We are delighted to announce Hay Festival Digital #Imaginetheworld which will be free to view and runs 18–31 May 2020. We have worked hard to ensure our virtual Festival doors are wide open and look forward to sharing Hay Festival Digital with you.

The Hay Festival is one of the most prestigious cultural and literary events in the world.

The University of Cambridge has partnered with the Festival for 11 years to deliver The Cambridge Series which gives a taste of the research being conducted at the University.


The Cambridge Series at Hay Festival Digital 2020


Sally Davies
Join us online: Saturday 23 May 2020, 5.30pm – 6.15pm
Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

Antibiotics add, on average, twenty years to our lives. For over seventy years, since the manufacture of penicillin in 1943, we have survived extraordinary operations and life-threatening infections. We are so familiar with these wonder drugs that we take them for granted. The truth is that we have been abusing them: as patients, as doctors, as travellers, in our food.No new class of antibacterial has been discovered for twenty six years and the bugs are fighting back. If we do not take responsibility now, in a few decades we may start dying from the most commonplace of operations and ailments that can today be treated easily.

Professor Dame Sally C. Davies was the Chief Medical Officer for England and the first woman to hold the post. She holds a number of international advisory positions and is Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Introduced by Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief of Nature. 

This event is live and there will be a Q&A afterwards.

Dan Storisteanu, Julia Fan Li, Emma Glennon and Samir Ali Khan, chaired by Dan Davis​
Join us online: Wednesday 27 May 2020, 11.30am
Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Four exceptional innovators in the field of vaccination introduce their work on some of the world's biggest medical challenges, and discuss the  scope and scale of vaccine development and its importance for global health.

Dr Julia Fan Li is CEO of Micrographia Bio, a London-based venture backed company working at the intersection of software and biology. Our proprietary technology mines multidimensional data acquired during pharmaceutical research. Whereas traditional drug discovery asks the question: “which of these million molecules can cure this specific disease?” We ask the opposite question: "given this specific chemical compound, which disease is it best suited to cure?". By mapping each chemical to its true activity, we are engineering the chemical atlas for modern drug discovery. If Micrographia had existed 12 months ago, we would have a potential therapeutic candidate for COVID-19 in real time. ​

Samir Ali Khan is a health innovation and market access professional focusing on commercialisation and market access of futuristic technologies, from genomics and AI-led discovery and diagnostics to healthcare system transformation. He is the co-founder of Lighthouse Innovations Ltd, an Oxford-based strategy consultancy advising several global impact-focused start-ups and entrepreneurs on international market access, payer engagement on value-based pricing and risk-sharing agreements. Samir is also co-inventor of a vaccine for Hepatitis E in India and drug targets in neurological and cardiovascular diseases in the UK.
Emma Glennon is an infectious disease epidemiologist who examines why new diseases emerge, working at the intersections of ecology, data science, and the social and economic determinants of disease. She is interested in how technology in an unequal world can counteract or contribute to the spread of disease. She has worked on epidemiological research and outbreak response around the world, including in the UK, India, Australia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Dan Storisteanu is a co-founder of Simprints, where he focuses on research, testing, and deployment of a biometric system for global health applications. In his work with another Cambridge start-up, DIOSynVax, Dan supports efforts to develop Ebola, influenza, and Covid vaccines. He is a Research Fellow at Darwin College, University of Cambridge and a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur.

Dan Davis is Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester and author of The Beautiful Cure.


David Spiegelhalter
Join us online: Wednesday 27 May 2020, 6.30pm – 7.15pm
Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

Do busier hospitals have higher survival rates? How many trees are there on the planet? Why do old men have big ears? David Spiegelhalter reveals the answers to these and many other questions - questions that can only be addressed using statistical science.

Statistics has played a leading role in our scientific understanding of the world for centuries, yet we are all familiar with the way statistical claims can be sensationalised, particularly in the media. In the age of big data, as data science becomes established as a discipline, a basic grasp of statistical literacy is more important than ever.

In The Art of Statistics, David Spiegelhalter guides the reader through the essential principles we need in order to derive knowledge from data. Drawing on real world problems to introduce conceptual issues, he shows us how statistics can help us determine the luckiest passenger on the Titanic, whether serial killer Harold Shipman could have been caught earlier, and if screening for ovarian cancer is beneficial.

'Shines a light on how we can use the ever-growing deluge of data to improve our understanding of the world' – Nature. 

This event is live and there will be a Q&A afterwards.


The 2019 Hay Festival ran from 25th May to 2nd June, you can catch up and listen to some of the 2019 events below.

25th May

Emily Shuckburgh

How will climate change affect me?

Dr Emily Shuckburgh is a climate scientist and mathematician and co-author of the Ladybird book on climate change. She spoke about her research on modelling localised effects of climate change.


Sander van der Linden

Vaccinating against fake news

How do we counter fake news and can we inoculate public opinion about misinformation? Dr Sander van der Linden is Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and is investigating the psychological mechanisms behind  the spread of misinformation.


