What We Do:
The Science Policy Branch provides scientific leadership and advice on a wide range of drug abuse research and policy issues:
- Synthesizes and disseminates information about NIDA-supported science and programmatic activities
- Identifies, analyzes, and prepares briefing materials on behalf of the Institute
- Provides timely responses to inquiries from Congress, other public agencies, professional organizations, and the public
- Develops and provides scientific review of NIDA publications and multimedia initiatives
- Monitors and coordinates NIDA’s response to broad policy issues related to drug use and addiction
- Coordinates NIDA’s strategic planning, performance reporting, program evaluation, and OMB clearance for NIDA-sponsored data collections
- Maureen Boyle, Ph.D., Branch Chief, SPB
Maureen Boyle, Ph.D. is the Chief of the Science Policy Branch in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications. Prior to joining NIDA Dr. Boyle was a Lead Public Health Advisor for Health Information Technology (HIT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) where she coordinated efforts to promote the use of technology to improve the delivery of substance abuse treatment. Prior to joining SAMHSA Dr. Boyle was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow serving at the National Institutes of Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). In this role she led multiple initiatives to improve data collection and clinical quality measurement within behavioral health. Dr. Boyle received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis where she studied the genetic and molecular basis of depression and anxiety-related behaviors. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Allen Institute for Brain Science where she investigated neuropathological, molecular, and genetic abnormalities in Autistic children and animal models of autism.
Emily Jones, Ph.D., Deputy Branch Chief
Emily Jones joined the Science Policy Branch in January 2017 and serves as the Deputy. Previously, she was a policymaker and health services researcher at the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). Before that, she was Team Lead for HITECH Act evaluation at the HHS Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT, and part of the team implementing the Affordable Care Act in federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Emily also served as the Assistant Director of the Outstanding Scholar Program in the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission; she has over 10 years of federal experience. She gained research experience at the Urban Institute, the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, and the George Washington University Department of Health Policy, where she served as Associate Director of the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Foundation Research Collaborative. She holds a Doctorate in Health Policy from George Washington University, a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown, and a Bachelor's in Organizational Behavior and Management from Brown University.
- Ruben Baler, Ph.D., Health Scientist Administrator
Dr. Ruben Baler joined the Science Policy Branch in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications in October 2004 as a Health Science Administrator. His early publications focused on gene promoter architecture and gene expression in the brain’s clock. At NIDA, he writes and lectures about the neurobiology of drug abuse and addiction for a range of audiences. Dr. Baler has gathered critical insight from diverse disciplines, which he combines to advance NIDA’s scientific mission as it intersects with cellular and molecular biology, genetics, immunology, bioinformatics, neuroscience, and neuroethics. Dr. Baler’s many contributions to other dissemination efforts include scientific writing (English and Spanish), teaching, public speaking to lay audiences, and fielding interview requests for a variety of print, radio, and broadcast media outlets. Prior to coming to NIDA, Dr. Baler worked at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he conducted basic research on the molecular basis of circadian gene expression in vertebrates. He received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Biology from the University of Miami in 1993 and completed his postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, specializing in Molecular Chronobiology.
- Jessica Cotto, M.P.H., Health Science Policy Analyst
Ms. Cotto joined the Science Policy Branch in 2009 and serves as a Health Science Policy Analyst. Her primary responsibilities include analyzing data and synthesizing information from disparate sources to identify trends related to substance use and contributing to a variety of science-based materials to inform the public about drug use, abuse and addiction. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from San Diego State University and a Master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from George Washington University. Prior to NIDA, Ms. Cotto served as a Clinical Research Associate for The Children's National Medical Center, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Cancer Institute.
- Genevieve deAlmeida-Morris, Ph.D., Health Research Evaluator
Dr. deAlmeida-Morris joined the Science Policy Branch in the Office of Science Policy and Communications in 2004 as a Health Science Administrator (Health Research Evaluator). Her primary responsibilities include evaluation, Office of Management and Budget clearance, and Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) coordination. Prior to coming to NIDA, Dr. deAlmeida-Morris worked at the National Institute of Nursing Research as Acting Chief of the Office of Science Policy and Communications and as Program Analyst for Evaluation; at the Veterans Health Administration as Health Science Specialist; and at the Fogarty International Center writing evaluation proposals. She conducts successful program evaluations of NIDA’s research and dissemination programs and of trans-NIH programs for which NIDA has the lead. She serves on trans-NIH Workgroups and Evaluation Committees for GPRA, research training, and for the evaluation of trans-NIH programs such as the NIH Common Fund.
- Emily Einstein, Ph.D., Health Science Policy Analyst
Dr. Einstein joined the Science Policy Branch, Office of Science Policy and Communications as Health Science Policy Analyst in January 2015. On the SPB team, Dr. Einstein develops materials to communicate the science of drugs of abuse and substance use disorders to members of the public, the scientific community, and the government, with an emphasis on prescription opioids and heroin. Prior to joining OSPC, Dr. Einstein was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of Autism Research Coordination at NIMH. Dr. Einstein received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yale University, where her research was focused on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of opioid reward.
- Juanita Nelson, Program Assistant
Ms. Nelson joined the Science Policy Branch (SPB) in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications (OSPC) in June 1999 as a Program Assistant, providing substantive support and assistance to the SPB Branch Chief and staff, and other senior OSPC staff. She manages various administrative duties, such as processing and submitting procurement requisitions, training nominations, travel authorizations, and payment vouchers, and coordinating meetings for the branch. Prior to joining NIDA, Ms. Nelson served as a Printing Specialist at the Department of Defense for 8 years. There she accepted work directly from customers; prepared the technical contract procurement or in-house specifications required to get the jobs printed; managed the production, automatic distribution, and stocking of sponsored publications; and handled procurement of miscellaneous printing materials for headquarters personnel, field activities, and other Naval and Department of Defense activities.
- Cathrine Sasek, Ph.D., Health Scientist Administrator
Dr. Sasek has been a Health Scientist Administrator in the Science Policy Branch, Office of Science Policy and Communications, since 1990. Shortly after coming to NIDA, Dr. Sasek initiated NIDA's Science Education Program, which she currently coordinates. Her other duties include serving as co-chair of NIDA’s Neuroscience Consortium and as NIDA’s Animal Welfare Coordinator. Dr. Sasek received her doctoral degree in Anatomy with an emphasis in Neuroscience from the University of Minnesota in 1985, followed by 2 years at Harvard Medical School as a postdoctoral research fellow before joining the Pharmacology Department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
- Eric Wargo Ph.D., Science Writer
Dr. Wargo currently serves as a Science Writer in the Science Policy Branch (SPB) of NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications. Before coming to NIH in 2012, he was Editorial Director at the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, DC. There he managed two top-ranked journals: Current Directions in Psychological Science and Psychological Science in the Public Interest. In SPB, Dr. Wargo writes and edits a variety of materials for a range of audiences, including fact sheets, blog posts, and other web materials; treatment guides for clinicians; and responses to congressional inquiries and other special projects. He received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Emory University in 2000.