David's research encompasses principally the interface between development and the environment, in the context of sustainability and global environmental/climate change but also aspects of political geography and critical geopolitics, urbanisation and transport policy. He has a keen interest in theoretical, applied and policy arenas, underpinned by the belief that real progress lies in a far closer integration across them than is generally the case. He attaches fundamental importance to 'grounding' it in real-world conditions, and to seeking to apply the insights thereby gained to improving policies and practices.
He has been at the leading edge of debates about the nature of 'development' and the exploration of the utility of so-called 'post-structuralist' perspectives such as postmodernism, postcolonialism and post-traditionalism, with application to various empirical contexts. This work has been presented at international conferences, and published especially in leading international outlets like Geografiska Annaler(1997),Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (1998), his co-edited book, Development as Theory and Practice (1999); the edited volume,Towards a new regional and local development research agenda (2002); Development in Practice (2003) and in Progress in Development Studies (2003). The last-mentioned paper, a revised version of his professorial Inaugural Lecture, provides an extended exposition of his theoretical and more applied research contributions in relation to the state-of-the-art. This work has since been taken forward via a series of conference papers and papers published in The Geographical Journal in 2006, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography in 2007, Environment and Planning A in 2011 and Third World Quarterly in 2014.