David Nunan

Favourite Thing: See people that I teach learn how to make sense of scientific evidence and apply it to their own health or the health of others



Brunel University (2006-2009); Brunel University (2002-2003); Kingston University (1997-2000); Eastbourne College of Arts and Technology (1995-1997); Ratton School, Eastbourne (1990-1995)


PhD Cardiovascular Physiology; MSc Sports Science; BSc Hons Sports Science

Work History:

University of Oxford (Research Officer); King’s College Hospital, London (Advanced Practitioner Cardiac Physiologist); Kingston University (Director, Human Performance Laboratory); M&S (I worked on the checkout); ECAT (Gym instructor), Brookland’s Nursing Home (I cleaned residents rooms)

Current Job:

Departmental Lecturer and Senior Researcher


University of Oxford (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences & Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine)

Me and my work

I keep watch of headlines and stories to help guard us from bad science and bogus claims about health and medicine.

Ever since I attended a one-day workshop on evidence-based medicine I’ve been fascinated to learn more about how it has shaped medical practice and our health.

From putting babies to sleep on their backs to drugs that stop irregular heart beats, there are loads of really important examples where evidenced-based medicine has helped save or improve the lives of thousands of people and where by not practicing evidenced-based medicine we have killed almost as many.

A doctor who practices evidence-based medicine is someone who uses their skills to identify the best available scientific evidence along with their clinical experience to answer questions that matter to their patients and help them make the best decisions for their healthcare (here’s a nice video about what EBM is:

There are lots of people conducting and reporting good science in health and medicine. But there are also people doing and reporting bad science. I try to applaud and promote the first group of people and highlight and help guard us against the second.

Nowadays in the modern world of instant online information, it is even more important for us all to understand the science behind the headlines of health stories and judge for ourselves whether it is based on good or bad evidence.

I work to ensure that doctors and other people working in medicine and health are aware of the good and bad evidence and I teach them how to be able to do this for themselves. (Here’s another video that shows a bit of what I teach about:

As well as all this, I also perform my own (hopefully good) research to help answer important questions related to medicine and our healthcare, particularly around the role of physical activity and exercise in helping prevent and treat major diseases such as heart disease and cancer (you can see some of my research here)

My Typical Day

Dog walking, writing, blogging, researching, reading, teaching, tweeting about evidence-based medicine, and then some Capoeira

After breakfast with my daughters and walking my dog (Bimba), I start work on the train as most of my work is done on my phone, laptop or PC. I’m quite active on twitter. It’s great for seeing what other geeks like me are talking about and the latest dodgy science being tweeted.

I work in the newly built Department of Primary Care Health Sciences which is housed above a new GP surgery in central Oxford. Here is a picture of my office building:

And here’s the general practice surgery on the ground floor:

I work as both a lecturer and researcher, splitting my time between teaching and research. My research is split between experiments (called ‘studies’ or ‘trials’) on people and patients in the community and searchers of evidence to help answer important medical and health questions. My ‘lab’ is therefore the doctor’s surgery below my office or the body of scientific evidence and health stories available online.

As I work in an academic department my day often includes attending meetings and seminars. We have over 200 researchers and post-graduate students in our department so their is often someone talking about their work but we also have scientists from other departments and universities coming to share their work and ideas. I also get involved; here’s me giving a recent talk on some of my work:

A lot of my day is spent at my desk (or another desk at one of the many nice buildings in Oxford). I’ll often be doing different things each day and most times I’m multitasking on different things (thats why I have 3 computer screens at my desk!). This will often include preparing for teaching, talking to students about their work, analysing data, writing papers or presentations for scientific journals and meetings or writing for my blog.

The best thing I love about my job is that I’m surrounded by amazing scientists and researchers where I can just tap on their door for a chat on important issues related to health, medicine and evidence. I think this is where I have learnt most. I also have a colleague whom I collaborate with on most of my research and ideas. I think this is really important because two heads are definitely better than one – many of the best discoveries and ideas in science are made and created by scientists working together.

To recover from all this in the evenings I train and teach Capoeira, a Brazilian art form/martial art.

What I'd do with the money

I’d use it to buy audio equipment to record podcasts with students giving tips about how they’ve learnt to work out if studies they read about health are based on good or bad science (using crazy examples like “Inject pregnant urine to lose weight”)!

One of the projects I am currently working on is introducing teaching of evidence-based medicine (EBM) to GCSE and A-level students.

We have been working with a biology teacher from Lingfield School in Surry, Sarah Pannell, who has an interest in EBM. I have already delivered talks and a workshop on EBM to teachers for them to take back and run with their students (you can read more about the project here). Sarah has tried it out and even blogged about her experience on our website here.

Sarah will now be coming to work with us at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) in Oxford for a few days per semester. One of the things we didn’t do was ask and record what the students felt about the sessions on EBM. This could work well as short podcasts with students to find out what they liked, didn’t like and what they learnt. We could then provide these for other teachers and students to help when they are planning their own EBM lessons.

In addition, with Sarah now coming to the CEBM this is a great opportunity for us to work together to create some resources and materials on big ideas in EBM and break them down into understandable chunks. Again podcasts with additional tasks, news stories and research papers would be one way of doing this.

We could also create youtube videos, perhaps with current music tracks but with the lyrics changed to EBM concepts.

Finally there are neat ways of drawing and scribing ideas for online use but these require a subscription.

If I were to win I would us the money to buy 2 sets of podcasting equipment, one for Sarah to use at the CEBM and one to loan out to schools to record their experience of lessons on EBM. If there was any money left over I would use this for access to online tools to help create additional “EBM for under-18s” resources for sharing with schools.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Energetic, hard-working, risk-taker

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Tom Jobim

What's your favourite food?

Homemade pizza from my DIY outdoor clay oven

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Driving a 4×4 over giant sand dunes in Brazil

What did you want to be after you left school?

Bruce Lee

Were you ever in trouble at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I’ve created a tool to help patients and doctors make sense of scientific findings and evidence

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Martial arts training and the desire to understand my body and my lecturers at college and university

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A Ninja

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Health and happiness for my children, a tele-porter between work and home, a workout with Bruce Lee

Tell us a joke.

I’m good looking, really clever and funny

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here’s my desk. There’s so many headlines & news stories plus my own data and writing that I need 3 screens!













Here’s me preparing for a presentation to colleagues in my department













And here I am presenting my big idea (I hope Richard Branson is watching)!