Future challenges for the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research and for research in intellectual disabilities


This is the last editorial I shall be writing as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (JIDR). In March 2013, I will be handing over to my successor after 10 years in the post. Over this time we have published over 1000 papers in a combination of general, mental health and special editions. The papers published have been diverse in content, reflecting the range of research and of the disciplines undertaking the research. Contributors and readership have become more international with downloads increasing substantially year on year. All of this is encouraging. What then for the future? From a publishing perspective there is the challenge of open access. Few can deny the importance of opening up readership and making the papers available to all, but how to fund this and to ensure that all those who wish to submit sound research have access to the funds to pay, if their paper is accepted? Can we be certain, for a journal such as JIDR, that this will not distort what is submitted and what is accepted? A second area is that of social media. Ten years ago papers were submitted by post and then mailed to referees. Now it is done electronically, yet much more than this is possible. Facebook and Twitter provide the opportunity to publicly comment on papers in a manner that, 10 years ago was only just becoming apparent. JIDR is an important journal in our field and it is consider very successful by our publishers and owners, yet within the academic publishing industry it is a small player, thereby making these changes a particular challenge. Editorial resources are limited for JIDR and the research assessment exercises in different countries throughout the world favour the higher impact journals. For future editors the challenge will be to find a place for JIDR within this changing landscape of academic publishing and at the same time to certainly maintain, and hopefully to further raise standards.

JIDR is, of course, dependent on the quality and quantity of research in the field of intellectual disability (ID) being undertaken and on papers being submitted. Numbers of submissions have increased over the years and now approach the 300 mark over the year. With this increase the selection process is becoming tougher thereby further increasing the standard of the papers we publish. This is at a time when resources for research are diminishing, and getting grants, always a challenge, has become even harder. There is concern, certainly in the UK, about the future of academia in this field – are there new researchers entering the field? Yet the paradox is that there is also a sense of the great potential for research through new insights that have been gained in different academic disciplines with the use of new technologies that have, and are continuing to, become available. In addition, internationally there remains great diversity in the way that people with ID are supported and included within society. Political and cultural differences and influences on the relative extent of social inclusion or exclusion of people with ID in their society remain important topics for sociological and human rights research. In stark contrast, the papers we have published on the behavioural phenotypes associated with genetically determined neurodevelopmental syndromes reflect the increasing opportunities in the neurosciences and genetics. It is now becoming possible to investigate the links between identified genetic abnormalities to measures of brain dysfunction and then, in turn, to the impact of these on the complex developmental phenotype of a person with a given genetic syndrome associated with ID. With these developments, new more refined models of understanding will arise leading to novel and more effective interventions. For me, the excitement of this field of ID is how it can challenges us at so many different levels inviting basic and applied research that address problems, which may also be relevant across the whole of society.

The post of Editor is not always easy but it is certainly a privilege. It provides the opportunity to, not only promote the findings of research, but also to shape the research agenda. In this task I have been greatly helped by my editorial colleagues. My thanks to Jan Blatcher, Anna Cooper and Chris Oliver; and those of you who have volunteered to edit the many special editions. I would also like to thank Alison Gridley, Qingwen Li and their colleagues from Wiley and, very importantly, Sue Hampton-Matthews, who has been the editorial assistant for JIDR throughout these 10 years and who has been central to the smooth running of the Journal. Thank you also for the many interesting papers you have submitted and to those of you who have reviewed them and my apologies to those whose papers I turned down. I am very grateful for your support to JIDR and my best wishes to those who are taking over.