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Science Policy Branch (SPB)

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

Staff Biographies:

  • Emily Jones, Ph.D.,  Acting Branch Chief
    Emily Jones joined the Science Policy Branch in January 2017.  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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

This page was last updated January 2018