Oral history of British science
Davies, David (Part 10 of 12). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, Salisbury
Davies, David, 1939- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 10: Description of unsuitable papers submitted to ‘Nature’. Comments on submissions from private addresses. Mentions James Lovelock, HJ. [5:01] Comments on commission of review articles; ‘articles’ and ‘letters’; pre-JM tradition of communication/recommendation of papers; development of referee system by JM; roles of biology editor (Peter Newmark [PN]) and physical sciences editor (Stuart Sharrock [SS]). Mentions assistance of WG. Description of process of receiving/processing submissions. Comments on interest in breath/interdisciplinary in ‘Nature’; recruitment of referees. [13:21] Comments on influence of comments of two referees; decisions of PN/SS. Mentions own lack of involvement in choice of papers; response times. [16:41] Comments on separation of board of directors from decisions on content of ‘Nature’, with story of exception concerning paper on Loch Ness Monster. Comments on aim of ‘Nature’ to publish novel, eye-catching science; role of foreign referees; attempts to insist on brevity, involving subediting. Story of Maurice Wilkes’ refusal to accept contraction of his own submission. Comments on own concern for brevity/maximisation of space. [26:20] Comments on circulation of ‘Nature’ during own editorship; limited promotion efforts. Story of development of advertising in Nature by Ray Barker. [34:30] Mentions republication of doctored version of ‘Nature’ in Soviet Union/Eastern Europe; criticism of treatment of scientists in Soviet Union. Comments on own interest in nuclear arms control; submission of papers from China; claims of Chinese seismologists to have predicted an earthquake, mid 1970s. [39:44] Comments on effect of unionisation/strikes on production of ‘Nature’. [40:47] Mentions lack of progress in nuclear arms control, 1970s. Comments on detonation of first nuclear weapon by/in India; development of nuclear weapons by Israel. Mentions US testing of UK nuclear weapons; development of satellite monitoring of nuclear weapon tests. [43:23] Comments on perception of lack of influence of editorials, including own for ‘Nature’; tendency for scientists not to respond to a privileged access to information by engaging in political/moral debate. [49:25] Comments on limits to influence on own political/ethical views of Quaker meetings/interest. [53:03] Comments on lack of discussion in ‘Nature’ office of role of women in science. Mentions contributor Joe Schwartz. [56:18] Comments on national/international travel in role as ‘Nature’ editor. Brief story of visit to the White House, Washington, US; visits to Australia/India. Description of environment of nuclear laboratories, Bombay. Story of demonstration of Indian photocopier, illustrating valuing of creation of employment. [1:03:52] Mentions visits to office French science magazine, La Recherche; conferences hosted by German company, Boehringeringelheim; visit Institute of Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy; conference on science and technology, Algeria; United Nations [UN] conference on development of ‘developing world’ science and technology, Vienna. Mentions reliance on ‘Nature’ staff for running of journal, by late 1970s. [1:08:22] Mentions family home, Bleackheath/Lewisham, London. Mentions birth of son, Ben, 1976; birth of fourth child, 1982. Comments on commute to ‘Nature’ office. [1:09:36] Comments on effect on family of foster children. Story of fostering Tony; home birth of Ben. Comments on friendship with violinist Howard Davies and family; career of wife’s friend David Simpson. [1:16:55] Story of music making, 1970s, including establishment of Blackheath orchestra and chorus, establishment of Blackheath Opera Workshop. Mentions involvement of opera director Jan Koene [JK]. Brief story of meeting JK. Mentions open air operas staged. [1:21:00] Comments on decisions to leave ‘Nature’, 1979, with related story of pay review; reasons for not returning to scientific research; contemporary difficulty of entering the scientific civil service/civil service generally. Story of invitation to apply Directorship of Boston Museum of Science, US. [1:26:52] Comments on posts considered, 1979; preference for leadership of a small team. Story of reasons for losing interest in Vice Chancellorship of the Open University. Mentions interest in English National Opera. Story of spotting in 1979 advertisement for Directorship of Dartington North Devon Trust [DNDT], Barnstaple, North Devon. Mentions referees for application: JH/JK. Brief comments on financial consequences of move to DHT. Story of interview. Mentions establishment of DNDT bank. [1:34:44] Positive comments on Chairman of DNDT, Michael Young (Lord Young of Dartington) [MY], including previous career/achievements. Comments on appointment, with related stories.
Interview with geophysicist Dr David Davies