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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Kateryna Kon/Science Source

Vitamin C Fails Again As Treatment For Sepsis

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Leyda Valentine, a research coordinator, takes blood from Lisa Taylor as she participates in a COVID-19 vaccination study at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Fla., in August 2020. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Long-Term Studies Of COVID-19 Vaccines Hurt By Placebo Recipients Getting Immunized

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A person receives a COVID-19 shot in Federal Way, Wash., at a vaccination clinic for the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington held on Feb. 4. David Ryder/Getty Images hide caption

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COVID-19 Vaccines Could Add Fuel To Evolution Of Coronavirus Mutations

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A Rocky Road On The Way To Herd Immunity For COVID-19

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A nurse tends to a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif., on Jan. 11. Ariana Drehsler/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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After A Year Battling COVID-19, Drug Treatments Get A Mixed Report Card

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Researchers are making progress in understanding the human immune response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the vaccine to prevent the disease. Christoph Burgstedt/Science Source hide caption

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3 Questions And The Emerging Answers About COVID-19 Vaccine Protection

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Immune System Studies Help Answer Questions About COVID-19 Vaccine

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Nurse Salina Padilla prepares an infusion of a COVID-19 antibody treatment at Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, Calif., in December. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images hide caption

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Tracking Down Antibody Treatment Is A Challenge For COVID-19 Patients

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Nurse Janet Gilleran prepares to treat COVID-19 patient Mike Mokler with bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody drug from Eli Lilly, at the Respiratory Infection Clinic of Tufts Medical Center in Boston on Dec. 31, 2020. Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe via Getty Images hide caption

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Doctors Encouraged By Antibody Treatments For COVID-19

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Doses Of Antibody Drugs Remain Unused As They Present Various Challenges

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Why The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Has Gotten Off To A Slow Start

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