Instructions for Associate Editors

Leslie Ying, Rutao Yao

Revision 9.0. February 2, 2022

Table of Contents

1.    Get Ready. 1

2.    Manage Manuscript Review.. 1

2.1.                    Original Submissions. 1

2.1.1.                        Request Reassignment 1

2.1.2.                        Recommend Immediate-Reject 1

2.1.3.                        Poor English. 3

2.1.4.                        Carry out a Full-Review.. 3

2.1.5.                        Follow up with Reviewers. 5

2.1.6.                        Grant Due-date Extensions. 6

2.1.7.                        Grade reviewers. 6

2.1.8.                        Make Recommendations. 7

2.2.                    Resubmissions after “Reject”. 10

2.3.                    Resubmissions after “Reject/Resubmit: Major Revisions”. 10

2.3.1.                        Administrative Aspects. 10

2.3.2.                        Make Recommendation. 10

2.4.                    Revisions after “Accept with Minor Revisions”. 11

3.    Handle Appeals. 11

4.    Communication with Authors. 11

5.    Step Down and Phase-Out. 12

Thank you for volunteering as an Associate Editor of IEEE-TMI! As a distinguished and highly selective journal, TMI’s success is reliant upon your diligence, expertise, and disciplined management of each manuscript assigned to you. The following is some essential information for you to carry out your responsibilities as an AE.

1. Get Ready

·         Be familiar with TMI’s scope, key acceptance criteria, and review and decision process.

·         Review your expertise keywords on ScholarOne and keep them up-to-date.

·         Read the TMI Reviewer and Author Instructions.

2. Manage Manuscript Review

Each manuscript submitted to TMI will be assigned to an AE. Once a manuscript lands in your AE center, you are expected to read the cover letter and the manuscript within 3 days, and take one of the following actions.

2.1.                  Original Submissions

Original submissions are new submissions that have no previous history on ScholarOne.

2.1.1.   Request Reassignment

Contact the Managing Editor to request the manuscript to be reassigned if 1) there is any concern over conflict of interest, you should not be distracted from judging the merit of the research work itself; or 2) if the topic is beyond your areas of expertise.

2.1.2.    Recommend Immediate-Reject

If you feel the manuscript is 1) out of the scope of TMI, or 2) the quality is too low to meet TMI standards, or 3) the novelty of the work is insignificant, or 4) just “good” instead of “exceptional” or “excellent”, you are encouraged to recommend an immediate reject without pursuing the full review process.

To do so, change “# reviews required to make decision” from “4” to “0”, then click the Save button, and the “Make Recommendation” button will show up. Click the “Immediate Reject” button, and write a paragraph in Comments to the Author summarizing the reasons for your recommendation.

In cases when you are not quite sure if an Immediate Reject recommendation is too harsh, you may send a note to EiC to request a second opinion. The EiC may assign another AE to review the manuscript to ensure the validity of your assessment. The 2nd AE may endorse the recommendation or lead a full-review if he/she concludes differently.

A manuscript receiving an endorsed Immediate Reject recommendation shall be rejected.  The Editor-in-Chief will either use the comments verbatim (unless you specify otherwise) from the AEs or paraphrase them in the decision letter to the author. The Associate Editors will not be identified in the decision letter nor in the submission records on ScholarOne Manuscripts. The Immediate Reject decision letter typically reads:

“The Editorial Board has carefully considered the information presented in your manuscript and has decided not to send it out for external peer review. Our consensus is that your manuscript is not suitable for publication in the IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging.”

Your comments will then appear as “Comments from the Editorial Board” without your name.

A few examples of Comments to the Authors:

Example #1: “The authors present techniques for delineating and segmenting tumours in KV x-ray images. The paper is very well written and all decisions, in design, are well justified. However, from a methodological novelty perspective the paper is lacking (to the level of a TMI paper) and is closer to an application of known techniques in DL in yet another, but very interesting, imaging modality. As TMI reviewers do typically look for methodological novelty and contribution to the broader area of medical image analysis, the editorial board has decided to expedite the review process for the benefit of the authors by providing a more immediate decision.”

