Let’s go over how this process works, from start to finish.

  1. You receive an assignment letter as Editor because the Editor-in-Chief has read the submission and thinks that it deserves to go out for external review. The Editor-in-Chief will have already ensured that the paper is blinded, line numbers added, turned it into a PDF, and assigned reviewers to the paper. You and these reviewers comprise the paper’s ad hoc review committee with you as the chair of that committee. Occasionally, a reviewer may contact you with a question. Your role includes managing the reviewers on your review committee.
  2. You read the paper and develop your thoughts on how to improve it. Your reviewers do the same, and they each submit a review with their thoughts and suggestions. You rate the quality of each review on our 5-point scale.

Almost all reviews earn a ‘3’, exceptionally good reviews earn a ‘4’ or ‘5’ and those found lacking earn a ‘2’ or ‘1’. This rating is used by the system to identify which reviewers can use more training and which to commend for their excellence and possibly promote. As you rate each review, you provide the reviewer with brief feedback on the quality of the review and possibly how future reviews can be improved.

  1. You make a recommendation to the Editor-in-Chief regarding acceptance and include a ‘Development Letter’ within the templated wording provided for the author. At first, the recommendation should be either to ‘reject’ or ‘accept subject to revisions.’ (The third choice, to ‘accept for publication,’ applies only for when the paper has already addressed all your suggestions, and the author has resubmitted it in near camera-ready format.) In all cases, you accompany your recommendation with comments for the author on how to improve the paper in the form of the Development Letter that you compose. Creating a Development Letter (how to improve the submission) for each paper is your most important duty as editor.

Your task in creating the Development Letter is to integrate the reviewers’ comments with your own views to create a coherent, mentoring response to the author’s submission. It is a synthesis, not a summary, of the various suggestions from your review board. We term this guidance to the author a Development Letter since it outlines concrete steps needed to improve the paper. You compose a development letter for all submissions, even those that you do not recommend for publication.

ISI journals never send authors raw reviews. Instead the Editor packages and synthesizes all suggestions into wording that speaks with a single voice, pointing out those improvements needed to make the paper publishable (if you accept pending revision) or at least improved (if you reject). (See the Appendices for more information about the Development Letter.)

  1. If you recommend ‘accepted subject to revisions,’ you work directly with authors to get the paper into a publishable format.

This revision process typically requires several rounds of revisions.