Prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet commencing 6 June 2022, Professor Davis served as Chief Executive Officer of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Australia's largest charitable foundation with a mission to break the cycle of disadvantage.
In his academic life, Professor Davis has served as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Melbourne and Griffith University and, until recently, as Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. He remains a Visiting Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and a Visiting Fellow at Exeter College. He also holds visiting professorial appointments at King's College London, Manchester University and the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.
Professor Davis is a public policy specialist, with experience in government and higher education, who delivered in 2010 the Boyer Lectures on the theme 'The Republic of Learning'. His community work includes partnering with Indigenous programs in the Goulburn–Murray Valley and Cape York, and service on a range of arts boards, including the Queensland and Melbourne Theatre Companies. In late 2021 he took on the role as Chair of Opera Australia.
His most recent book is On Life's Lottery (Hachette, 2021), an essay on our moral responsibility toward those less well off.