I submitted a manuscript last year to an IEEE journal, and the paper was accepted for publication. I recently submitted a new manuscript to the same journal, but, this time, the paper was rejected, and I was told that I should submit to another journal since my paper was not within the journal's scope. The two papers both target similar applications. Furthermore, the second paper uses some work in the first paper, making substantial improvements at solving a much more difficult problem. Based on the reviewer's comments (and my own personal assessment), I do not believe that the work presented in the second paper was "incremental" in nature. Far from it. Two of the three reviewers gave positive reviews. The third reviewer, however, mentioned the "outside of journal's scope" issue and the associate editor and editor-in-chief both sided with the 3rd reviewer, and the paper was stopped dead in its tracks.
I'm scratching my head trying to come to terms with how in the world my first paper could be accepted by this journal, but the second paper focused on the same application space and achieving substantial improvements on a much more difficult problem (backed up with measured results) could be rejected. Any ideas?