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.
The risk of serious COVID-19 illness in children is comparable to their risk from the flu, but many parents seem more concerned about coronavirus. The issue of risk perception has a lot do with it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fully vaccinated people against COVID-19 can resume activities indoors or outdoors, in gatherings large or small, without masks or distancing.
Drugs that can help keep COVID-19 patients out of the hospital are playing only a small role in Michigan, where the pandemic is accelerating. Logistical challenges are to blame.
A medical team in New York City says it has performed the first complete surgical transplant of a trachea. These kinds of transplants are one of the last big transplant challenges.
A Baltimore company trying to produce COVID-19 vaccines had to throw out a bad batch of the Johnson & Johnson product. That sets back efforts to expand production of this vaccine.
AstraZeneca has updated the data about its COVID-19 vaccine after criticism that its previous statement was based on incomplete information. The update still finds that the shot is safe and effective.
Many doctors have used antibiotics to treat COVID-19 patients, but that's largely unnecessary — and could even promote drug-resistant germs.
Infusing blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 into sick patients looks good on paper. But studies of the treatment haven't found benefits.
People who have been sick with COVID-19 may need only one dose of the normally two-shot vaccines. If that became policy it could extend vaccine supplies, but logistical challenges are daunting.
A seemingly easy and cheap treatment for a deadly disease has failed in a major study. Vitamin C is apparently not useful for sepsis after all. That's a lesson for similar COIVD-19 treatments.