David Saunders received a DPhil in chemistry before joining the National Gallery, London. From 2005–15 he was Keeper of Conservation and Scientific Research at the British Museum, where he is now an honorary research fellow. He is a visiting professor at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL. Research interests encompass the deterioration of museum objects, particularly pigments and painted surfaces and the effect of light and storage environments on such damage.
He was a guest scholar the Getty Conservation Institute in 2015–16, researching a book on museum lighting for conservators and curators. He returned the Getty Research Institute and the Waddesdon Archive at Waddesdon Manor in 2017 as the inaugural Getty/Rothschild Fellow. In 2018 he was Judith Praska Visiting Professor at the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.