We have just finished recording this year's Reith lectures - given by Lord Rees - or Martin Rees as he prefers to be called. There are four of them - broadly based on the title 'Scientific Horizons.' I've enjoyed them a lot. Martin is President of The Royal Society, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and Astronomer Royal. Amongst other things...
Martin was a natural for the Reiths - not least because the BBC as a whole is putting in a lot of effort on air this year to make it 'The Year of Science.' The lectures address the role of scientists, politicians, civil servants, journalists and the wider public in creating a more sophisticated debate about science and technolgy - in the hope of achieving more rational outcomes. The audience on each occasion has responded vigorously and there are some good jokes there too.
Lecture three is different - about cosmology and the limits of physics. There was an elegant argument about the notion of a fourth dimension and other life forms and about the different ways different scientists attack problems. In some ways science can be studied as very separate disciplines. You could see the generalists in the audience working hard - but (as with In Our Time) enjoying it hugely. There were lots of scientists there too. It was recorded at The Royal Society - so a home fixture for Martin. David Willetts, the new Science Minister, came at short notice and gamely took a question on funding. Lord Drayson had been at the first lecture - on the night the coalition was formed. The lecture was recorded at the point Gordon Brown resigned and David Cameron walked into Number 10. The audience was captive but Martin had them paying attention. We updated them all at the end.
I moved the Reiths to 0900 a few years ago - with a Saturday evening repeat... Previously they had two evening slots. It seems to me that the Reiths remain a big BBC moment and should be placed in a peak slot. The audience has responded well. I think they will do so this year too.
Mark Damazer is Controller of BBC Radio 4
- This year's lectures will be broadcast on Tuesdays at 0900 on Radio 4 from 1 June and will be available as a podcast.
- The Reith team at Radio 4 have been taking pictures throughout. There are more pictures, taken at the third recording at the Royal Society here.
- Last year's Lectures, on morality and democracy, by Professor Michael Sandel are still available to listen to on the Radio 4 web site.
- The picture shows Lord Rees at the lectern for the first of this year's lectures. It was taken by a BBC photographer.