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.
There are many questions remaining about COVID-19 vaccines, such as how long protection will last and whether vaccinated people can spread the virus. Immunologists are working hard to get the answers.
Antibody-based drugs that bind to the coronavirus to prevent it from invading cells can help patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. But the medicines can be tough to find in time.
Monoclonal antibody drugs for COVID-19 with mild to moderate symptoms are not widely used, in part because doctors aren't sure they work. New data could provide more confidence in these drugs.
The rollout of vaccines for COVID-19 has been slower than expected. Reasons include local logistics, lack of funding and staffing struggles during the winter holidays.
Colorado health officials found the variant of COVID-19 that spreads faster than the common strain. U.K. scientists identified the strain last week. It has spread in the U.K. and to other countries.
Monoclonal antibodies to prevent severe COVID-19 aren't being used as widely as expected. Medical staff shortages and patient transportation problems are two of the reasons.
The Food and Drug Administration says it will soon grant emergency authorization to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. NPR shares the latest news.
Common devices to measure oxygen in the blood don't work as well in people with darker skin, according to a new study. They are useful, but experts warn readings should be interpreted more carefully.
Pfizer may now start shipping the inoculation to hospitals across the country. Health care workers and people in nursing homes and assisted living centers will be given priority for the vaccine.
Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine may have side effects that can sometimes knock people out of work for a day or so. Hospitals are planning vaccine campaigns for their workers to avoid staff shortages.