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Professor Neville Owen

Neville is a Senior Scientist in the Baker Institute‘s Physical Activity laboratory and Distinguished Professor in the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne University. He has honorary appointments as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland, the Department of Medicine at Monash University, and the Centre for Health Research at the University of Southern Queensland.

His research relates to the primary prevention of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, through identifying health consequences and environmental influences on physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour – too little exercise and too much sitting. This involves laboratory-based experimental work, large scale prospective observational studies and field-based randomised controlled trials. He has published some 600 peer-reviewed papers.

Neville has been supported continuously by grants from the NHMRC since 1992, and recently completed his second NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship, a five-year Program Grant (Sitting less and moving more: population health research to understand and influence sedentary behaviour) and a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (Sitting time and chronic disease — measurement, mechanisms and interventions).


  • In tobacco control, documenting novel population data on correlates of tobacco use, outcomes of telephone and print delivered smoking cessation interventions; this provided key evidence to inform tobacco control strategies; co-writing the original 'Can Quit Book' (the precursor of the self-help cessation guides used to this day) and conducting the NHMRC trial led to the national 'Quit Coach' smoking-cessation website.
  • In physical activity, conducting measurement studies had a strong scientific influence and led to initiatives developing the Active Australia Survey; since the mid-1990s, this has been the standard method used by the Commonwealth and states to characterise physical activity in population-health surveys; publishing a set of peer-reviewed papers on the outcomes of state and national mass media campaigns that remain internationally-unique findings.
  • In physical activity policy formulation, conducting the Why People Do and Do Not Exercise project for the Commonwealth in the early 1980s and more-listen providing some of the key elements of the evidence base for the Heart Foundation's Built Environment and Walking, and Healthy Spaces and Places initiatives.
  • In sedentary behaviour, the most highly-cited and highly-published researcher by international metrics, US-NCI advisory roles, invited presentations and chapters for mainstream exercise science and physical activity textbooks.
  • Web of Science and Clarivate highly-cited researcher in the Social Sciences
  • Invited speaker: ‘Sitting at work with diabetes: evidence and opportunities’ Diabetes NSW and ACT Update Day (November 2018)
  • Bridges-Webb Oration: ‘Too little exercise and too much sitting: emerging implications for diabetes and cardiovascular disease’, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Sydney (August 2018)
  • Visiting Fellow lecture: ‘Sedentary behavior and health: workplace research findings and opportunities’, Waseda University, Tokyo (September 2017)
  • International Fellow public oration: ‘Too much sitting and the diabetes epidemic: prevention through the workplace’, Ghent University, Belgium (April 2017)

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