Wow. Roger Highfield, who has been at the Daily Telegraph for 22 years, is leaving to edit New Scientist (for which I still have a lot of residual affection, having written for it during one of my years of freelancing, and worked there from 1992-95).

NS is a great mag: it’s one of four that I read regularly, every week. (The others are Business Week, the New Yorker, and the Economist.)

But the fact that Roger’s going – wow. It’s perhaps indicative of the Telegraph becoming a place he doesn’t want to work at any more (after all, it’s not often that one leaves a job because one is completely satisfied). Though of course I’m sure he felt this was too good to pass up.

The quote in the press release is interesting:

I am especially grateful to my editor, William Lewis, for the exciting and unprecedented opportunities he has given me to explore what the web has to offer journalism.

Though he may have decided that what the Telegraph had to offer science journalism – after the integration of the Sunday and daily science desks – wasn’t quite to his taste. (I don’t know, because I haven’t spoken to him. Come on, Roger, tell all.)

I’m intrigued, though: was the job advertised? Or was this done on the quiet?

Roger though was always the person who, at the exhausting week-long British Association for the Advancement of Science festival in September would be first there on Sunday night – usually having filed a story or two on the way – and one of the last there on the Friday, when he’d also organise a collection for the tireless workers in the backroom who kept the whole BAAS machine, especially in the press office, ticking over. You can argue about whether the BAAS is worth going to (doesn’t produce real stories) but the people who kept it going and served up scientists and speakers for us hacks deserved huge medals.

(And don’t doubt that the BAAS is exhausting for hacks. A week of 8.30am starts, in which you’ll do at least three stories per day, with press conferences every 30 minutes, and then a big boozy party thrown by someone or other in the evening.. and then come back and do it all again the next day. I did once do it on my own. A pleasant experience it was not. I was knackered.)

Two questions, then: will the Daily Telegraph replace him, and if so with who? Roger had enormous respect from scientists around the UK, because stuff he wrote tended to get in (although I’d have to say that Steve Connor at the Indie is far better at finding dramatic, original and important stories – he was one of the first journalists anywhere, I think, to recognise the importance of RNAi – the Indy site doesn’t seem to have that story, which is from September 2002).

I wonder if Will Lewis is considering trying to tempt Steve over now that Roger “F***!” Alton has taken over at the Indy? I’ve not heard anything about how it’s going, but I can’t imagine he’s made things worse. Then again, has he made them better?