Example #2: “The authors propose a simple CNN for the detection and monitoring of thermal lesions using US RF backscattered from ablated regions. Unfortunately, the paper lacks novelty in methodology and applies a very simple CNN to a medical application. Therefore, it is more suitable for applied medical imaging or clinical journals not for TMI where the novelty of approach is an important factor.”

Example #3: “The manuscript is on the evaluation and optimization of an improved dictionary search method for MRF. As TMI publishes works with significant methodological novelty and contribution, the authors are recommended to submit the manuscript to an MRI specific journal such as Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.”

Example #4:While your work is interesting and has merit, it is also somewhat incremental in nature.  We have the following track record of your works on closely related subjects to your submission.

The MMC framework for EIT was published in IEEE TMI in 2019:

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8721167

EIT imaging using B-spline level sets was also published in IEEE TMI in 2019:

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8941074

The use of multiphase conductivity imaging with EIT using the B-spline level set method was published in IEEE Trans on Instrumentation and Measurements earlier in 2020:

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9127902

Your submitted work seems to be basically the same approach, replacing level sets with MMC. This is not sufficient innovation for IEEE TMI.

EIT shape reconstruction using Boolean operators was published in IEEE TMI in 2020:

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9046034

and Fourier representations, also in 2020:

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9220135

Please be mindful that the journal cannot accept submissions that are essentially modifications of the same idea.  Novelty drives us forward, and innovation is key to the journal’s high ranking.”

In the past, AEs have welcomed the option of an Immediate Reject as opposed to requesting reviews for a paper that is unlikely to be accepted after going through a full-review. The goal is to reduce reviewer fatigue and shorten the time to the first decision, allowing the authors to submit to another journal quickly. The Immediate Reject rate is about 25% for submission in the year 2020.

2.1.3.    Poor English

The responsibility of using correct English rests entirely on the authors. For papers with poor English, you may request the authors to use a professional English editing and proofreading agency and provide copies of the certificate of the service and the credential of the agency. You may make a recommendation of Immediate Reject on this basis. Once the authors resubmit the paper along with the proof of English editing service, the paper will be reassigned to you.

2.1.4.    Carry out a Full-Review

2.1.4.1.            Reviewer selection

If you decide to proceed with the full review process, please try to manage and monitor each stage of the review process promptly. The ranking of TMI is partially dependent on turn-around time.

2.1.4.2.            Invite 4 reviewers within 3 days

You must select and invite at least 4 reviewers within 3 days after being assigned a manuscript. You are strongly encouraged to select more than 4 reviewers, as there is a good chance some will decline the invitation. Reviewer selection is considered past due if less than 4 reviewers are invited after 3 days. You will receive reminder emails after 5-days and 10-days past due. Please try to avoid selecting reviewers trained in the same research group or from regions at geographical proximity.

Explanation of the related terms on your Associate Editor Dashboard:

Awaiting Reviewer Selection: Less than 4 reviewers have been selected.

Awaiting Reviewer Invitation: At least 4 reviewers have been selected, but less than 4 have been invited.

Awaiting Reviewer Assignment: At least 4 reviewers have been invited, but less than 4 have agreed to review.

2.1.4.3.            Suggested and opposed reviewers by authors

In the TMI peer-review process, you, the managing AE, are responsible for selecting qualified reviewers to conduct a fair and unbiased review. You may take the authors’ suggestions and oppositions of reviewers into consideration, but you are not obligated to follow them. The recommended practice is to 1) avoid using author-opposed reviewers, and 2) be cautious about possible conflict-of-interest in using the authors-recommended reviewers.     

Occasionally, we do get complaints that some people conduct unfair and unethical practices in the peer-review process. If you receive such complaints, please report it to the EiC and Managing Editor.

2.1.4.4.            Reviewer account issues

If you have trouble inviting a reviewer due to duplicate accounts in the ScholarOne system, please be sure to report the issue to the Editorial Office so the accounts can be merged.

2.1.4.5.            Select reviewers using ScholarOne built-in functions

Reviewer Locator Results from the Web of Science.

The expertise of the suggested reviewers may or may not be highly relevant to the submitted manuscript (e.g., an insignificant co-author of a relevant publication). Please check each suggested reviewer’s expertise carefully (using Google scholars or a personal webpage) before inviting him/her to review, especially if the suggested reviewer has never reviewed any TMI manuscripts before.

Quick Search.  If you know of anyone who could be a potential reviewer for the manuscript, you can use this item to quickly add him/her as a reviewer.

Auto-Suggest. This feature searches for reviewers with the selected manuscript keywords. These keywords are TMI-specific keywords selected by the author during submission. This function can be very helpful to identify reviewers with the right expertise.

2.1.4.6.            Check a reviewer’s credentials

After you find a reviewer with the right expertise, please check their review history. For each result  in a search, you will see the reviewer’s name, specialty keywords, institution, roles, number of papers the reviewer is currently reviewing and has reviewed over the past 12 months, number of days since last review, average R-score (reviewer-score), average M-score (manuscript-score, not activated in TMI at this time). The average R-score represents the combined score for the timely review and quality of the review. A high average R-score (3.00 is the highest value) suggests a highly responsible reviewer. Note: you are expected to grade a reviewer’s review when it is returned to you (see Section 2.1.6 for instructions).

For some reviewers, there are flags next to their names, which are defined as follows (the definition of a flag pops up when you hover the cursor over the flag icon).

Review Turn-around <= 25 days:              Green flag

Review Turn-around >= 50 days:              Black flag

Review accurate & detailed:                      Blue flag

Review brief, irrelevant, biased:                 Grey flag

Review >=10 TMI papers:                         Yellow flag

Review <=3 TMI papers:                           White flag

Record of unethical incidents:            https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/images/common/flag/12x12_red_flag.gif        Red flag

            Fig. 1. Flags indicating the record of a reviewer or an author.

Editorial Board members (EiC, Managing Editor, AEs) are authorized to tag flags to a reviewer based on their review history.

You can also click on the  icon next to a reviewer’s name to see the Reviewer History Analysis, which includes the number of manuscripts the reviewer has declined and agreed to review for this journal to date (click Show All), and the title, authors, turn-around time and R-score for each of the manuscripts reviewed. The information is usually very helpful to find the best reviewers for the manuscript.    

Please try to avoid selecting reviewers with very long turn-around time, biased reviews, or who have been declining many review invitations. When inviting inexperienced reviewers, make sure to take that into consideration when making a recommendation.

The red flag is used to tag authors who had a record of violating the policies of TMI. For example, unethical activities could include plagiarism or simultaneous submissions of the same work to different journals.   

2.1.4.7.         Follow up with Reviewers

Assigned Reviewers have 3 weeks to submit their reviews.  Just prior to the 3-week deadline and periodically afterward, automatic reminders are sent to each reviewer through the ScholarOne system.  A total of five reminders are sent, at 7 and 2 days before the due date and 5, 10, and 15 days after the due date. The 10 and 15-day overdue reminders are sent out in your name, and you are copied on these two emails.

            An email example to a reviewer long past due: 

Dear John,

I hope all is well. Could you please let me know when you will be able to submit your review? Your expert opinion is very much needed to make a decision (we do not have enough reviews for this manuscript at the moment).

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

After receiving the 10-day overdue reminder, the AE should send a personal email to the reviewer to inquire about the status of the review.

After receiving the 15-day — which is the final — overdue reminder without receiving any response from the reviewer, the AE should take immediate actions such as un-assigning the reviewer, inviting a new reviewer for a quick review, or making a recommendation based on the available reviews.

There must be at least 3, but preferably 4, reviews on a manuscript before an EIC decision can be made.  If you are unable to obtain at least 3 reviews in a reasonable amount of time, please let the EIC know as soon as the situation becomes clear.

