NERC and Hay Festival launch Trans.MISSION project merging science and art

26 March 2018

NERC and Hay Festival have joined forces to launch Trans.MISSION, a new project pairing leading environmental scientists with award-winning artists to communicate cutting edge research to new audiences at Hay Festival 2018 and beyond.

Hay Fesitival Wales

Climate scientist and mathematician at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Emily Shuckburgh joins award-winning designer, author and illustrator Chris Haughton to explore polar science and climate change. Atmospheric chemist Ally Lewis pairs Aardman Studios' Director Dan Binns to look at air pollution. And climate scientist Ed Hawkins joins children's author Nicola Davies to analyse extreme weather events.

Each pairing will produce a piece of work - an animation, a series of still pictures with text, an infographic or animated text - to be launched with in a series of public events in Hay Festival's 'Hay on Earth' programme (24 May - 3 June 2018).

Featuring over 600 of the world's greatest writers, global policymakers, pioneers and innovators in 800 events across 11 days, Hay Festival showcases the latest ideas in the arts, sciences and current affairs, alongside a rich schedule of music, comedy and entertainment for all ages.

Alison Robinson, NERC Director of Corporate Affairs, said:

Understanding our changing planet is fundamental to all our futures, and art has the power to start conversations around how our environment affects our lives. We hope bringing together high-profile artists with NERC's leading researchers to create compelling visuals will engage new audiences with our cutting-edge environmental science, from the freezing Antarctic and the world's changing climate to the air we breathe here at home in the UK. We are proud to be working with Hay Festival and excited to see what creativity and ongoing engagement Ed, Emily and Ally's work inspires.

Dr Emily Shuckburgh said:

The findings of climate science affect all of us: they warn of the perilous state in which we have placed the planet and of the urgency with which we need to respond if we are to limit the risks to society of future climate change. I am very excited to be working with Chris to find new ways of engaging people in our scientific discoveries on this important topic. I am certain that the combination of Chris' wonderful creative talents with the profound and majestic insights Antarctica offers will prove to be captivating.

Chris Haughton said:

I am so excited to work on this project. I hope I can communicate some of the research being done in the Antarctic and make it understandable to a wider audience. My picture books rely on simplified pictures to tell stories. By using a similar approach, I hope it can enable us to communicate some of the more difficult concepts about the Earth's atmosphere and climate. The science behind climate change has often proved to be very difficult for the public to digest, so it is an exciting challenge. I hope we can help contribute to public knowledge around these very important topics.

Andy Fryers, Sustainability Director at Hay Festival, said:

Hay Festival is one of the few places where artists, scientists and policymakers share the same stage, blending disciplines and art forms in exciting ways. Our Hay on Earth programme continues to address the big issues facing the planet, whether it's through raising awareness with debates or looking after our own direct impacts. This new partnership with NERC takes this in an exciting direction and we can't wait to see what these collaborations produce.

Hay Festival addresses environmental concerns through its Hay on Earth programme of conversations and lectures, and through its own efforts to operate sustainably. This year's festival will be powered entirely by renewable energy from Good Energy, while it will be the first festival in the UK to trial a reusable hot drink cups system. 80% of waste produced on site is recycled.

NERC is UK's main agency for funding environmental science, covering the full range of research from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the Equator. Tackling major issues such as clean air, water and energy, extreme weather and the impact of our environment on human health, NERC scientists play a critical role in understanding how our planet works.

Biographies of researchers and artists working on Trans.MISSION

Dr Emily Shuckburgh

Dr Emily ShuckburghEmily is a leading climate scientist, mathematician and author working at BAS. She holds a number of positions at the University of Cambridge (fellow of Darwin College, fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, associate fellow of the Centre for Science & Policy and member of the Faculty of Mathematics). In the past, Emily has worked at École Normale Supérieure in Paris and at MIT.

