Epidemiological processes ostensibly exist to reveal and ascribe features to burdens of disease at a population level. However, as the designated arbiters of visibility in public health, epidemiological processes are well placed to also obscure and hide burdens of disease.

Epidemiological obfuscation can occur in many forms. At times it is overt, for example when the authoritative trappings of epidemiology (e.g., graphs, charts and spreadsheets) are wielded to deny the existence of an apparent burden of disease, be it a cholera outbreak in a politically sensitive part of Ethiopia, a cluster of cases of a rare cancer near a chemical waste plant in the United States, or a TB epidemic in residential schools in Canada. More often though, it appears that epidemiological obfuscation is subtle and unconscious. It comes about from choices baked into the daily practices of epidemiologists, modellers, and public health policy makers and occurs as part of larger material and political landscapes and in conjunction with other clinical, laboratory and, data collection processes. Understanding the various forms and circumstances of epidemiological obfuscation has important implications for biosecurity and social justice.

Hidden Epidemics is an interdisciplinary research network interested in characterising processes of epidemiological obfuscation and the situations in which they occur.

We invite researchers, public health practitioners, policymakers, patient activists, and anyone else with an interest in this area, to join us once a month to discuss various aspects of epidemiological obfuscation.

If you would like to receive notifications of upcoming events, contact Liza Hadley. If you would like to suggest a speaker or have a topic or case study you would like to see discussed, contact Freya Jephcott.



  • Freya Jephcott (Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), medical anthropologist)
  • Charlotte Hammer (Everitt Butterfield Research Fellow at Downing College, epidemiologist)
  • Liza Hadley (PhD candidate in infectious disease epidemiology in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, mathematician)

Dr Freya Jephcott is a medical anthropologist and field epidemiologist. Freya’s work is primarily concerned with the effectiveness of outbreak response systems in resource-limited settings and their management in outbreaks of uncertain aetiology. In addition to her research, Freya also participates in applied and policy work on complex health emergencies with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr Charlotte Hammer is an applied infectious diseases epidemiologist. She completed her PhD in the Health Protection Research Unit for Emergency Preparedness and Response under the supervision of Professor Paul Hunter on outbreak risks in humanitarian emergencies. After her PhD she worked as an epidemiologist with the European Field Epidemiology Training Program, dividing her time between her duty station at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, the WHO headquarters in Geneva and the field. Charlotte’s current research focuses on the early detection and prevention of spillover-borne outbreaks of emerging zoonotic diseases.

Liza Hadley is a mathematical modeller and epidemiologist. Her current research examines the utility of mathematical modelling for outbreak response. Before starting her PhD at the University of Cambridge, Liza studied Mathematics at the University of Oxford and then worked as a Research Assistant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. At LSHTM, she worked in vaccine epidemiology, evaluating the impact and cost of one-dose vs two-dose HPV vaccination campaigns.

Faculty Advisors

Programme 2021-2022

Easter Term 2022

Hidden Epidemics
Hiding the bodies
3 May 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Sohini Chattopadhyay (Columbia), Justin Feldman (Harvard)

Book talk | ‘To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle against HIV/AIDS’
17 May 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Dan Royles (Florida), Hillary Ash (Pittsburgh)

Domestic abuse under COVID-19
31 May 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths (Oxford)

Unreasonable demands for proof of causation and the manufacture of doubt
14 Jun 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Daniel S Goldberg (Colorado Anschutz)

Lent Term 2022

Hidden Epidemics
Publishing practices and epidemiological obfuscation
25 Jan 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Boghuma Kabisen Titanji (Emory)

Cancer and epidemiological obfuscation
8 Feb 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Carlo Caduff (KCL), Ruth Prince (Oslo), David Reubi (KCL)

CANCELLED Disasters that never happened: a crossover session with Cambridge Disasters Research Network
22 Feb 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Cancelled due to UCU industrial action.

Pathogen persistence and epidemiological obfuscation
8 Mar 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

James Fairhead (Sussex), Genese Sodikoff (Newark)

Hiding HTLV-1
15 Mar 2022 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Fiona Fowler (Independent researcher)

Michaelmas Term 2021

Hidden Epidemics
Surveillance systems and epidemiological obfuscation
12 Oct 2021 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Charlotte Hammer (Cambridge), Freya Jephcott (Cambridge)

Diagnostic tests and epidemiological obfuscation
26 Oct 2021 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Alice Street (Edinburgh), Ritti Soncco (Edinburgh), Aphaluck Bhatiasevi (Edinburgh).

Demographics (gender) and epidemiological obfuscation
9 Nov 2021 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Hillary Ash (Pittsburgh)

Framings and foci in epidemiological obfuscation
23 Nov 2021 14:00 - 16:00, Online

Noemi Tousignant (UCL),  Branwyn Poleykett (Amsterdam)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk