More speakers announced for UK’s largest data festival

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab

The Data Lab, Scotland’s Innovation Centre for data science and artificial intelligence (AI), has revealed the names of more speakers for its flagship two-week data festival, DataFest, which takes place across Scotland in March next year.

Mathematician and broadcaster, Hannah Fry; AI entrepreneur, Priya Lahkani; Campaigner and Author of Invisible Women, Caroline Criado-Perez; and British statistician, David Spiegelhalter, known as ‘Professor Risk’, are among some of the names revealed today who will join world-famous astronaut, Tim Peake, as speakers at DataSummit, the two-day international conference element of the festival.

The Innovation Centre also revealed Erin LeDell, Chief Machine Learning Scientist at and Janelle Shane, Scientist and Writer,, will speak at DataTech, an aspect of the festival which provides a forum to discuss the deep technical elements of data science.

Now in its fourth year, DataFest has grown to become the UK’s largest data festival and a key calendar event for professionals working in data and AI across the UK and beyond, with last year’s festival attracting more than 4,000 visitors.

This year’s key theme ‘#BeyondData’ will focus on the impact data and AI has on the world and the future potential of the sector to help realise innovation across business and wider society, with a focus on the challenges and opportunities data and AI presents.

Taking place from the 9th to 20th March 2020 across Scotland, the festival will also see the return of a range of successful events, including Women in Data Science, an inspirational showcase for school children on data careers, Data Talent Scotland, the networking and recruitment event for industry and academia, and a host of fringe activities, including STEM-related events.

The full list of speakers announced so far and their biographies can be found further below. 

Fraser Macdonald, DataFest Delivery Director at The Data Lab, said: “Preparations are ramping up now ahead of next year’s DataFest20 and we are excited to announce a fantastic mix of speakers who will join us during our flagship two-week data festival.

“Since its inception, DataFest has grown to become the largest data festival in the UK and we are incredibly proud of the impact it has each year in bringing people at the forefront of data and AI from all over the world to Scotland, enabling us to not only showcase our Scottish capabilities but share insights and innovation through a range of events to suit everyone.

“The latest speakers to be announced will be excellent additions to next year’s line-up, and we are thoroughly looking forward to welcoming them to DataFest and listening to the ground-breaking work they’re undertaking in the fields of artificial intelligence and data science.”

For more information and to book tickets, please visit:

DataFest20 Speakers


Tim Peake, Astronaut

Tim Peake was the European Space Agency’s first British astronaut to travel to the International Space Station. Previously an Army Air Corp officer and test pilot, his work on the ISS and active engagement with the public back on Earth has made him a household name and role model to millions.  He worked providing humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the Bosnian war, trained the first British Apache helicopter crews, and supported Special Forces in Afghanistan. Following a distinguished military career and rising to the rank of major, and a period as a test pilot in the private sector, Tim applied to the ESA’s astronaut programme. Beating over 9,000 other applicants, he undertook a gruelling training programme that covered everything from living in Sardinian caves to spending 12 days underwater. Travelling to the ISS onboard a Soyuz vessel, Tim and two fellow astronauts led the Principia mission, a six-month scientific research mission. Tim undertook over250 experiments, a spacewalk to repair the ISS power supply, helped to dock two spacecraft, and piloted a simulated Mars exploration. Much of his mission focused on not just the scientific work of the ISS but in communicating it to the public. In regular contact via video and social media with Earth, Tim spoke to over 1.5 million schoolchildren across Europe from 400km above the planet.

Hannah Fry, Mathematician & Broadcaster

Hannah Fry, Mathematician & Broadcaster

Having studied fluid dynamics and working briefly in F1, Hannah returned to academia and now lectures in the mathematics of cities. She’s also a science broadcaster, bringing numbers and data to life on TV and radio in programmes including The Joy of Data, City in the Sky, and The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry. She examines how maths underpins almost everything and the world of data: how it’s gathered, what it can (and can’t) tell us, and how it’s applied from tracking down serial killers to predicting customer needs.

Caroline Criado Perez, Campaigner & Author, Invisible Women

Caroline Criado Perez, Campaigner & Author, Invisible Women

In Invisible Women, Caroline highlights the systematic and often unconscious biases behind the data and assumptions that construct our everyday lives. From healthcare diagnoses to search algorithms, the over-reliance on men being the default standard has left women, and society as a whole, disadvantaged. Caroline’s book Do it Like a Woman also looks at female role models from around the world, and throughout history, reflecting her campaigns to see women represented on English banknotes (Jane Austen on a £10 note) and in Parliament Square (a statue of women’s suffrage campaigner Millicent Fawcett).

Priya Lahkani, FMCG to AI Entrepreneur

Priya Lahkani, FMCG to AI Entrepreneur

After giving up a career in law to pursue a dream of running her own business, Priya built and sold a successful food brand. She then established a social enterprise before starting a tech company that brings together AI and education in order to understand how students learn and provide educators with an insight into how to create personalised education.

David Spiegelhalter Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk Cambridge University

David Spiegelhalter Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk Cambridge University

‘Professor Risk’ is a distinguished statistician and a born communicator, as seen in the BBC’s Tails You Win: The Science of Chance. Just as Daniel Kahneman distinguishes between emotional and analytic decision-making, David focuses on the difference between how we think and how we feel about risk. Numbers don’t speak for themselves; we are influenced by how they’re expressed – in relation to anything from healthy eating to climate change. David explains how to weigh up the real risk.


Erin LeDell, Chief Machine Learning Scientist,

Erin LeDell is the Chief Machine Learning Scientist at, where she leads the development of an open-source, automatic machine learning (AutoML) platform. Before joining, she worked as a data scientist and software engineer and founded DataScientific, Inc. She’s also the founder of a non-profit advocacy organization, Women in Machine Learning & Data Science ( and co-founder of R-Ladies Global ( She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley where her research focused on machine learning.

Janelle Shane, Scientist and Writer,

Colorado-based optics and AI researcher, Dr Janelle Shane creates computer-controlled holograms for studying the brain, as well as other light-steering devices. She is also the maintainer of the popular science blog, which has been covered by WIRED, The Atlantic, NBC News, and Slate, and was even featured as a quiz question on ‘Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ – a popular radio panel show produced in Chicago. Janelle is also a 2019 TED fellow, and some of her most popular experiments have included algorithms that try to generate recipes, paint colours, cat names, and candy heart messages – all examples designed to highlight the reasons to be sceptical of, and look more closely at AI. Janelle has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, Popular Science, and Slate. Her book You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How AI Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place is an accessible, hilarious exploration of the present and future of artificial intelligence.

The Latest Stories

The UK’s most in-demand IT roles of 2024
Entrepreneurial success at latest Startup Showcase as RGU secure future funding
Global leaders agree to launch first international network of AI Safety Institutes to boost understanding of AI
Pneumagen Presents Positive Phase 2 Influenza Human Challenge Study