26th May

Nicole Soranzo

Human disease: nature, nurture or both?

The sequencing of the human genome has revolutionised how scientists search for the genetic causes of human diseases. Human geneticist Professor Nicole Soranzo described how the field has evolved in the last 15 years, and discussed how new genetic evidence is used to better understand the interplay between our DNA (‘nature’) and the environment (‘nurture’).


27th May

Victoria Bateman 

The Sex Factor - how women made the West rich

The Industrial Revolution brings to mind famous male inventors and industrialists. In her new book economist Victoria Bateman instead argues that the everyday woman underpinned Britain’s – and indeed the West’s - rise.


28th May

Christopher Reynolds 

The universe of black holes

Black holes are nature’s most extreme objects. Professor Christopher Reynolds described how they stretch our understanding of space-time to the limits and power some of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe.


Bill Sutherland

Rethinking decision making in a post truth world

Bill Sutherland, who holds the Miriam Rothschild Chair in Conservation Biology at the University of Cambridge, described attempts to make global evidence available to all, improve the effectiveness of experts and change attitudes toward the use of evidence, especially in relation to conservation.


Anthony Shillito and Neil Davies

A path well trodden - following the footprints of fearsome beasts from Britain's deep history

Throughout its ancient history, the UK has been home to many amazing creatures that are now long extinct. From dinosaurs to  giant millipedes, discover how these animals shaped the land around them and what secrets are held within their prehistoric footprints.


29th May

Adrian Weller

Where AI meets ethics

Adrian Weller is Programme Director for AI at The Alan Turing Institute, where he is also a Turing Fellow leading a group on Fairness, Transparency and Privacy. In addition he is a senior research fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence leading work on Trust and Transparency and is on the board of the first Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and a lecturer in machine learning. For his Hay talk, he examined the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence for society and the importance of ethics, trust and transparency.


Martin Jones

Food security past and present: what archaeology tells us about the food we eat

Professor Martin Jones is Emeritus Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Cambridge and a member of its Global Food Security research centre. An expert in archaeobotany and archaeogenetics, he discussed how our prehistoric ancestors built resilience into their food supply and what we can learn from them.


30th May

Mike Kenny, Eluned Morgan and Adam Price

Brexit and the Politics of National Identity in Wales and the UK

What are the Brexit implications for Wales and for the coherence of the United Kingdom. Professor Kenny is co-director of the British Academy’s “Governing England” programme, and is a member of an external experts panel convened by the Scottish Parliament to advise on the constitutional implications of Brexit. Morgan is Welsh Government Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language. Price is leader of Plaid Cymru.


31st May

Tyler Shores

Reading in an age of digital distraction

What is the difference between reading in print and digital? How is our reading experience affected in a digital age where we are prone to endless distractions?  Writer, editor and researcher Tyler Shores explored his latest research.


Paul Fletcher

Apples or ice-cream? Who - or what - determines what we eat?

Paul Fletcher is Bernard Wolfe Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. A central principle of his research is that the brain is occupied in the process of forming predictions and associations to minimise error and uncertainty and to maximise reward. In many instances the processes engaged with this goal can conflict with underlying automatic and habitual processes, shaping our decisions and behaviours. The end result may be that our behaviours can seem irrational and in conflict with our longer term goals and plans. Given that major global non-communicable diseases are profoundly influenced by health-harming decisions and behaviours, understanding how body, brain and environmental signals are integrated and how they shape these behaviours will be a crucial part of improving health.


1st June

Fiona Maine

Beyond words: exploring the magic of visual texts

What is the potential of complex, ambiguous wordless picturebooks and short films as springboards for children’s critical and creative discussions about the world and how we live together in it?  Fiona Maine is a lecturer in literacy education at the University of Cambridge.


2nd June

Morgan Seag, Ragnhild Freng Dale, Chandrika Nath with Melody Clark

Female voices on climate change

Does having more women involved in climate change-related research make a difference to discussions? What kind of adaptations will be required as global warming increases and how do we bring a broad range of the public on board, particularly with regard to the more complex issues around climate change? Panel discussion with Morgan Seag, co-chair of the international council of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, anthropologist Ragnhild Freng Dale from the Scott Polar Research Institute and the Western Norway Research Institute, Chandrika Nath, executive director of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, and Professor Melody Clark from the British Antarctic Survey.


Catherine Aiken

Your granny’s bump - how life in the womb affects future generations

We’re constantly bombarded by advice on what pregnant women should do - but what does science really tell us about how early development impacts on future health? Dr Catherine Aiken, University Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Maternal and Fetal Medicine, explored how life in the womb affects not only our children’s lifelong health and well-being, but maybe even our grandchildren too.


Other University of Cambridge speakers at the Festival included Professor Martin Rees, neuroscientist Giles Yeo, author and lecturer Robert Macfarlane and neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow. Charlie Gilderdale, NRICH Project Secondary Coordinator, ran maths masterclasses with Alison Eves from the Royal Institution.