Meet the speakers

Timandra Harkness
Writer, comedian and broadcaster

Timandra Harkness is a writer, comedian and broadcaster who performs on scientific, mathematical and statistical topics. She has written for newspapers and magazines including the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times, WIRED, BBC Focus, Men's Health and Significance. Her work on BBC Radio 4 includes documentaries The Singularity and Data, Data Everywhere. She is the author of the book Big Data: Does Size Matter?

Professor Sandy Pentland
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professor Alex 'Sandy' Pentland directs MIT Connection Science, an MIT-wide initiative, and previously helped create and direct the MIT Media Lab and the Media Lab Asia in India. He is one of the most-cited computational scientists in the world, and Forbes recently declared him one of the "7 most powerful data scientists in the world" along with Google founders and the Chief Technical Officer of the United States. He is on the Board of the UN Foundations' Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, co-led the World Economic Forum discussion in Davos that led to the EU privacy regulation GDPR, and was central in forging the transparency and accountability mechanisms in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. He has received numerous awards and prizes such as the McKinsey Award from Harvard Business Review, the 40th Anniversary of the Internet from DARPA, and the Brandeis Award for work in privacy.

Shannon Vallor
Chair, Ethics of Data and AI, Baillie Gifford
Baillie Gifford

Shannon is the Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh's Edinburgh Futures Institute, where she is also appointed as Professor in Philosophy. Shannon’s research explores the philosophy and ethics of emerging science and technologies. Her current research project focuses on the impact of emerging technologies--particularly those involving automation and artificial intelligence--on the moral and intellectual habits, skills and virtues of human beings: our character.

Ben Macpherson MSP
Minister for Public Finance and Migration

Ben grew up in Edinburgh before studying a BA Honours degree in Philosophy and Politics at the University of York. Throughout his career, Ben has been a committed political activist. In 2016 this culminated in being elected as the MSP for the Edinburgh Northern and Leith constituency, where he lives. Ben has previously served on the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, Justice Committee and Sub-Committee on Policing. He was also a Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the First Minster between 2016-2018. In June 2018 he was appointed as Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development in the Scottish Government, before moving in February 2020 to his current role as Minister for Public Finance and Migration.

David Lee
Event Host, Writer, Editor and Communications adviser

David Lee is an experienced event host who has embraced the changes of 2020 by re-shaping his business to focus on online events. He has already hosted almost 30 events, from webinars and panel discussions and both half and full-day online conferences - on subjects including fintech, forestry, legal affairs, mental health, data and Covid-19 economic recovery. David is also a writer, editor and communications adviser. He worked with the University of Edinburgh's Data Driven Innovation programme on a 2020 data series, featuring online panel discussions, interviews and podcasts. He also edited The Scotsman's Doing Data Together supplement, following the success of Doing Data Right in 2019, and is currently working on a series of data podcasts for The Scotsman.

Darren Seymour-Russell
Head of Data Science, Mudano

Darren Seymour-Russell is Head of Data Science for Mudano, a data and Machine Learning Financial Services consultancy and part of Accenture Applied Intelligence. With more than 25 years’ hands-on experience in computer-based analytics to guide him, Darren’s main areas of interest lie in the People, Learning and Development spaces and in applying these skills to help build advanced Data Science innovation capabilities for clients. A passionate advocate for the need for a truly human-centric approach to technology capability development, Darren’s professional goal is simple – “to build and lead the Data Science team against which all others are judged” – a goal that reflects his relentless search for raw Data Science talent and potential as much as his search for established data technical excellence.

Firas Khnaisser
Chair, DMA Scotland

Firas started his career doing agency side direct marketing in Dubai then moved to Scotland and joined the marketing team at Clydesdale Bank in Glasgow in 2012. In 2015, he took on the role of head of decisioning at Standard Life. Firas is also Chair of DMA Scotland where he leads the DMA’s Value of Data campaign, an ambitious campaign that aims to raise the profile of data from classroom to boardroom and stimulate more investment in data innovation, skills, research and ethics.

