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

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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.

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Coronavirus Challenges Pandemic Preparedness Program

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Researchers in Miami hold syringes containing either a placebo or the candidate COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna. Their work is part of a phase three clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Taimy Alvarez/AP hide caption

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Taimy Alvarez/AP

Why Coronavirus Vaccine Trials Need Large Numbers Of Volunteers

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The appointment of a climate change denier to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images hide caption

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Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, AstraZeneca had paused worldwide studies of its candidate vaccine after one U.K. participant developed symptoms consistent with the spinal cord inflammation known as transverse myelitis. Alastair Grant/AP hide caption

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Alastair Grant/AP

The AstraZeneca/Oxford partnership is one of the vaccine development efforts that is furthest along. The company recently began a Phase 3 trial in the United States that aims to enroll 30,000 volunteers. Alastair Grant/AP hide caption

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Alastair Grant/AP

Romanesco broccoli, as seen by a 3.2 billion pixel camera. Scientists chose to take a picture of the broccoli because of its fractal shape. LSST Camera team/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory/Rubin Observatory hide caption

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LSST Camera team/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory/Rubin Observatory

California Scientists Build A Camera To Take Pictures Of Huge Swath Of Sky

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A scientist at work on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate at Bogazici University in Istanbul in August. Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images hide caption

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Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

How Can You Tell If A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Working?

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How Volunteers And Scientists Help Determine If A Vaccine Works

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Several influenza vaccines have been made in the form of a nasal spray, instead of an injection. The sprays confer two kinds of immunity to the recipient but can be difficult technologically to make. Tim Sloan /AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Tim Sloan /AFP via Getty Images

What A Nasal Spray Vaccine Against COVID-19 Might Do Even Better Than A Shot

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FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn (left), Vice President Mike Pence, and Dr. Ella Grach, CEO of Wake Research, at the NC Biotechnology Center in July, where Phase 3 trials for a coronavirus vaccine candidate are underway. Gerry Broome/AP hide caption

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Gerry Broome/AP

COVID-19 Vaccine May Pit Science Against Politics

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When FDA Might Approve A Coronavirus Vaccine

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NIH Warns Data On Effectiveness Of Convalescent Plasma In Treating COVID-19 Is Weak

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