Joe Palca Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR.
Joe Palca, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.
Stories By

Joe Palca

Mike Morgan/NPR
Joe Palca, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.
Mike Morgan/NPR

Joe Palca

Correspondent, Science Desk

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.

Palca began his journalism career in television in 1982, working as a health producer for the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. In 1986, he left television for a seven-year stint as a print journalist, first as the Washington news editor for Nature, and then as a senior correspondent for Science Magazine.

In October 2009, Palca took a six-month leave from NPR to become science writer in residence at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Palca has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Chemical Society's James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize, and the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing. In 2019, Palca was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for outstanding achievement in journalism.

With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (Wiley, 2011).

He comes to journalism from a science background, having received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he worked on human sleep physiology.

Story Archive

Gloria Clemons gives a COVID-19 vaccine to Navy veteran Perry Johnson at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., in September. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Breakthrough infections might not be a big transmission risk. Here's the evidence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1044553048/1045337873" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Breakthrough COVID may not be as threatening as scientists thought

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1045084648/1045084649" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

New antiviral drug from Merck could help reduce COVID hospitalizations and deaths

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1042477458/1042477459" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Merck to seek emergency authorization for pill it says cuts COVID-19 effects

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1042270301/1042320448" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Pfizer Booster Shot Is Only Being Recommended For People 65 And Over

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1038533128/1038533129" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

FDA Advisers Endorse Pfizer COVID Booster Only For Those 65 And Over Or At Risk

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1038395198/1038395199" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A Decision About Booster Shots To Fight COVID Could Be Coming Soon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1038180226/1038180227" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Pfizer Wants To Offer A 3rd COVID Vaccine Dose. Here Are The Pros And Cons

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1037542093/1037542094" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Scientists have studied the blood of people who were part of a large trial for the Moderna vaccine to measures antibodies that can help predict levels of immunity after getting a COVID-19 shot. Britta Pedersen/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Britta Pedersen/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

New Evidence Points To Antibodies As A Reliable Indicator Of Vaccine Protection

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1029827996/1030624567" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch are helping to test the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine against coronavirus variants. Joao Paulo Burini/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Joao Paulo Burini/Getty Images

A Texas Lab Performs Crucial Testing For Pfizer's COVID Vaccine

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1029449984/1029582456" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Only kids 12 and older are eligible — so far — to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. But the shots could be available for younger children as soon as this fall, say researchers studying the vaccine in that age group. Chris O'Meara/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Chris O'Meara/AP

The White House May Recommend COVID-19 Booster Shots

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1028368078/1028368079" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

FDA Authorizes Additional COVID-19 Dose For Immunocompromised People

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1027317238/1027317239" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The CDC Strongly Recommends That Pregnant Women Get A COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1026993156/1026993157" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript