The First Review Cycle


The next task is to select an appropriate set of reviewers.

Selecting Reviewers

While a minimum of two reviews is needed, three are recommended. As some reviewers will not complete the review process, it is recommended that you invite more reviewers initially, such as four reviewers.

Determining which reviewers are "appropriate" will often require that you read the paper yourself. You can often determine who is appropriate by then consulting the references at the end of the paper or by searching the reviewer database in the online tool. Note that you should be careful not to select a referee who is too close to the generation of the work that is being reviewed. For example, individuals who work in the same group or department within a company or university or who have had previous interactions with the present authors (i.e. as co-authors of recent papers or as thesis advisor/student should not be selected as referees for such work.

Also, unless otherwise indicated, the Editor should not act as an anonymous reviewer. The Editor may provide feedback as well, without anonymity, to the authors in the decision letter. It is important that the Editor maintain an open role in the editing process. Editors are strongly recommended to provide their own comments and justification on the editorial decision!

Past experience has shown that high-quality reviews can often be obtained by choosing referees who are less well known but who have more time and/or more particular interest in the paper being reviewed. Careful selection of the right referees (i.e. those who are technically competent to review the paper and who are likely to provide a thoughtful and thorough review in a timely manner) can decrease the overall time needed for the review process by obviating the need for you to go out later and request additional reviews.

What to Send to Reviewers

Once you have identified reviewers, the tool allows you to send a request via email to the reviewer to see if he or she is willing to review the paper. If the reviewer is not already a user of the online tool, you can add the reviewer to the tool by clicking the "add new reviewer" button and entering first name, last name, and email address (the reviewer can add other information later).

When a new reviewer is added to the tool, the reviewer will not know the login ID and password to use. However, the tool offers the ability to check for an existing account on the login screen. This can be used by the new reviewer to retrieve account information.

If the review agrees to review the paper, usually by replying to your email, then you click the "agreed" button (as opposed to the "decline" button). The tool then sends a second email to the reviewer, giving more information on how to perform the review. It also makes the paper available to the reviewer (in the reviewer center). If the reviewer declines to review the paper, you indicate that by using the "decline" button in the tool. If you do not hear from the reviewer (or you forget to tell the tool whether the reviewer has agreed or declined), then the tool sends one automatically generated reminder to the reviewer after one week.

When a reviewer agrees to review a paper, the reviewer has access to the paper as well as the Reviewer Score Sheet. The Score Sheet allows the reviewer to provide feedback to both the authors and the Editor regarding the suitability, technical soundness, and presentation of the material. It is important for the referee to provide a clear recommendation as to whether the paper should (in their opinion) be accepted, accepted with conditions, reconsidered with major revision, or rejected.

Parts of the Score Sheet are used to generate the decision letter and provide feedback to the other reviewers. Thus, it is important that the reviewer enter the review using the online tool. In the extreme case in which is not possible, the part of the Score Sheet that is available to the authors can be cut and pasted into the decision letter. It will also need to be sent in separate emails to each of the reviewers once the decision is approved.

Sometimes the reviewer sends part or all of the review to the Editor via email, rather than entering it into the online tool. In this case, the Editor should encourage the reviewer to enter it using the tool. If the paper has already been moved out of the reviewer's account, it can be moved back in by contacting online support ("Get help now"). If the reviewer still doesn't enter the review, it is important to obtain a form of the review that is simple text. (Other types of files may contain information that identifies the reviewer, so it is good practice to avoid using such files from the reviewer.) Then, the following needs to be done.

  1. When creating the preliminary decision, the review needs to be pasted into the decision letter.
  2. After the decision is released, the review (the part intended for the author) needs to be sent in separate emails to the other reviewers.

Timing of the Review Process

It is our editorial goal to complete the first review cycle within three months after you receive the paper. Excessively long review cycles are a problem: the author is obviously unhappy and is discouraged (and may discourage others) from submitting to the Transactions in the future. Long delays also result in our published papers being less timely and ultimately of less interest to our readers. Thus, it is important to keep the review cycle as short as possible.

To ensure a short review cycle, the following plan is recommended.

  • Carefully select referees and request reviews within one (1) week
  • The reviewer should agree to decline to review the paper within two (2) weeks. If you do not hear from the reviewer after one (1) week, an automatic email is sent to the reviewer.
  • The review should be completed within five to six weeks. Automatic reminders are sent out at 30, 45, and 60 days.
  • Occasionally you will encounter a referee who still will not respond. In this case, a personal phone call followed by a personalized email may help. For example, you can write the following: "In fairness to the author, I must soon make a publication decision and I would like your review in order to make that decision. That will also save me from going out for further reviews, which will delay the review process. Please send in your review by <date>."

Note that the referees who do not respond within a two-month period (and who may consequently force you to go for an additional review) may result in an additional two months being added to the review process. Thus, it is particularly important that you choose your initial set of referees carefully and that you keep up with the review process.

When the reviewer completes the review, the tool thanks the reviewer. Also, later in the process, each reviewer is automatically notified of the decision and is given a copy of all reviewer score sheets (the parts intended for the authors).

Special Considerations

Occasionally you will be asked to handle a Transactions correspondence. Procedures differ slightly except when the correspondence is a technical item. See Editorial Procedures.

Also, you may be asked to handle an item for which the Editor-in-Chief has a conflict of interest (e.g., the authors work at the same company or university as the Editor-in-Chief). In this case, it is important that the Editor-in-Chief not have access to the reviewers' identities and that the final decision is made by the Editor.

In this situation, the online tool can still be used to store the paper and make a decision. However, the reviewers have to be contacted outside of the tool. The Editor can extract the electronic file from the tool and email it separately to each reviewer. Reviews can be collected using email, outside the tool. The reviews can be pasted into the decision letter developed using the tool. Once the decision is approved, separate emails need to be sent to each reviewer, giving the decision and copies of all reviews (the part intended for the author).

The preliminary decision is still sent to the Editor-in-Chief, but only for the purposes of simple checking, such as making sure there are at least two reviews.

Author Inquiries

Often the author will inquire how the review process is proceeding. You can provide information on the general process, such as how many reviews you have obtained and actions you have taken to keep the process moving. However, you should not disclose any information related to the quality of the paper, such as whether reviews are favorable or your own opinion of the paper.

If the inquiry is copied to the Editor-in-Chief, then your reply should also be copied to the Editor-in-Chief, so that he/she doesn't also check the status of the paper.