RA-L Information for Editors


RA-L: Robotics and Automation Letters
MS: Manuscript
SE: Senior Editor
AE: Associate Editor
EiC: Editor in Chief
DEiC: Deputy EiC
RE: Reviewer
SPC: Conference Senior Program Committee
RR: Revise and Resubmit
AP: Accepted for Publication
COI: Conflict of Interest


The ambitious plan of RA-L implies that the Editorial Board has to perform extremely effectively: not only it will have to guarantee the highest standards of IEEE journals (with a complete peer review cycle, including revision and resubmission where appropriate), but it will also be subject to stringent deadlines.  To make the Letters fly, RAS has appointed Senior Editors who are both extremely strong scientifically and exceptionally responsible and organized.

The term of a Senior Editor is three years, renewable once. A SE supervises an area, formed by a number of keywords, and cooperates with a number of Associate Editors to provide reviews and recommendations for papers in that area. 

The main responsibilities of a Senior Editor are

  • To assist the EiC to select keywords representing the scientific sub-areas forming the area, and to update them from time to time 
  • To suggest the names of AEs who can supervise the review process of papers in the sub-areas identified by the keywords
  • To monitor the performance of AEs
  • To supervise the automatic assignment of MSs to AEs, based on keyword matching, to check for possible COIs or other reasons to supersede the suggested assignment
  • To decide, in accord with the EiC, on the editorial (summary) rejection of MSs
  • To ensure the timeliness of the review process 
  • To check the quality of the reviews (at least two) and of the comments provided by the AEs, and the consistency of the recommendation
  • To issue the decision letter to Authors, receive their comments and entertain any correspondence with them 

To reach its goals, RA-L must guarantee a final decision within 6 months from submission, with no exceptions. In addition, for manuscripts with Conference option, RA-L must guarantee a recommendation for Conference presentation within about 3 months from submission. This will be possible following the time-line reported below. Deadlines involving SEs are highlighted in red.

The SE's service in handling a paper is acknowledged by the publisher (IEEE) including the name of the SE on the final electronically published paper.


RA-L Editorial Timeline

The schedule for a sampling of the conference options are shown below. Note that the day count is applicable to any RA-L submission, including those papers that are submitted to RA-L only (without a conference option). Most papers should progress through the review process faster than shown in this table -- the timeline shown here gives the absolute latest deadlines.


Time (days) Duration (days) Action
Day 0  0 Manuscript received
Assignment of MS to SE and AE
Day 7  7 (Optional) Editorial reject of MS 
Day 14 7 (AEs assign MS to REs)
At least three REs commit to review MS
Day 44 30 (REs submit reviews)
At least two good reviews per MS are received
Day 58 14 (AE interacts with REs to improve reviews)
AE submits recommendation 
Day 72 14 (SE interacts with AE)
SEs endorses/revises AE recommendation 
Day 86 14 (EiC checks process)
Authors receive reviews and RA-L recommendation
Day 100 (14) Authors of accepted MS submit final RA-L version 
Day 116 30 Authors of RR MS resubmit revised MS 
Day 116 - MS re-assigned to SE and AE
Day 123 7 AE re-assigns MS to REs (if needed)
Day 137 14 REs submit the second review
Day 144 7 AE submits the final recommendation
Day 148 4 SE endorses/revises recommendation
Day 151 3 (EiC checks process)
Authors receive the final decision
Day 165 14 Authors submit final files
Day 170 5 Camera-ready version appears on Xplore
Day 180 10 Absolute Final Publication Deadline


The editorial spirit of RA-L  

The general principle of the editorial work in RA-L is that Editors and Reviewers are not there to be inflexible judges; rather their role is to help authors write better papers.

This reflects in the review comments and recommendation reports, which are always constructive in their criticism, not just noting deficiencies but also indicating how they can be mended. Any diminishing or disrespectful remark must be absolutely avoided. It is useful to authors of a rejected paper that a fair estimate is given of how far beyond the threshold a paper is, and what could make a new paper acceptable. 

The quality level to be expected in a paper to appear in the RA-L is defined by the scope of the journal: a RA Letter is a timely and concise account of innovative research ideas and application results, reporting significant theoretical findings and application case studies in areas of robotics and automation.

