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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UK Biobank has granted 10,000 qualified scientists access to its large database of genetic sequences and other medical data, but other organizations with databases have been far more restrictive in giving access. KTSDESIGN/Getty Images/Science Photo Library hide caption

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How Should Scientists' Access To Health Databanks Be Managed?

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UK Biobank, based in Manchester, England, is the largest blood-based research project in the world. The research project will involve at least 500,000 people across the U.K., and follow their health for next 30 years or more, providing a resource for scientists battling diseases. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images hide caption

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UK Biobank Requires Earth's Geneticists To Cooperate, Not Compete

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Researchers looked for genetic variants linked to sexual behavior in new genetic research that analyzed DNA from donated blood samples from nearly half a million middle-aged people from Britain who participated in a project called UK Biobank. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images hide caption

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Search For 'Gay Genes' Comes Up Short In Large New Study

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Researchers in Nigeria are participating in an African effort to develop a biobank that reflects the rich genetic diversity of Africa. Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Getty Images hide caption

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Lack Of Diversity In Genetic Databases Hampers Research

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A study conducted in six Canadian cities found a link between maternal consumption of fluoride during pregnancy and intelligence of their offspring. vitapix/Getty Images hide caption

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Can Maternal Fluoride Consumption During Pregnancy Lower Children's Intelligence?

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FDA Rolls Out New Graphic Warnings For Cigarette Packages And Tobacco Ads

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Health workers in protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation cube in Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jerome Delay/AP hide caption

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2 Experimental Ebola Drugs Saved Lives In Congo Outbreak

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Trust In Scientists Is Rising, Poll Finds

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Bacteria (purple) in the bloodstream can trigger sepsis, a life-threatening illness. Steve Gschmeissner/ScienceSource hide caption

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Regulations That Mandate Sepsis Care Appear To Have Worked In New York

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A decade ago, it seemed inevitable that every newborn would get a complete gene scan. But there are technical challenges and practical concerns. Brooke Pennington/Getty Images hide caption

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The Promises And Pitfalls Of Gene Sequencing For Newborns

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Accumulated Mutations Create A Cellular Mosaic In Our Bodies

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An analysis of air quality and childhood asthma in Los Angeles found that kids' health improved when smog declined. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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When LA's Air Got Better, Kids' Asthma Cases Dropped

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Smartphone App And Paper Funnel Could Help Diagnose Ear Infections

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