Richard Harris Award-winning journalist Richard Harris reports on biomedical research for NPR's newsmagazines, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Richard Harris 2010
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Richard Harris

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Richard Harris 2010
Doby Photography/NPR

Richard Harris

Correspondent, Science Desk

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.

Harris has traveled to all seven continents for NPR. His reports have originated from Timbuktu, the South Pole, the Galapagos Islands, Beijing during the SARS epidemic, the center of Greenland, the Amazon rain forest, the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro (for a story about tuberculosis), and Japan to cover the nuclear aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.

In 2010, Harris' reporting revealed that the blown-out BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was spewing out far more oil than asserted in the official estimates. That revelation led the federal government to make a more realistic assessment of the extent of the spill.

Harris covered climate change for decades. He reported from the United Nations climate negotiations, starting with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and including Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009. Harris was a major contributor to NPR's award-winning 2007-2008 "Climate Connections" series.

Over the course of his career, Harris has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. Those include the American Geophysical Union's 2013 Presidential Citation for Science and Society. He shared the 2009 National Academy of Sciences Communication Award and was a finalist again in 2011. In 2002, Harris was elected an honorary member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. Harris shared a 1995 Peabody Award for investigative reporting on NPR about the tobacco industry. Since 1988, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has honored Harris three times with its science journalism award.

Before joining NPR, Harris was a science writer for the San Francisco Examiner. From 1981 to 1983, Harris was a staff writer at The Tri-Valley Herald in Livermore, California, covering science, technology, and health issues related to the nuclear weapons lab in Livermore. He started his career as an AAAS Mass Media Science Fellow at the now-defunct Washington Star in DC.

Harris is co-founder of the Washington, DC, Area Science Writers Association, and is past president of the National Association of Science Writers. He serves on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Harris' book Rigor Mortis was published in 2017. The book covers the biomedicine "reproducibility crisis" — many studies can't be reproduced in other labs, often due to lack of rigor, hence the book's title. Rigor Mortis was a finalist for the 2018 National Academy of Sciences/Keck Communication Award.

A California native, Harris returned to the University of California-Santa Cruz in 2012, to give a commencement address at Crown College, where he had given a valedictory address at his own graduation. He earned a bachelor's degree at the school in biology, with highest honors.

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CDC Announces First U.S. Case Of New Coronavirus In Washington State

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Sepsis arises when the body overreacts to an infection, and blood vessels throughout the body become leaky. Researchers now estimate that about 11 million people worldwide died with sepsis in 2017 alone — that's about 20% of all deaths. Medic Image/Universal Images Gr/Getty Images hide caption

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Stealth Disease Likely To Blame For 20% Of Worldwide Deaths

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Declines in smoking contributed to a drop in lung cancer death rates that helped drive down overall cancer death rates in the U.S., according to the latest analysis of trends by the American Cancer Society. VIEW press/Corbis via Getty Images hide caption

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Progress On Lung Cancer Drives Historic Drop In U.S. Cancer Death Rate

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When Alexa Kasdan's sore throat lingered for more than a week, she went to her doctor. The doctor sent her throat swab and blood draw to an out-of-network lab for sophisticated DNA tests, resulting in a $28,395.50 bill. Shelby Knowles for Kaiser Health News hide caption

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Shelby Knowles for Kaiser Health News

For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865

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CDC Says THC Additive Is The Culprit In Most Vaping Deaths

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The CDC is still trying to understand the mechanism by which Vitamin E acetate, an additive in some vapes, injures lung tissue. It may interfere with a natural fluid in the lung called surfactant, which helps make lung tissue stretchy. Or a byproduct may be a toxic chemical. Jelacic Valentina/EyeEm/Getty Images hide caption

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Millions Of Students Are Vaping

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6 Million Students Used Tobacco And Nicotine Products In 2019

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Researchers have identified waves of proteins in blood that peak at three distinct stages of life. What do the findings mean for aging? ER Productions Limited/Getty Images hide caption

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Scientists Find Surprising Age-Related Protein Waves In Blood

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Being overweight or obese can diminish the effectiveness of a flu shot, researchers say. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images hide caption

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Excess Weight Can Weaken The Flu Shot

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Trump Administration's Efforts To Ban Most Flavored Vaping Products Have Stalled Out

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Attendees hold "We Vape, We Vote" signs ahead of a Trump rally last month in Dallas. The politics surrounding vaping and industry pushback against regulation appear to have derailed the Trump administration's plan to ban the sales of many vaping products. Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria — rod-shaped bacteria in this tinted, scanning electron microscope image — are found in soil, water and as normal flora in the human intestine. But they can cause serious wound, lung, skin and urinary tract infections, and many pseudomonas strains are drug-resistant. Science Photo Library/Science Source hide caption

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How Best To Use The Few New Drugs To Treat Antibiotic-Resistant Germs?

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