2.1.4.8.         Grant Due-date Extensions

When a reviewer requests an extension to the review due date, we (you or Editorial Office) grant their wishes for up to two weeks with no questions asked. However you might want to evaluate the situation more critically for longer requests or repeated requests based on the following factors. Are there adequate reviews in agreement to make a recommendation? Is there already a strong review that recommends rejection therefore the chance of the paper receiving a positive decision is unlikely? As a simple rule, please consider taking some actions if the review length passes the 60-day mark.

2.1.4.9.            Rescind unqualified reviews

We expects reviewers to provide constructive, comprehensive, evidenced, and appropriately substantial peer review report about a paper using  TMI’s key criteria for acceptance. You must assess the quality of the reviews submitted,keeping those qualified and rescind those not. All reviews that remain when you make a recommendation will be included in the decision letter.

2.1.4.10.     Grade reviewers

You are expected to grade each review in terms of the timeliness and the quality of the review. The grading form, as shown in Fig. 2, can be found at the end of each “view review” page (below the Publons recognition question).

Graphical user interface, text, application, email

Description automatically generated

Fig. 2. Review evaluation form. The AE is to select one score in each category. Review was on time means the review was returned by the agreed due date, which is 3 weeks, if applicable, plus the approved extension from the day the reviewer responded to the review-invitation. Review was slightly delayed means the review was submitted less than 7 days after the agreed review due date.

Although it is not mandatory, you are encouraged to grade each review.  The scores will help you and other AEs in future reviewer selection.

If you have noticed a reviewer consistently provides high quality and timely reviews, or causes delays in reviews, or submits very short, irrelevant, or biased reviews, you are encouraged to use the appropriately colored flags (shown in section 2.3.1.5) to tag the reviewer.

2.1.5.    Make Recommendations

It is always at your discretion to disregard any biased, incorrect, or irrelevant comments, and weigh in the opinions of the reviewers based on your assessment of the quality and fairness of an opinion. Having 4 reviews should make it easier to identify invalid comments and make fair recommendations. Also, although clinical relevance is of high importance, manuscripts with high technical innovation but without comprehensive clinical validation are publishable in TMI. For example, review comments related to a lack of validation in a large clinical population can be ignored when making a recommendation.

2.1.5.1.            Reject Unethical Submissions

Submissions that violate TMI policies, such as plagiarism, or submitting to other journals during the peer-review process, shall be reported to the editorial office and recommended for rejection immediately.

2.1.5.2.            With 4 or More Reviews

To ensure the quality of TMI, it is strongly encouraged to make recommendations based on 4 or more reviews. Please summarize the reasons you are recommending the decision in Comments to Authors, but please do not write the decision there. When all reviews are returned, you will recommend one of the following decisions:

2.1.5.2.1.                  Accept

You don’t need to include any comments as they are not sent to the authors.

2.1.5.2.2.                  Accept with Minor Revision

This is for papers that are free of major concerns. Please summarize the key issues to be addressed in order for the resubmission to be considered. As said in the Decision Letter, “… if the revisions performed are not satisfactory, the paper may still be rejected.” 

2.1.5.2.3.                  Reject/Resubmit with Major Revision

Please summarize the key issues to be addressed in order for the resubmission to be considered.  Because TMI only allows one resubmission of the revised manuscript (i.e., the revised paper must either be accepted or rejected with no further consideration), please make this recommendation only if you think all the major concerns can be addressed in one revision. An example of Comments to the Author:

This paper was reviewed by three experts, who all expressed enthusiasm for the ideas presented in this paper. However, the referees also raised substantive concerns about technical correctness and clarity, and also felt that the results were not extensive or convincing enough to support the papers’ claims. Addressing these concerns will likely require a substantial amount of effort, although would also substantially improve the match between this paper and TMI.”

We will rely on your interpretation when adjudicating the difference of opinion.  If you can look at all reviews and the paper and let us know the most reasonable views, we would benefit from your analysis in making a decision. 

