Q: What does 'Under Editor Review' mean?
My manuscript status was ‘With Editor’ all the way till the fourth week after submission. It later turned to ‘Under Review’ and lasted three weeks. And now, it’s ‘Under Editor Review.’ This is a top journal, and so, I wonder if it’s a signal of rejection.
For most journals, ‘With Editor’ means that the manuscript is with the associate editor (AE), who is going through it to check for aspects such as the scope match, novelty of the study, quality of the writing, and adherence to the journal’s submission guidelines. If satisfied, the AE sends the paper for peer review, denoted by ‘Under Review.’ Once the paper has come back from the reviewers, the AE goes through their comments to arrive at a decision on the paper, denoted by ‘Under Editor Evaluation’ or, as in this case, ‘Under Editor Review.’ [The AE then communicates their decision to the Editor-in-Chief (EiC), who makes the final decision on the paper.]
However, going by the ‘Under Editor Review’ status and by the fact that this is a top journal (as you mentioned), the journal seems to be Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), as the ‘Under Editor Review’ status is typical to PNAS. If so, its evaluation process is slightly different. The paper first goes to an Editorial Board Member, who if satisfied, sends it to a NAS Member Editor (probably indicated by ‘With Editor’). If the Member Editor is satisfied too, they send the paper for peer review (probably indicated by ‘Under Review’). Once the peer review is complete, the Member Editor goes through the comments for their evaluation (probably indicated by ‘Under Editor Review’). The Member Editor conveys their decision to the Editorial Board Member, who makes the final decision. The time taken so far seems to be fairly standard for their evaluation process. So, it would be difficult to accurately guess their decision.
I think you should simply wait for the next status to know more. In case of a rejection, you needn’t be disheartened. Acceptance rates at PNAS (if it indeed is this journal) are about 15%. If they allow, you could (modify and) resubmit or, if so desired, even contest the decision. However, a better alternative would be to submit to another journal.
All the best for the next step!