Three overarching recommendations are presented below to address these needs.
Rehabilitation draws from a wide variety of disciplines—it is truly a multidisciplinary activity. Rehabilitation science and engineering is the body of knowledge that exists at the confluence of these disciplines—drawing from, and contributing to each. The continued development of a common knowledge base in rehabilitation science and engineering will be important to future research that can benefit people with disabling conditions.
At this point in the evolution of the science there is a sufficient knowledge base and level of research to justify the recognition of a new field of study. Such recognition would facilitate accelerations in multidisciplinary education, training, and research, all of which would combine to advance the field of rehabilitation science and engineering and more effectively address the needs of people with disabling conditions. For these reasons, the first overarching recommendation focuses on establishing rehabilitation science and engineering as a recognized field of study, as follows.
Overarching Recommendation 1. Rehabilitation science and engineering should be more widely recognized and accepted as an academic and scientific field of study. As such, the field should receive greater financial support, serve as the basis for developing new opportunities in multidisciplinary research and education, and ultimately improve the health and quality of life of people with disabling conditions. This new field should be consistent with the model of the enabling-disabling process that is defined and described in this report.
Several chapters of this report provide specific recommendations for future research in rehabilitation science and engineering. In addition, Appendix A contains suggested research priorities from various professional associations.
Many topics and areas require investigation, and identifying priorities is not simple. The process cannot be based on prevalence alone or simply on cost. Moreover, the entire field has critical ecumenical needs such as creating a common terminology and taxonomy, agreeing on a model, and quantifying functional limitations and disability. Because of this, setting specific priority research topics may not be as important for this committee as setting general priorities for the field.