Q: Is it odd if the paper takes only five weeks to go from submission to EIC decision?
I submitted my paper to one of the IEEE Transactions journals. It took 10 days to go from Under Review to Awaiting Reviewer Scores. Then, the status remained unchanged for three weeks. Next, the status changed to Awaiting AE Recommendation and remained so for a week. Now, the status is Awaiting EIC Decision. It seems to me that the processing at all levels [stages] is happening quite fast. Is this a good sign or a bad sign?
Before we respond to your question, we need to get a fix on the exact days your manuscript has spent in review or after submission. In your question, you have mentioned that it’s been about five weeks from submission to the EIC decision. However, in the detailed question, it seems to have spent 10 + 21 (three weeks) + 5-7 = 36-38 days, or about five weeks, since the Under Review status, and not since submission. If this is indeed the case, five weeks from Under Review to EIC Decision may be on the shorter side, but it’s not particularly less – it has been about five weeks in review and decision. Also, on the IEEE Transactions journal pages, the review and publication timelines since submission are not provided. From our experience, reviews and decisions do seem to happen quicker with the IEEE group of journals.
Coming to your main question, such a rapid movement may not be necessarily be a bad sign, or a good sign. One good thing though is that your paper was sent for peer review. Also, the AE seems to have deliberated over the peer review. Referring it to the EIC decision means that they have made their recommendation, but note that the final call is the EIC’s. They may decide to accept (with some changes), ask you to revise and resubmit, or indeed reject it. In some cases, they may even make a reject-and-resubmit decision. So, as you can see, there are various options. We think you should wait until you hear next from them, which should be soon, given the way your paper has been moving at the journal. You can then make your next steps.
Hope that helps. For more on similar scenarios experienced by other researchers, you may also go through these questions:
All the best for the next decision on your paper!