Gavin Starks
Founder, Dgen

On behalf of HM Treasury, Gavin co-chaired the development of Open Banking Standard, leading banks, trade associations, startups, regulators and consumer rights organisations to lay the foundations for new regulation. He works internationally with public and private sector organisations, with Ministers, C-suite leaders and startup founders. He was founding CEO of the Open Data Institute, sat on the GLA Smart London and the Ministry of Justice Data Science and Evidence boards, and provided evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee on ‘Big Data’.

Gbenga Ibikunle
Professor and Chair of Finance at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh

Gbenga Ibikunle Gbenga Ibikunle is a Professor and Chair of Finance at the University of Edinburgh, the Director for Industry, Economy and Society at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, the Deputy Scientific Director at the Fondazione European Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre in Pescara and a Research Fellow at the RoZetta Institute in Sydney.

Gemma Cassells
Data Driven Innovation Programme Sector Team Lead - Public Sector

With a background in international development, Earth Observation, and climate change, Gemma has built a career at the intersection of data and policy making, most recently within Scottish local government. In her current role, Gemma helps public sector organisations understand the opportunities to design and deliver better services through the use of data. This includes working with all organisations involved in delivering public services including local authorities, Scottish Government and third sector organisations, building collaborations to address complex challenges

Gillian Docherty
Chief executive of The Data Lab
The Data Lab

Gillian Docherty is chief executive of The Data Lab, Scotland’s innovation centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence with a mission to help Scotland maximise value from data and lead the world to a data-powered future. The Data Lab believes Scotland can lead the world to a future where data powers scientific progress, economic prosperity and social good. The Data Lab helps accelerate the journey to impact by fuelling innovation through collaboration, building skills and growing talent, and strengthening Scotland’s thriving data science community. The Data Lab acts as a catalyst, using our expertise, network, funding and platforms to change how Scotland, and the world, innovates with data.

Ian Underwood
Academic, innovator and serial technology entrepreneur, University of Edinburgh

Ian Underwood is employed by the University of Edinburgh for four days per week, seeking gainful employment on the fifth day as adviser, consultant, or non-executive director with pre-spin-out technology projects and early stage technology companies. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of the SID and sits on the technical program committee of the International Solid State Circuits Conference, the International Displays Research Conference and the Society for Information Display's Annual International Symposium.

Jason Leitch CBE
National Clinical Director, Scottish Government

Jason has worked for the Scottish Government since 2007 and in January 2015 was appointed as The National Clinical Director in the Health and Social Care Directorate. He is a Scottish Government Director and a member of the Health and Social Care Management Board. He is one of the senior team responsible for the NHS in Scotland.

Jonathan Seckl
Senior Vice Principal at the University of Edinburgh

Professor Jonathan Seckl is currently Senior Vice Principal at the University of Edinburgh. Jonathan Seckl is an academic endocrinologist (MBBS UCL, PhD London). His main research contribution has been in elucidating the biology and importance of glucocorticoid (stress) hormones during foetal life in ‘programming’ the risk of later disease. He provided an ‘epigenetic’ explanation of how early life events can hardwire the body and brain for life. He has championed translational approaches. His lead drug is in clinical trials for age-related memory loss.

John Godfrey
Corporate Affairs Director, Legal and General
Legal and General

John Godfrey has worked in the City of London for over thirty years, including for US, Japanese and European financial institutions. He joined Legal & General in 2006, and over the following decade was responsible for group communications, public policy issues and the group brand. He is also Executive sponsor for wellbeing. From 2016-17 John worked at Number Ten Downing Street as Head of Policy for Prime Minister Theresa May, where his team was responsible for advice on a broad range of UK domestic and Brexit-related issues. He re-joined Legal & General as Corporate Affairs Director following the 2017 General Election.

Katy Guthrie
Head of Data, Scotland IS

She runs ScotlandIS Data which is designed to assist companies supplying data driven products or services within Scotland. By understanding and mapping out the industry, Katy aims to identify and address the needs of the data tech sector, foster collaboration, and demonstrate the breadth of capability within Scotland. Prior to leading ScotlandIS Data, Katy worked in a variety of technology roles within Financial Services.