If there remain fundamental questions because of unclear text or incomplete evaluation of results and the paper has little to offer in terms of innovation, we would like to hear that.  But if you thought the paper is overall strong, innovative, and is likely to be of high reader interest, but there remain a few important things to be clarified, we would like to hear that too. 

2.1.5.2.4.                  Reject without Further Consideration

This is for manuscripts with substantial issues (e.g., lack of methodological novelty). Typically, such a recommendation may be made when at least one reviewer has serious concerns and recommends to reject, and you consider the concerns are valid. An example of Comments to the Author:

“While the reviewers find some improvement in the resubmitted manuscript, the novelty of the work versus SDL is not significant enough, and the experimental support of this method over constrained ICA is not convincing enough, to merit further consideration. Please refer to the reviewers’ detailed discussions regarding these concerns. One reviewer did point out that some of the experiments regarding structural/functional and model sparsity have merit, and the authors might consider focusing on that aspect as a direction of future research. Demonstrating significant improvement in more comprehensive experiments with more realistic and challenging stimuli would help add justification for using this method in practice. Given the policy of only permitting a single major revision, and the substantial amount of work still needed given the reviewers’ critiques, I cannot recommend this article receive further consideration in this journal.”

2.1.5.2.5.                  Reject/Submit to Another Journal

Recommend only when you have some specific journals to suggest. An example of Comments to the Author:

This paper was evaluated by three experts. Unfortunately, the overall consensus seems to be that the paper may not have enough technical innovation or justification for this journal. All of the reviewers provided comments that are hopefully useful to you as you decide how to move forward with this work. Two of the reviewers specifically suggested that the paper might be better suited to an application-oriented journal instead.”

2.1.5.3.            With 3 reviews

If the review process is delayed and you have received only 3 reviews for a manuscript, you should take one of the following actions.

1)         If all the reviews are in agreement and you agree with the reviewers’ assessment, set the number of reviewers needed to 3 and make your recommendation.

2)         If the 3 reviews are not entirely consistent,

a.         Option 1. Assign yourself as a reviewer and submit a quick review (preferably in a couple of days). Use this option when you are familiar with the topic.

b.         Option 2. Adjudicate the difference of opinions and report your interpretation. In general, the recommendation of REJECT should be made when at least one reviewer has serious concerns and recommends to reject, and you consider the concerns are valid.  Read the reviews and evaluate which one is most reasonable. We would benefit from your analysis in making a decision. If there remain fundamental questions because of unclear text or incomplete evaluation of results and the paper has little to offer in terms of innovation, we would like to hear that.  But if you think the paper is overall strong, innovative, and is likely to be of high reader interest, but there remain a few important things to be clarified, we would like to hear that too. 

c.         Option 3. If you are unfamiliar with the topic, try to find another reviewer who could provide a quick review (preferably in a week), and inform the author of the possible delay.

2.1.5.4.            With 2 reviews

Making recommendations with only 2 reviews should be an exception, a rare occurrence, and not a general practice. Inviting additional reviewers at the outset (5 instead of 4) helps limit this problem.

If the review process is seriously delayed and you have received only two reviews for a manuscript after the final reminder,

1)  Make a recommendation if the two reviews are highly consistent;

2)  Step in as the 3rd reviewer if the topic is in your specialty area, otherwise invite a new reviewer who preferably can provide a fast review;

3)  Contact the EiC and Editorial Office.

2.2.                  Resubmissions after “Reject”

A resubmission of a previously rejected paper will not be considered unless the authors can convince the editorial board that either 1) the previous round of review was seriously in error, or 2) the resubmission is essentially a brand-new paper, or 3) (for immediate reject only) the critical concerns raised have been completely addressed. You may be consulted during the reevaluation process if you were the managing AE.

If anyone of the cases above is confirmed, the resubmission will be treated as a brand-new manuscript, that is, the paper will be assigned to a new AE who will select new reviewers.

