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 death rate is a contentious subject, in part because federal and island governments haven't responded as rapidly to the disaster as they have in other hurricane emergencies.
Doctors are prescribing fewer drugs to children, especially antibiotics. But use of certain drugs, including ADHD medications, has increased.
The goal is to customize treatments for cancer and other diseases to a patient's own biology. But something as simple as failing to take care of tissue samples en route to the lab can derail that.
Scientists are trying to develop a vaccine to block the euphoria of heroin without interfering with other pain relief. The Trump administration hopes the approach might help with the opioid epidemic.
Some states dictate how doctors must treat this life-threatening reaction to infection, and early intervention is helping. But scientific evidence may be changing too rapidly for the rules to keep up.
The fungus Candida auris has infected hospitalized patients with weakened immune systems or other serious conditions. Four of the seven patients died, but it's unclear if the fungus was the cause.
In the past 50 years, better medical care and healthier habits have greatly reduced the risk of dying young from heart disease. But the obesity epidemic threatens to reverse that happy trend.
A federal survey found that 119 million Americans age 12 and over took prescription drugs that included painkillers, tranquilizers, stimulants or sedatives.
The past 15 years have seen a drop in deaths and hospitalizations among Medicare patients — people 65 and older. Teasing out why is tricky, but it seems a good trend for the 50-year-old program.
All told, more than half a million Americans used heroin in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents a nearly 150 percent increase since 2007.