at recent Imaging Science Group events, or by Group members, please click here.
The Imaging Science Journal (formerly the Journal of Photographic Science) is published jointly by the RPS and Maney Publishing. The editor of this publication is ex-officio member of the Group Committee and forms a communication channel between the active scientists of the Society and the publishers. A number of members of the IS Group are also members of the Editorial Board of the ISJ and assist with the development of editorial policy as well as the peer review of submitted papers.
What was at one time (until 1991) an independent Group of the RPS, the Aerospace Imaging Group (originally the Aerial Group), is now a special interest section of the IS Group although it still regularly holds its own meetings under the aegis of the Society.
The IS Group is able to nominate candidates for the various Awards of the Society. In particular, the Group has regularly nominated recipients of the most prestigious of the Awards, The Progress Medal. Mention should also be made of the Selwyn Award, which is sponsored by the Group, and is given each year in recognition of an outstanding contribution to imaging science made by someone under thirty-five years old. The other major Award for which nominations have been successfully made by the Group is the Davies Medal, which is awarded for outstanding contributions to digital imaging science. It has often been the case that the Group has successfully nominated recipients of Honorary Fellowships as well as the Fenton Medal, which is awarded for services to the Society.
With the establishment of the new Science Committee and the Imaging Scientist Qualifications Board, the routine management of the examination of candidates is not part of the remit of the IS Group. However, a number of members of the Group are also members of the Board and therefore contribute to the on-going development of the qualifications scheme.