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EveryONE: Owen Tomlinson

Note: this is the first of a series of posts in which you’ll get a glimpse into the important work that PLOS ONE authors are performing. Today we’re showcasing Owen Tomlinson from the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom

What is your area of study and why it’s important?

My main area of research surrounds the role of exercise in the management of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that mainly affects the lungs. High levels of aerobic fitness are important in cystic fibrosis, as it is related to a person’s risk of being hospitalised and declining function. My research focuses on how we measure this fitness, understanding why it might be limited in this group, and how we can encourage patients to be more active.

What first drew you to your field?

I’ve always been involved in sports coaching, and particularly working with children. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, I undertook an internship with the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter, where I was first introduced to the role of exercise in clinical populations – and I’ve never looked back, having just completed my PhD in exercise testing for patients with cystic fibrosis at the very same research centre.

Has your (and your peers’) work advanced the field in the scientific community or the broader public?

Thanks to our efforts, more hospitals in the UK are offering this type of exercise testing to monitor patient progress, and engage them in personalised exercise rehabilitation. This application of our research is positively benefiting patients’ lives and is fantastic to see.

Why do you choose to publish Open Access?

The importance of Open Science really struck me when I was reading for my Master’s degree. So many papers I needed were behind paywalls, I grew frustrated at how ‘closed off’ much of the scientific community was. It’s gotten better over the years, with more Open Access publications, grant bodies requesting Open Access, and a greater awareness of the issue, but there’s still a long way to go. As so much of our work is funded by charities and tax-payer funded research bodies, it’s imperative the public and patients we work for can see what research we are doing.

What drives you in your career in science?

The unknown! Within everyone is an innate desire to know more about anything and everything. Being a scientist allows me to answer some of these questions, whilst putting these thought processes to use for the benefit of patients. Being able to help people live their lives in spite of disease is a great reward that is massively helped by the scientific process.

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