2.3.                  Resubmissions after “Reject/Resubmit: Major Revisions”

A manuscript that received “Reject/Resubmit: Major Revisions Required and External Reviews Needed” decision in the previous round is given a new manuscript ID, the original submission is listed on the “Manuscript Information” page, either in the “Version History” or the “Companion Paper” section.

2.3.1.    Administrative Aspects

If you were previously the managing AE of the paper, the paper will be reassigned to you. The Editorial Office will invite all the same reviewers from the previous round of review, including those who recommended “Reject”, and agree on the reviewers’ behalf to accelerate the review process. You may request to exclude a reviewer from reviewing a resubmission under “Confidential Comments to the Editor” in the recommendation at the end of the first round of review.

For resubmissions that had 3 reviewers in the previous round of review, the required number of reviewers remains at 3.

The rest of the steps — following up with reviewers, granting reviewer requests for extensions and making a recommendation — of handling a resubmission is the same as those for an original submission.

2.3.2.    Make a Recommendation of

2.3.2.1.            Accept, Accept with Minor Revisions, Reject without Further Considerations, and Reject/Submit to Another Journal

The criteria for making these decisions are the same as those for Original Submissions described in Section 2.1.5.

2.3.2.2.            Reject/Resubmit Major Revisions

If there are still major issues that require another round of external review, but the paper does offer significant novelty and potentially highly impactful, we can offer a second major revision. If some of the review comments are new and were not mentioned in the previous review, the authors should also be allowed another opportunity to address the additional comments. Please explain why such an exception should be granted in Confidential Comments to the Editor.

2.4.                  Revisions after “Accept with Minor Revisions”

In ScholarOne, Revisions refer to revised manuscripts that their predecessors received a decision of “Accept with Minor Revisions with no External Review Required”. The manuscript ID of a revision is the same as its predecessor but is appended with a “R1” or “R2” at the end, for example, TMI-2020-1860.R1. The earlier version(s) of the revision-submission is listed in the “Version History” section of the “Manuscript Information” page.

When a revision submission comes in, it is assigned automatically to the same associate editor by ScholarOne, and with the previous reviewers selected but not invited, the number of reviewers required is set at zero.

You have two options to carry forward the review of the revision.

Option 1: Invite the reviewers who made relatively extensive comments or were critical in the last round and set the number of reviewers required accordingly. If all the reviewers in the last round of review are invited, you should keep them in the same order, that is, reviewer #2 in the last round will still be reviewer #2 in the new round.

Option 2: Review the changes by yourself without inviting any reviewers. If you conclude that the authors have adequately addressed all the previous concerns, change the “# of required reviews” to 0 and make your recommendation. 

3. Handle Appeals

All communications addressing appeals must go through the EiC, direct interactions with authors are discouraged. Send your thoughts and comments to EiC and she will include it in the response on behalf of the editorial board, the response will be co-signed by you and the EiC. In most of the cases, the response is to explain why the original decision should stand. In rare cases, a decision is altered when a mistake is revealed.

4. Communication with Authors

If authors contact you regarding some clarifications of the review comments to prepare for the revision, please respond to the authors and copy the editorial office directly in the response. Other questions and concerns about the peer-review process and the final decision should be directed to the EiC and Managing Editor.

5. Step Down and Phase-Out

All AEs start with an initial 1-year term and continue, if agreed upon by both parties, in renewable 2-year terms. Each year we expect to have a 10% roster turnover.

If you plan to step down, please inform the Editorial Office as soon as possible so that we can begin the transition. As a standard TMI practice, we ask the AE to remain active on ScholarOne for an additional year (from the date when the stepping down request is made) to finish up the current assignments and future resubmissions, but we will not assign any new submissions.

The TMI Editorial Office also selects certain AEs for planned phasing out, based on the submission distribution in different specialty areas, AEs’ performance, and other factors such as geographical and gender diversity considerations. The selected AEs shall receive no new assignments for a year before receiving the notice of termination.

The authors wish to thank Grace Yao for her editorial help.

End.