Kenneth Meechan
Head of Information and Data Protection Officer Glasgow City Council

Dr Kenneth Meechan is Head of Information and Data Protection Officer at Glasgow City Council and chairs a SOLAR group of Scottish local authority lawyers on data protection and related issues.

Linda Bauld
Bruce and John Usher Chair in Public Health, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh

Linda Bauld is the Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health in the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh and also holds the CRUK/BUPA Chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK. She is a behavioural scientist with a particular interest in the evaluation of complex public health interventions.

Lynne Baillie
Professor Of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University

Lynne has a PhD and MSc in Computing. She has been successfully involved in the user centered design of home, mobile and rehabilitation technologies for over fifteen years. She has a strong track record over 15 years in research management and leadership at a senior level in two countries (Austria and UK). She has been awarded grants from research councils (UKRI, FFG), international companies (Orange, Telecom Austria, Alcatel-Lucent, Siemens, Microsoft and Vodafone), charities (Heritage Lottery Fund, CHSS), and Governments (local, national and EU). Recently, she has started working in the Human Robot Interaction (HRI) area with a focus on health and healthy ageing.

Mark Woolhouse
Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh

Mark Woolhouse is Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. He studied biology and ecology at the Universities of Oxford and York and Queen’s in Canada, then held Research Fellowships at the University of Zimbabwe, Imperial College London and Oxford, before moving to Edinburgh in 1997. He leads on AMR for Edinburgh Infectious Diseases – a grouping of over 800 scientists. He advises both national and international agencies (including DEFRA, FSA, WHO, US Institute of Medicine) and was awarded an OBE in 2002. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He is also a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) and Scottish Covid-19 Advisory Group.

Nicola Anderson
Senior Manager Retail Banking Supervision at the FCA

Nicola Anderson is the Strategic Development Director of FinTech Scotland. FinTech Scotland is a strategic enabler and independent cluster management organisation focused on supporting the development and inclusive growth of a fintech cluster across the financial services sector and the wider digital economy.

Peter Mathieson
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh

Professor Peter Mathieson MBBS(Hons)(London), PhD(Cambridge), FRCP(London), FMedSci assumed the office of Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in February 2018. He was formerly the 15th President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.

Previous posts include: foundation Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Bristol, Honorary Consultant Nephrologist, North Bristol NHS Trust, Head of the University Department of Clinical Science at North Bristol, Director of Research & Development for the North Bristol NHS Trust, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Bristol.

Rowan Conway
Head of IIPP's Mission Oriented Innovation Network

Rowan leads the Mission Oriented Innovation Network (MOIN at UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP). MOIN brings together leading global policy-making institutions – including state investment banks, innovation agencies, cities and government departments to share the challenges and opportunities they face when trying to create and nurture public value. Our methodology is based on co-creation between policy actors (network partners) and academic researchers, and this “practice-based theorising” begins with defining and testing new ideas about economics and the broader political economy, then bringing them into real world contexts through live projects and activities.

Dr Susan Shenkin
Clinical academic in geriatric medicine at the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian

Dr Susan Shenkin has been working as a clinical academic in geriatric medicine at the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian since 2011, and has an interest in all aspects of care relating to older people. In particular, she is interested in the lifecourse influences on dementia and delirium, and how people with these conditions should be managed in the acute hospital. In addition she is interested in how and why people move into care homes, particularly directly from hospital, and how technology (including data and ‘hardware’) can support the well being and care of all care home residents and staff.

Zachery Anderson
Chief Data & Analytics Officer, RBS/NatWest Group

Zachery has over 20 years of analytics and data science experience. He joined NatWest Group as Chief Data & Analytics Officer in February 2020 and leads the bank’s Data Strategy, Data Science, and Data Engineering teams. Zachery is a member of the faculty of the Wharton Artsy Institute for Executive Education, the Wharton Customer Analytics Advisory Board, and the University of California Master of Science in Business Analytics Industry Advisory Board. Zachery joined NatWest Group from Electronic Arts (EA) where he built the Global Analytics and Insights function and the customer data platform. Prior to joining EA in 2007, he led the PIN consulting group for J.D. Power and Associates; served as the corporate economist for Nissan North America and was an economist for the private investment company Fremont Group.

Iain Stewart MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Scotland)