Martin received his PhD (in theoretical physics) from the University of Sydney in 1976. He subsequently worked at the Australian National University as an applied mathematician before moving to the University of Wollongong in 1986 as a social scientist.
The central theme in Martin's research is the dynamics of power, with special attention to strategies for challenging repression and exploitation. He has explored power dynamics through an interplay of theory and case studies, including nonviolent action, dissent and scientific controversies. Martin states that his earlier scientific work was in stratospheric modelling and numerical methods; astrophysics; and wind power and electricity grids.
Martin's website states that he is the author of 12 books and over 200 major papers and chapters. In wider public life, he has spoken at a British Science Association Festival of Science, broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and testified at the Australian Senate's Inquiry into Academic Freedom.