Welcome from Editor-in-Chief of RPSD

Stacy Dymond RPSD EditorI spent a recent day paging through my 40-year collection of TASH journals, beginning with the American Association for the Education of the Severely/Profoundly Handicapped (AAESPH) Review, followed by the Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (JASH), and concluding with Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (RPSD). I re-read the opening and closing editorials written by each of the previous 11 editors, noting their goals and accomplishments, and the changes made to the journal over time. Paging through each issue, I thought about the types of articles that had been written, the breadth of topics covered, and the historical sequence of ideas and knowledge that emerged over time. Although I am a long-time member of TASH and have been an avid reader of the journal for as long as I can remember, I must admit that I gained a new appreciation for the journal and the many people who have contributed so extensively to its current reputation. As well, TASH is to be commended for its unwavering support for the journal and its emphasis on scientifically-based research.

It is with great pleasure that I assume the role of editor of RPSD. It is indeed an honor to follow in the footsteps of Marty Agran who served as editor during the last seven years. Among his many accomplishments, Marty increased the number of manuscripts submitted to RPSD, transitioned the journal into a digital review process, and raised the journal’s impact factor. I am indebted to Marty for allowing me to work alongside him during recent months to gain a greater understanding of the inner workings of editing RPSD. He graciously shared his experiences and insights, and responded to my never-ending questions with good humor. I know I will continue to appreciate his continued guidance as I begin my tenure as editor. Special thanks are also extended to Eirin Grimes, the past Managing Editor, for her willingness to assist with the technical aspects of the transition, as well as Barb Trader for helping me understand the activities TASH performs to support the journal, and the many people at SAGE who have eagerly and competently assisted me to acquire skills needed to support my new role.

I am pleased to announce that five Associate Editors will continue as I begin my term. These individuals include Susan Copeland (University of New Mexico at Albuquerque), Donna Lehr (Boston University), John McDonnell (University of Utah), Karrie Shogren (University of Kansas), and Fred Spooner (University of North Carolina at Charlotte). These highly accomplished scholars bring extensive editorial experience and I am grateful for their willingness to continue as Associate Editors. I am also pleased to announce that Shari Hopkins at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will serve as Managing Editor and Joseph Robinson-Cimpian, also from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will serve as Statistical Consultant. I extend my deepest appreciation to all of these individuals for assuming these important roles.

During the next three years I hope to accomplish four major goals.

Maintain the rigor of the journal. Previous editors of RPSD have implemented practices that have allowed the journal to emerge as a leading source of scientific knowledge about individuals with severe disabilities. These practices have embraced an openness to diverse research methodologies, a quest for ensuring research findings have direct implications for practice, and a commitment to advancing the field by exploring new ideas and controversial topics. I intend to maintain the journal’s focus on cutting edge research as well as continue to solicit a broad range of manuscripts (e.g., commentaries, the exchange feature, program descriptions, literature reviews, brief reports) that further dialogue around important issues and continue to challenge our thinking.

Enhance the visibility and impact of RPSD. Thanks to Marty Agran’s leadership, RPSD’s visibility and impact have been enhanced as a result of the switch to a new publisher (SAGE, beginning in Fall, 2013), an online submission and review process (beginning in 2011), and the advance online publication of articles through Online First (beginning in 2015). I intend to further Marty’s efforts in this area by ensuring rapid posting of articles to Online First, working closely with SAGE to ensure timely publication of each issue, and collaborating with SAGE and TASH to explore avenues for increasing the journal’s visibility. Although journals with a specialized focus such as RPSD often have a lower impact factor than journals that target broader audiences, I will work with SAGE to examine strategies that will strengthen the journal’s rating.

Increase focus on individuals with the most severe disabilities. RPSD is unique among all other journals due to its focus on individuals with severe disabilities. As the journal and the field of severe disabilities have matured, the meaning of “severe disabilities” has indeed broadened. Some may believe that the terminology of “severe disabilities” is no longer important or needed; however, I believe its use allows us to remain focused on the individuals for whom TASH was originally founded. There are still far too many individuals with severe disabilities who are excluded from meaningful engagement in school, work, and community living. Although arguably all manuscripts accepted to RPSD address individuals with severe disabilities, I particularly wish to encourage manuscripts that advance our knowledge about appropriate supports, practices, and interventions that target individuals with the most extensive and complex support needs.

Mentor doctoral students in reviewing and writing for RPSD. A new direction for the journal will be the development of a doctoral student review board, that supplements reviews provided by the editorial board. This review board will be composed of a select number of advanced doctoral students who will serve as guest reviewers for manuscripts submitted to RPSD. The goal of creating this review board is to indoctrinate emerging scholars into TASH as a professional organization as well as help to mentor these scholars in reviewing manuscripts and understanding the rigor required for publication in RPSD. It is my hope that such a process will complement and extend the mentoring students are receiving at their own universities, bring fresh perspectives from the field to the critique of each manuscript submitted, and enable participants to become accomplished reviewers and future contributors to RPSD.

As I begin my 3-year term as editor, I invite readers to contact me directly with questions, comments, and suggestions, and I extend an open invitation to anyone wishing to serve as a guest reviewer to email me at sdymond@illinois.edu with a copy of their vita and a description of their areas of expertise. I also wish to acknowledge that the articles in this issue were accepted for publication under the editorship of Marty Agran. I extend my sincere thanks to Marty as lead editor and Karrie Shogren as guest editor for their work on this special issue. I think you will agree that the articles in this issue make an important contribution to furthering our understanding of the transformation of schools into inclusive communities.

Stacy Dymond
Editor-in-Chief, RPSD
University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois