A New Era at NIDA Notes

This is Archived content. This content is available for historical purposes only. It may not reflect the current state of science or language from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). For current information, please visit nida.nih.gov.

David Anderson
David Anderson

As we say goodbye to 2019 and enter a new year, we would like to honor and thank NIDA Notes Editor David Anderson, who recently retired after 20 years at the helm of NIDA’s signature science publication.

When David took over in 1999, NIDA Notes was printed in two colors and had a mailing list of around 16,000 subscribers. Under his leadership, print subscribers grew to nearly 100,000 subscribers receiving it biweekly; now as an online publication, the site enjoys around a million views a year.

During our print era, David led the production of various ancillary NIDA Notes items, including inserts for the Journal for Minority Medical Students and a special NIDA 25th Anniversary issue that featured a timeline of major NIDA discoveries since its beginning, illustrated with historical photographs.

In 2006, David updated the publication to a four-color format, and, in 2007, he published the article "Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission," the first of a series of pieces on basic principles or reference articles. This article—updated in 2017—has been the most read in every month since we started tracking audience behavior after 2012. In 2008, David led the development of an “Innovations” issue featuring articles about breakthrough research techniques and findings, including optogenetics and the role of the immune system in brain development.

In 2012, he led the switch to a digital-only publication. At first, readers could still receive a print publication as well as the online companion version, but they soon realized the advantages of the online format, which gave us the ability to post journal article summaries more quickly; offer links to the journal reports that are sources for our articles; provide links to other related articles; and produce animations and videos. The most ambitious video to date, which posted in December 2019, covers the work of Dr. Gene Brody at the University of Georgia and a prevention intervention he developed with his colleagues, called the Strong African American Families Program. Our most popular video has been "The Rise and Fall of the Cocaine High."

David also wanted to offer readers an intimate look at the complex and often agonizing journey to a substantive research finding. In 2014, he published the first installments of two "Narratives of Discovery" series, one following Drs. Marco Diana and Diana Martinez, who were independently trying to develop transcranial magnetic stimulation into a treatment for addiction, the other following Dr. Linda Dwoskin’s efforts to develop a medication specifically for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. The series with Drs. Diana and Martinez ended in 2016 and 2017, respectively; however, the series with Dr. Dwoskin continues and has so far had four installments.

While David’s innovative and steady hand has kept NIDA Notes the premier source to learn about NIDA-funded addiction science, David has often said his most gratifying work was the development of the NIDA journal, Science & Practice Perspectives. Seeking to build a bridge between clinicians and researchers, David developed a unique concept for the journal—researchers wrote articles to which panels of clinicians responded, and clinicians wrote articles reviewed by researchers. At the time, no other journal existed to bring researchers and clinicians into this kind of direct conversation.

Over time, David changed the journal’s name to Addiction Science & Clinical Practice to reflect its unique approach to translating science. The journal published a total of 10 issues from 2002 to 2011 before it was handed off to the Boston University School of Public Health, where it continues to be published with its original translational mission.

Those of us fortunate enough to work with David were familiar with the high-quality nature photography that lined his office in North Bethesda, Maryland, taken with his own creative hand. In retirement, he will pursue more photography and fiction writing and enjoy more time with his wife Marguerite and pup Marco Polo. We wish him well and thank him for setting such a high standard in translating complex scientific concepts for professional and interested lay audiences.

Dr. Eric Wargo from NIDA’s Science Policy Branch, who has served on the publication’s Editorial Board, will serve as NIDA Notes Editor until we can become more fully staffed, knowing that David is only a phone call away.