She is a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and co-chair of their Climate Science Communications Group. She has also acted as an advisor to the UK government on behalf of NERC. In 2016, she was awarded an OBE for services to science and the public communication of science. She is co-author with HRH The Prince of Wales and Tony Juniper of the Ladybird book Climate Change.

Chris Haughton

Chris HaughtonChris is an Irish author and illustrator based in London. He was listed in Time magazine's 'The Design 100' for the work he has been doing for fair trade clothing company People Tree. He has written and illustrated four books: A Bit Lost, Oh No George!, Shh! We Have a Plan and Goodnight Everyone. His iOS app, Hat Monkey, came out in 2014 and virtual reality experience Little Earth launched in August 2017. Chris has also created a social business, Made By Node, to connect design and fair trade and make rugs and toys.

Professor Ally Lewis

Professor Ally Lewis Ally is an atmospheric chemist and works for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and the University of York. Ally's main research focus is air pollution and how to detect chemicals in the atmosphere. He also regularly provides advice to government about the quality of the air in cities and inside buildings.

Dan Binns

Dan is a designer and director at Aardman. Since having a short film screened at the onedotzero film festival in 2010, Mr Binns has worked in the animation industry for multiple studios across Bristol and London. In various roles, Dan has worked for clients like Tesco, Disney, Google and Sky TV on projects for broadcast, advertising, short film and series. Later, as a director, Dan has been involved in a variety of different projects, ranging from short films for charities to advertising and promotional work.

Professor Ed Hawkins

Professor Ed HawkinsEd is a climate scientist and works for NCAS and the University of Reading. Ed focuses on improving predictions of climate change and its impacts, but he is also passionate about the history of climate science, rescuing lost weather measurements using volunteer citizen scientists (Operation Weather Rescue) and engaging the public about climate change.

Nicola Davies

Nicola DaviesNicola is the author of more than 50 books for children, fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her work has been published in more than 10 different languages and has won major awards in the UK, US, France, Italy and Germany. Nicola trained as a zoologist, taking a degree in natural sciences at King's College, Cambridge. She spent some years as a field biologist, and studied humpback and sperm whales and bats, before joining the BBC Natural History Unit as a researcher and then presenter.

Following the start of her writing career, she became a senior lecturer in creative writing at Bath Spa University, but has been writing full time for over a decade. She now regularly runs workshops for children and adults to help them find their voices as writers and advocates for nature. In 2017, she was the first recipient of the School Library Association's award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Non Fiction and in 2018 had four picture books longlisted for the Greenaway Award. She is a trustee of the World Land Trust, a conservation organisation with partners in countries across the world.

Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC News & Media Officer
01793 411939
07710 147485


1. View the full Hay Festival 2018 programme on the Hay Festival website. Booking is open now to Friends of Hay Festival online or via 01497 822 629, public booking opens Thursday 29 March 2018.

2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, food security, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC receives around £300 million a year from the government's science budget, which it uses to fund research and training in universities and its own research centres.

From 1 April 2018, NERC will become part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI)

3. NCAS is a world leader in atmospheric science, a multi-million pound research centre, funded by the NERC. NCAS carries out research in climate science, atmospheric composition and air quality, physics of the atmosphere (including hazardous and extreme weather) and provides the UK community with state-of-the-art technologies for observing and modelling the atmosphere, including a world-leading research aircraft. By its very nature, atmospheric science research is multidisciplinary, and NCAS works to bring together scientists from a range of core disciplines such as physics, chemistry and mathematics and using state-of-the-art technologies for observing and modelling the atmosphere.

NCAS provides scientific facilities for researchers right across the UK to enable excellent atmospheric science on a national scale. These include a world-leading research aircraft, a ground-based instrumentation pool, access to computer models and facilities for storing and accessing data. In a nutshell, NCAS provide the UK academic community and NERC with national capability in atmospheric science.

4. BAS, an institute of NERC, delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the polar regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic work together to deliver research that uses the polar regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how, BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure, help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs.