Richard Harris covered science, medicine and the environment at National Public Radio for 35 years. His award-winning work includes reports in 2010 that revealed the US Government was vastly underestimating the amount of oil spilling from the Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
He also shared a Peabody award with colleague Rebecca Perl for their 1994 reports about the tobacco industry’s secret documents, which showed that company scientists were well aware of the hazards of smoking. The American Geophysical Union honored him with a Presidential Citation for Science and Society. Among his many other honors, he has won three AAAS Science Journalism Awards for his work. He has twice been a finalist for the National Academy of Sciences’ top science writing award.
Richard has traveled the world, from the South Pole and the Great Barrier Reef to Timbuktu, reporting on climate change. He was at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 when the Framework Convention on Climate Change took shape. He covered many of the key meetings that followed, including sessions in Kyoto, Bonn, Bali, Durban and Copenhagen.
In 2014, he turned his attention back to biomedical research and came to realize how the field was suffering. Too many scientists were chasing too little funding. That led him to take a year-long sabbatical at Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes to research and write Rigor Mortis. It is his first book. He has spoken widely about the topic since the book’s publication. It has also been published in Japanese and Spanish.
Richard grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned a bachelors degree in biology at UC-Santa Cruz. He graduated with highest honors and spoke at commencement. In his first full-time reporter job, at the Livermore (Calif.) Tri-Valley Herald, he discovered that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was working on a new generation of nuclear weapons — ones that use nuclear explosives to generate energy beams. Scientists at the time contemplated putting these weapons in space to shoot down incoming missiles.
In June 2021, Richard decided to take a break from daily journalism. He left NPR and is now enjoying some down-time. He serves as treasurer of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. He has two grown children and he currently resides in Washington DC.