By a loose analogy to existing publications, a Letter can be considered similar in quality to short papers in RAS T-RO or T-ASE, although the requirement of timeliness favours originality over maturity. In terms of a conference scale, we consider that a paper in the “A”, “B+” or "B" classes could become, possibly through a deep revision and resubmission process, a RA Letter. In some cases, a paper that in its first submission would be in the "B-" class can become a RA Letter, if the paper has the potential to be substantially improved in a revised and resubmitted version, capitalizing on comments and suggestions in the first review.


The RA-L Review process

The review process for RA-L is managed using the PaperPlaza system. PaperPlaza provides a wide variety of tools to help SEs supervise the review process. AE assignments, interactions with AEs, and final decisions are all managed using PaperPlaza.  To access the system, go to the PaperPlaza page, click Start and then Log in. If you have forgotten your login information, you can retrieve it using the PIN management page. It may be useful to spend a few minutes looking over the help pages, and in particular the Editor's FAQ at PaperPlaza Help Page. 

Preliminary steps

Your action is started when a manuscript is assigned to your area (day 0). This will happen in most cases by automatic assignment based on keyword matching. Notice that the MS is simultaneously assigned also to an AE in the area under your supervision.

The first step is to look at the MS to preliminarily assess its eligibility for RA-L review.

If you consider that the paper is not suitable for RA-L or that you cannot supervise its review because of a COI, please contact the EiC immediately to alert him/her and decide further action, e.g. editorial rejection or SE reassignment.  This preliminary evaluation phase should be as fast as possible, an in any case before a week (day 7). 

If you deem that the automatic assignment to the AE should be revoked, and that the MS should be reassigned to a different AE in your area, please act immediately by using the proper functions in PaperPlaza.  Please also make sure that the originally assigned AE is informed about the change and its motivations. Once again, it is important that AE reassignment is done as quickly as possible, and in any case before a week (day 7), to avoid wasting the AE time and delaying the process. 

Both editorial rejections and reassignments are to be used sparingly.  Criteria for editorial rejection are discussed below in this document. You should ask for a reassignment in the case where you detect a COI that was not apparent (see below for a definition of COI for SEs and AEs).  Requests of reassignment for lack of specific knowledge of the SE or AE in the MS topic should be minimized.  Indeed, you have been selected as SE, and your colleagues have been selected as AEs, not because of a deep competence in a narrow topic, rather for experience, vision and capability to assess scientific contributions in a wider area. Specific expertise and technical prowess in the MS domain, together with reliability and thoroughness, are criteria AEs should use to select the reviewers. 

Vetting the MS Review Dossier

RA-L has a strict review quality policy: every submitted MS must receive a well prepared first review dossier within three months (more precisely, by day 86).

A review dossier includes the reviewers’ comments, an AE report, and a recommendation (AP/RR/Reject) for RA-L.  

The SE will receive the review dossier from one of his/her AEs before two months from MS submission (more precisely, by day 58).  The SE vets the review dossier, takes action to improve it if needed, and submits a well prepared dossier to the EiC within two weeks (by day 72).  

It is the SE’s responsibility to make sure that all MS Review cases submitted are well prepared. 

A well prepared MS Review case contains at least two “good” reviews, which are substantial, constructive and not diminishing the authors' efforts, even when they have to be negative or very negative. The AE report is expected to contain a summary of the reviewers’ opinions (in the AE’s own words) and the AE’s opinion on the paper. If reviews are not clear enough, the AE Report should give a solid rationale for the decision to be taken. If two reviews are in disagreement, the AE Report should resolve the conflict. The AE should not merely give the average of the reviews as rating, rather he should take a decisive action and settle the conflict.

In no case is a MS  with less than two reviews, or including any sub-standard reviews or AE report (e.g., too short or shallow), or apparent inconsistencies between comments and recommendations, should be accepted by the SE.  Should the SE receive a defective MS Review case, he/she will interact with the AE to make sure that further action is pursued promptly so as to reach the desired high review quality standards of RA-L. 

The SE has two weeks to interact with the AE and to prepare a decision letter for the authors, which can use parts of the text of the AE’s report.  

The decision letter and the review dossier are sent to EiC for a final check on the procedures.  Once this is cleared, the SE will sign and send the first decision letter to the authors. This must happen before day 86 from MS submission.

Revised and resubmitted manuscripts

If the decision on the first submission to RA-L is RR, authors will be asked to resubmit a revised version and a Statement of Changes within one month (day 116). The MS will be immediately re-assigned to the managing AE.

