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The baby is all grown up

This year, the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education is celebrating its 20th birthday, and I’m celebrating my 20th year as Editor. After bringing JDSDE into this world, watching it grow up, attending to its bumps, bruises, and milestones, it’s time for me to let it go and let it find its own way in the world.

It started at a professional meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a number of researchers interested in deaf children, deaf education, and the Deaf world lamenting that the field was lacking a high-quality, scholarly journal. As a result, rather than having a critical mass available in one place, our research was being scattered in the wind to specialized journals in psychology, child development, linguistics, and others disciplines that frequently did not appreciate studies involving a “low-incidence population,” regardless of the quality of the work. There seemed one logical response: “Let’s start a new journal.”

With only one dissenter in the group, I spent lunch time that day with a publisher exhibiting at the conference, learning how to write a journal prospectus. With the details on the back of a hotel napkin; the publisher’s only requirement was that if we didn’t publish the journal with him, I was going to owe him a $1 bill, autographed. I assumed my money was safe. That night, however, I was having dinner with my OUP editor to celebrate the signing of my second book contract when I made the (admittedly uninformed) comment that it was “too bad that Oxford doesn’t publish journals,” because I had an idea for something completely different.

After she calmed down, I agreed to send the prospectus for what was to become JDSDE to both Oxford and the other publisher. Each had published one of my first two books, and I told both that I trusted them enough that if they didn’t want the journal, I would give up the idea.

Volume 1 number 1 was published at the beginning of 1996. The first issue arrived in my office together with the bouquet of balloons from which was dangling a collection of baby ornaments: stars, teddy bears, smiley faces, and a card which still reads (as it hangs from my bookcase): “Congratulations on the birth of your Journal. 11.7 ounces, 8 ¼ inches wide. Jackie, Joy, Joan, and the OUP staff.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Learning sign language. © huePhotography via iStock.

As a non-society journal, there were some lean times early on, but JDSDE has gone on to become the preeminent scholarly journal in the field, at least according to several of the pioneers in the field. It has continued to grow in terms of breadth, quality, subscriptions, submissions, and impact factor. In 2014, it “spun-off” what OUP calls a microsite, Raising and Educating Deaf Children: Foundations for Policy, Practice, and Outcomes, a website that provides evidence-based information on…well…raising and educating deaf children…for parents, educators, policymakers, and others involved with deaf children and the Deaf community. Quarterly bulletins, often by JDSDE Board Members and authors, are accompanied by links providing free access to OUP publications as a public service of the Press. The first year saw the site viewed by over 18,000 unique visitors, and the audience is growing.

But we are now 20 years into this adventure, and it’s time for me to send the baby off into the world. Through the years, I have told my OUP Journals Editors that I wanted to step down before there was danger of my running the journal “into the ground,” as I have seen other editors stay in the chair too long. For years I’ve been looking for the person who I thought could take the journal to the next level and would be willing to put in the hours and energy necessary. Professor Susan Easterbrooks is now on board, after shadowing me for one year and serving as Co-Editor for another. In the coming weeks, I will pass the editorial mantle over to her, and for the first time watch JDSDE from a distance. It’s an interesting feeling.

When we started the journal, I sincerely (and naïvely) believed that in the Editor’s chair, I would be able to help the field become a more scholarly, empirically-based one. That has happened, as evidenced in the pages of the last 20 volumes of JDSDE, but I don’t think I had anything to do with it. The founding mothers and fathers of the journal wanted to provide a forum for the publication of good research, as well as high-quality theoretical and review papers, that could inform investigators, educators, and others about the strengths and needs of deaf children, the blossoming world of the Deaf community, the nature of signed languages, and, as described in one editorial, “all things deaf.” Toward that end, 20 years of effort by Associate Editors, Editorial Board members, ad hoc reviewers, and more than 1,000 authors has brought all of that to fruition.

A (deaf) colleague and friend, who is also an Editorial Board member, told me some years ago that if I gave up editing JDSDE, the journal would not survive. Well, the baby is all grown up, standing on its own feet, and neither he nor I need to worry about it anymore.

Recent Comments

  1. Abby Gross

    The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education is such an important “place” for the best research in the field to be published. Congratulations on 20 years!

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