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Aug 16

David Dickson’s legacy

Reposted from scidev.net.

David Dickson“David Dickson (1947-2013), the founding director of SciDev.Net, has died suddenly, we have sadly learnt. David founded SciDev.Net as a science news service for the developing world in 2001.

The organisation originated from a project set up by news staff at the journal Nature (with financial assistance from the Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom) to report on the World Conference on Science, in Budapest, in 1999. This was well received, leading to the creation of a permanent website devoted to reporting on, and analysing the role of, science and technology in development.

David’s vision, which he carefully guided as the website’s editor for more than a decade, grew into the world’s leading source of reliable and authoritative news, views and analysis on information about science and technology for global development. David retired in 2012, but everyone who has worked at SciDev.Net feels a very strong attachment to the mission that he created. Through the website, David worked with countless journalists, editors, experts and many others over the years, building capacity for free and objective reporting on science and development. He was honoured for his work by his colleagues last year, when he received the lifetime achievement award from the Association of British Science Writers. As one colleague there put it: “His SciDev.Net was a brilliant creation, and he was always driven to nurture and grow new talent — in his later years this extended to young science writers from around the globe.”

Before founding SciDev.Net, David spent many years at Nature, as its Washington correspondent and later as news editor. He also worked on the staffs of Science and New Scientist, specialising in reporting on science policy. He started a career in journalism as a sub-editor, following a degree in mathematics.

David will be missed by his friends and colleagues alike, but his legacy will live on.”

Mićo Tatalović
News Editor, SciDev.Net

Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/announcement/david-dickson.html

1 comment

  1. Barbara Harriss-White

    It is three months since David died.
    He had emailed me the day before, when I was away on holiday. I did not have the news for several weeks – and then it came as a terrible shock. I wish to send my sympathies to everyone who grieves for him all over the world. I knew him when we were both cub journalists in the 1960s on Varsity, the Cambridge University student newspaper – and remember how we jointly covered the opening of London’s ICA – the Institute of Contemporary Arts. At the time of his death he was advising on dissemination of the results of our pilot project on greenhouse gases in India’s informal economy:
    http://www.southasia.ox.ac.uk/resources-greenhouse-gases-technology-and-jobs-indias-informal-economy-case-rice
    We are all grateful for his advice.

    I would like to pay tribute to David Dickson not only as a very creative science journalist and a leader in his field but also as an historian of science and technology. He leaves a fine legacy there too.

    In the 1970s there was lively debate among scholars of development about the forcing of INappropriate technology on developing countries. These debates were steamrollered by liberalisation and then globalisation and are no longer much discussed or taught. These days we remember Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’, but at the time David’s1974 book ‘Alternative Technology and the Politics of Technical Change’ (Fontana Collins) provided a clearer political analysis of inappropriate technology in a language that all could understand whatever their disciplinary backgrounds. His book should be read again now for the arguments about technologies appropriate to their economic endowments are being revived in the context of climate change and a low carbon transition.

    I do not know how many books as opposed to articles David wrote but the second one I would like to celebrate is 1984/88 The New Politics of Science Chicago, (Univ of Chicago Press). David told me it had never been out of print – – and deservedly so. It takes for case study the cusp of the neo-liberal era in the USA under Reagan and systematically explores the feedback relationships between science, industry and the state. It is a very important and meticulously researched scholarly work exposing the development of the nexus of private interests which now dominates all three sectors. He was clear in his warning about the threat this posed to research in the public interest – to which he devoted his lamentably short life.

    Do read these two books. They both stand the test of time.

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