I submitted a paper to a top journal last week. At first, the status showed "awaiting AE recommendation". A few days ago, it was changed to "awaiting reviewer selection". So I thought it passed the associate editor's evaluation and now they were looking for reviewers. Even yesterday the status was still "awaiting reviewer selection", but today it was changed to "awaiting EIC decision". What does this mean? Does this mean that the AE changed his/her mind and recommended to desk reject my paper and put forth his/her recommendation to the editor?
Usually, the handling editor (or whatever name they have in the journal’s system) handles a paper in one go, which typically includes:
- They decide whether the paper is actually a good fit for the journal or they want to desk-reject the paper.
- They decide whether anything needs to be done before sending the paper to peer review.
- They select the peer reviewers.
Now, an editorial management has to somehow summarise that you are waiting for this step. A good compromise between precision and conciseness would arguably awaiting potential reviewer selection or awaiting editorial assessment, but there are also journals who call this just awaiting reviewer selection.
Thus the interpretation that suggests itself would be that the handling editor did find out something that has to be decided upon first. If you hadn’t already passed a step called awaiting AE recommendation, the handling editor recommending desk rejection would indeed be my best guess. Apart from that it could be something trivial like you botching a figure or the list of citations.