- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
His presentation, “Common Errors that Bedevil Biomedical Research and How to Fix Them,” will take place from 4:10 to 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow the lecture.
“Richard Harris has written a very important and unsettling book based on his careful investigation of the biomedical research enterprise. We can expect an intriguing and thought provoking lecture,” said Mark Winey, distinguished professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and dean of the College of Biological Sciences, UC Davis, who is hosting the journalist.
American taxpayers spend $30 billion annually funding biomedical research. “We all rely on biomedical research for new treatments and cures,” Harris says. “But this critical enterprise is not in the best of health itself. Most experimental treatments fail. One reason is that the underlying research does not hold up to scrutiny. Scientists find that far too often that they are unable to repeat experiments that other researchers have carried out.”
By some estimates, half of the results from these studies can't be replicated elsewhere—the science is simply wrong, Harris asserts. (See NPR)
The award-winning science journalist has covered science, medicine and the environment for NPR Radio since 1986. He took a year-long sabbatical to explore the issues facing biomedical research. Rigor Mortis, published in April 2017 by Basic Books, is his first book.
Harris, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, holds a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Santa Cruz, graduating with highest honors and serving as a commencement speaker. He began his journalism career as a reporter for the Livermore (Calif.) Tri-Valley Herald, discovering 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, he wrote, contemplated using the weapons in space to shoot down incoming missiles.
He later joined the San Francisco Examiner as a science writer. He is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers and the Northern California Science Writers' Association, and co-founded the DC Science Writers Association.
His work covers everything from oil spills to the hazards of smoking to climate change. In 2010, he revealed the U.S. Government was vastly underestimating the amount of oil spilling from the Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. He 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.
He has also reported on climate change, traveling from the South Pole and the Great Barrier Reef to the Arctic Ocean. The American Geophysical Union awarded him with a Presidential Citation for Science and Society.
In 2014, he turned his attention back to biomedical research and took a year-long sabbatical at Arizona State University's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes to research and write Rigor Mortis.
The Tracy and Ruth Storer Lectureship in the Life Sciences, established in 1960, is the considered the most prestigious of the endowed seminars at UC Davis. The lectureship is funded through a gift from Professor Tracy I. Storer and Dr. Ruth Risdon Storer to bring eminent biologists to the UC Davis campus.
Past Storer Lectures have included Nobel laureates, members of the National Academy of Science and acclaimed authors in the life sciences and medicine.
(Editor's Note: Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is coordinating the Storer Lectureships in Life Sciences for the academic year. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)