The content of this special section slightly deviates from the traditional areas of LD research (i.e., fundamental mechanisms, thin optical films and coatings, mirrors, contamination, defects, surface damage, novel optical materials, and measurement procedures) by introducing two more important topics – laser ablation and applications of laser damage. This modification is motivated by requests from the laser-ablation community whose research interests significantly overlap with those of the laser-damage community. In fact, laser ablation can be considered as a specific type of laser damage with special “positive” applications in multiple fields of material research and manufacturing. The strong relationship between the two areas of laser research is emphasized by the fact that both laser damage and laser ablation consider similar fundamental mechanisms and effects of irreversible material modification by laser radiation. As a natural extension of this scientific connection of the two fields, a cross-promotion agreement was recently established between the SPIE Laser Damage Symposium and the independently operated international conference on High Power Laser Ablation (HPLA). That cross-promotion considers mutual support in submission of manuscripts for publication in relevant special sections of journals. In fact, the cross-promotion almost doubled the number of submissions to this special section. Correspondingly, some papers of this special section were presented at Laser Damage Symposium and Pacific Rim Laser Damage conferences in 2015 and 2016, and others were presented at the HPLA meeting in April 2016. Very few submissions were received in response to the general call for papers by researchers who did not attend any of those three conferences.