New horizons ahead


  • Harald Walach

When we hike in mountainous areas, we often think that the next peak is right in front of us, just a little walk. And all of a sudden, when reaching a little hillock, we discover that there is another dip between us and the peak, which we have to get down to before we can walk up again. This is how I felt a bit when, at the end of my holidays in August, the message of the new managing editor reached me that the publishers do not want to carry on publishing Spirituality and Health International any longer. I was quite flabbergasted by this message, especially because I had the feeling that all was going well after my last meeting with the previous managing editor. Well, in the meantime, Wiley, our previous publisher, has merged with Blackwell to a new company. New editors were being appointed; I had no point of contact for quite a while, and when I had one, this was the information I got. This is an economical and strategic decision I do not want to dispute.

You will receive this double, or even multiple, issue containing all the papers that we have accepted as the last issue of Spirituality and Health International as it was from the old publisher, Wiley. I am in conversation with other publishers, and so far, the feedback has been positive in principle, but we will have to solve a few issues before we can be back with a new series of the Journal, with a new publisher. Bear with me. The period in between might serve us to develop the Journal and its outlook further, and I would invite comments and discussions regarding this. When I took over the Journal as editor-in-chief from Steve Wright, we did not change much, except the colour of the cover and reworked the mission statement slightly. We wanted to emphasize continuity, rather than change. We changed about half the advisory and editorial board, though, to give the Journal a broader standing and a somewhat more international touch, reaching out more strongly to the continent and to the US.

Now, a similar situation has arisen as 2 years ago. We are discussing whether we should take ‘mindfulness’ in the title, perhaps as ‘Mindfulness, Spirituality, and Health’ or ‘Spirituality, Mindfulness and Health’. Perhaps one of our readers or editorial advisors has a better idea? At this point, the deck is going to be completely reshuffled. Hence, I am inviting everyone who has a stake in the Journal's development to help think and plan. Whoever has a helpful idea, as to publishers, title and conceptualization, is invited to share these.

Here are a few parameters that I find useful: In order to pull the Journal up to an internationally respected, cited and authoritative outlet, we need a professional publisher. Wiley has been a very good choice, and we will likely need some publishing house of the same calibre that is present on international markets, has a professional website and marketing strategy, can handle the editing process and all the rest. I also think we should keep to the general track that we have started heading for: a good mix of papers of qualitative and quantitative kind, together with reviews and good conceptual pieces. Some rubrics I would like to develop would be short experiential pieces and a more lively discussion and letter section. Already, by way of new advisory board members, I have highlighted some conceptual broadening: reaching out into the field of medicine and psychiatry, not just nursing, and reaching out into the newly emerging field of mindfulness. Perhaps this would be the chance to make this conceptual opening more transparent?

Another avenue to think along would be the question of whether to integrate the strong field of spirituality and religion that is particularly of interest in the US. I am a bit hesitant, though, not because I am against religion, but because I am not sure whether we would not be trespassing on the feeding grounds of journals such as the Journal of Religion and Health. The uniqueness of our Journal really is that it is non-denominational, not even religious, and hence offers a clearer point of dialogue with the mainstream of science.

So I invite your thoughts, your ideas, perhaps even your help, should you have some saving insights. Meanwhile, we will have to walk down into the dip before we can actually reach the next peak, which seemed so close by not long ago. But it will not be an abyss. The next rise is visible already. So do not cancel your subscriptions, and do not think that was it now. Not at all. Authors, do not think your work was in vain. Not only will we publish all material that is still in the process and has reached me, and is still under review. Also, the publisher will keep the website of the previous Journal live, so that back issues can be either purchased or articles downloaded. And a new publisher will surely link back the new Journal, even if the title should be slightly changed, to the old one to document the continuity in scope.

I am quite sure that whatever will emerge from this will probably be even better than the previous solution. So stay put, share your views and ideas, and give me a few weeks, perhaps months to sort the problem. When you get the next issue, we will already have secured a solution. Until then, be patient please.