Duncan Ross

Data philanthropist, strategist and data scientist. Chief Data Officer @timeshighered.
Opinions my own. Pronouns him/his

A front page of THE

Times Higher Education

I'm currently the Chief Data Officer of Times Higher Education, a role I've held since 2015. THE is the world's leading provider of data on global higher education. As well as the magazine, which has been published since 1971, we produce fantastic leadership events, the World University Rankings, the Impact Rankings, and data and benchmarking products.

I also occassionally write blogs for them.

Times Higher Education
UN Plaza with SDGs

THE Impact Rankings

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are one of the most important initiatives in the world. They give a roadmap for ensuring that the world develops in a sustainable way and avoids climate catastrophe. At THE I have developed a unique new ranking that evaluates how universities are working towards the goals, through perspectives on research, stewarship, outreach, and teaching. Already 860 universities from across the world have chosen to participate.

Impact Rankings
DataKind UK leaflets

DataKind UK

In 2013, together with Fran Bennett and others, I founded DataKind UK - the first UK charity to work in data philanthropy, encouraging data scientists to volunteer for other charities to make sure that they can benefit from using data for good.

DataKind UK is part of the wider DataKind network, and from 2013-2020 I served as Chair of Trustees, and occassional volunteer.

DataKind UK
The wooden bridge at Queens

But you said this was About You

I avoided (just) using a lyric from Carly Simon, but yes, this hasn't been so much about me, as about stuff that I'm doing or thinking.

Well I live in the East Midlands, but grew up in the North East (both of England). I was educated* at Queens' College Cambridge, and have worked for Protagona Worldwide, Teradata, Experian, and Teradata again before ending up at THE.

I have two daughters who are almost as annoyed by me as I am by them.

* Don't blame them, they tried.


Mumblings into the void

Back before Twitter was a thing, and actually for quite a while after Twitter was a thing, but before I got sucked into it quite as much, I would put my musings onto a blog.

It's still there, and it can be fun for me to go back and think "Why on earth did I think that?"

Mostly it's musings on data and data ethics, with a few rants about algorithms.

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Projects and more

Outside work I've done a number of things, some better and some worse.
Obviously I'm only going to talk about the ones I think are good, but what do you expect?
So here we go...

Birmingham Council House

Birmingham City Councillor

From 1996 to 2000 I served as a Labour Councillor for Kings Norton in Birmingham. I got to meet important people (Gordon, Tony, David, Peter, and lots of constituents). It also gave me a chance to meet the wonderful and sadly departed Paul Pyke.

Anyone who has been a Councillor knows that it involves highs and lows, but on the whole I did enjoy it, and I hope I made a positive difference to my constituents. I would even have done it again, if I hadn't lost.

The market on a sunny day

Kings Norton Farmers' Market

“Know ye, that we, graciously cherishing the common good and benefit of the inhabitants of Kings Norton…do give and grant… a market to be held and kept on Saturdays… Attested by the King at Westminster on the 15th May 1616”

KNFM (version 2.0) was my first social enterprise. It was set up by myself, Paul Pyke, and John Bodycote, with help from a lot of other people. It still runs, every month, on the second Saturday on The Green in Kings Norton.

Visit the Market

St Nicholas Place

St Nicholas' Place Kings Norton

"On 08 August 2004, Kings Norton’s medieval buildings won BBC Two’s television series Restoration after an intense and widely-supported campaign. It was an astonishing victory."

It certainly was, with only a few months between the campaign launch and the final. I acted as Press Officer for one of the shortest and most succesful campaigns ever, including tricking the Daily Mail (who I won't link to) into giving us three full pages of publicity.

Watch the opening
Duncan's Strata Keynote

Public Speaking and Influencing

Over the years I've done a fair bit of speaking in public, ranging from a (thankfully) failed bid for NUS President - losing to Steven Twigg, through engagements via my employers, to keynotes on data philanthropy. If you want to you can search for these online.

My favourite has probably been the series of Using Data for Evil talks at the O'Reilly Strata conferences, where by highlighting bad practice Fran Bennett and I hoped to suggest what good practice should be.

2015 UDFE


You made it this far

In my spare time I enjoy a number of things. I play bass guitar, and have been bassist for Trotsky's Dog, Tithrian, Pineapple Road, and the band with Duncan, Andy and Wendy. Should have given that one a name, really. Influences include, but aren't limited to, Fairport Convention, Rush, Iron Maiden, Marillion, Pixies and so on.

  • Fender Precision Roger Waters, black
  • Fender Precision Lyte, cherry red
  • Fylde Octavius Bazouki
  • Fylde Mandolin
  • Various Peavey bass amps
  • Assorted guitars
  • Aria Pro Cat II bass (pictured, retired)

I read a lot of scifi and fantasy. You didn't ask, but C J Cherryh and Terry Pratchett would be my favourite authors, although I will read almost anything in the genre. I'm also keen on a bit of Bulgakov when I need to be pretentious.

I used to row, but it was a long long time ago. Now I run. I've been running with three great clubs, Bournville Harriers, Ivanhoe Runners, and now with London City Runners. I've run something like 10 marathons, and one ultra-marathon. But that is enough!

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If you want to contact me then email is the best mechanism. I mean I have a LinkedIn profile, but rarely look at it.
If you want to talk work, then my THE email is best otherwise try my private email
No spam or job offers, please. I'm not looking for religion or employment at the moment.