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Professor Neville Owen

Neville is a Senior Scientist in the 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 informs the prevention and management 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 630 peer-reviewed papers. He is a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher, his Google Scholar H-index is 159, and his published papers have a total of some 112,000 citations.

Neville’s work has been supported by nationally competitive grants from multiple countries and by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the National Heart Foundation. He has been awarded grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; the Academy of Finland; and the World Cancer Research Fund, as well as NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowships, Program Grants, Capacity-Building and Centre of Research Excellence grants, and multiple project grants.

His previous positions have included as Head of the Behavioural Epidemiology laboratory at the Baker Institute, as Director of the Cancer Prevention Research Centre at the University of Queensland, and as Foundation Professor of Human Movement Science and Director of Research for the Faculty of Health and Behavioral Sciences and Head of the School of Human Movement at Deakin University.


  • 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, which 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 highest-cited and highly-published researcher by international metrics, US-NCI advisory roles, invited presentations and chapters for mainstream exercise science and physical activity textbooks.

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