The AE will decide whether to ask the assistance of one or more of the original reviewers to re-assess the MS. The AE may directly decide on the new recommendation on the basis of his judgment whether or not authors have fulfilled the first review requirements.

AEs provide a second review dossier within a month from resubmission (day 144), including an AE report, all second reviews (if any), and the final decision recommendation.  The SE has four days (day 148) to interact with the AE and to prepare the second decision, which is also the final one in RA-L and can only be an Accept for Publication or a Reject. Upon a final procedural check by the EiC, the decision becomes final and is communicated to authors (day 151).

The schedule described above is to be considered strict. Indeed, considering the time need after the final recommendation by authors to submit their final version, and technical publication times, very little slack is available before the absolute final deadline of 180 days from submission to e-publication.

When the final version of an Accepted paper is received, the Senior Editor has the possibility to verify that all required changes have been made in the final version, and s/he may request the AE to support in this phase also. Although rarely, a SE can withhold publication until all required changes are satisfactorily made. In case this can not be achieved by authors within 180 days from submission, which we set as a time limit for publication of Letters, the paper could be effectively withdrawn from publication.   

Editorial (Summary) Rejections

AEs who believe a paper assigned to them should be editorially rejected inform the SE who makes the decision. The SE assigned to the paper makes the final decision as to whether the paper should be rejected without further review, or should go through the regular review process.  Senior Editors should notify the EiC of the editorial rejections they propose and their rationale no later than one week from the submission

Editorial rejects are to be used mainly for incomplete or otherwise clearly unsuitable papers (see below the official IEEE policy for more details). All editorial rejections must be approved by the EiC. If the reason for editorial rejection is lack of technical contribution, IEEE rules require that at least three persons concur in such decision. For these cases, the EiC and at least two members of the Editorial board (usually the SE and AE) have to consent. The recommended decision on such a paper should be “Unsuitable” (not “Reject"), and the decision should not be executed until a draft of the publication decision has been approved by the EiC.

Editorial rejections must be argued carefully. A non-specific, boilerplate letter will cause frustration in the authors. When in doubt, the paper should be sent for regular review. We expect that no more than 10-15% of submitted papers will be rejected without review. 

For purposes of tracking editorial rejections, the EiC will add a comment on the paper’s main page that states: "This paper was an editorial rejection. It was checked by the AE, SE, and EiC, and all agreed that it did not meet IEEE prescreening criterion X."

IEEE Policy Regarding Prescreening of Articles by Editors

Editors may prescreen articles immediately after they are submitted and before they are transmitted to referees for evaluation. The purpose of such prescreening is to verify that the article adheres to minimum criteria set forth by IEEE, as well as by the organizational unit responsible for the specific publication. Typical prescreening measures include the following:

a. The author(s) have followed the IEEE guidelines for style.

b. The author(s) have not obviously violated IEEE Policies.

c. The article is comprehensible (in other words, not so poorly written that it is unreadable).

d. The subject and contents of the article meet the scope of the periodical or a specific issue.

e. The article meets a minimum criterion for technical substance established for the periodical.

If the Editor assesses that a submission has met prescreening criteria 3.a through 3.d, but has not met criterion 3.e, the Editor shall consult with at least two members of the editorial board for concurrence. Rejection on the basis of criterion 3.e requires the agreement of the Editor-in-chief, the Senior Editor, and the Associate Editor. Rejection on the basis of criterion 3.e shall require the general agreement of the Editor and those consulted. An article is considered in review if it passes the prescreening process and is forwarded to referees. An “administrative reject” refers to an article that does not meet the prescreening measures and is, therefore, returned to the author(s) with explanation.


Conflicts of Interest

A RA-L SE is deemed to have a conflict of interest in a submitted MS if he or she is a co-author of the paper.

A RA-L AE is deemed to have a conflict of interest in a submitted MS if one (or more) of the authors.

·       is, or has been, a student (including postdoc) or advisor of the AE, or

·       has co-authored a paper or has closely collaborated in a research project with the AE  in the previous five years, or

·       is employed at the same institution (at the Department or Division level)  as the AE, or

·       there are any other circumstances which may create an appearance that the person might have a bias in the evaluation of the paper.

The criteria for COIs for RA-L AEs also apply to RA-L reviewers.

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