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The title is a bit vague by design. What I was actually wondering is, what happens if 1 out of 3 reviewers decides that the paper should not be accepted, but the other 2 reviewers find it interesting and suggest for it to be accepted? Must all 3 reviewers suggest that it is accepted or is that up to the editor? What is the most common outcome in situation like this?

I'm stuck in this situation now - all 3 reviewers suggested some changes; while 2 were quite optimistic and also said that my work is interesting, the third one was really against it and suggested that we rewrite article anew, thus semi-rejected it; the reviewer really seems determined that our paper should not be accepted. Now, if I waste 2 months applying the changes and then wait another 3 for a review only to find out that the third reviewer still thinks it should be rejected, I've wasted almost half a year on nothing. The alternative is to resend the article to some other journal.

Any kind of feedback will be appreciated.

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    Do the suggested changes improve the paper? If they do, you should make them whether you're continuing with this journal or not. If they don't, you shouldn't make them and explain why you think the changes don't improve the paper to the editor. – Alexander Woo May 29 '17 at 17:48
  • Ask the editor. You can say that you will try to address not only R1 and R2's comments, but also R3's comments as much as possible, and they may be able to give you an indication whether they feel this being worthwhile. – Captain Emacs May 29 '17 at 19:01
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    Referees only make recommendations. The editor always makes the decision. In particular, the editor has the right to decide in opposition to the majority opinion or even the unanimous opinion of the referees. – JeffE May 29 '17 at 19:04
  • Short answer: address all the comments. Many times, a reviewer is negative initially because the paper is not written properly or the reviewer missed some key information. On the second pass, things may change for the better or worst, assuming the paper has improved. Another aspect is that you don't know how much weight the editor places on the negative reviewer. If said reviewer is an established researcher, then his/her comments will weight more, especially if the paper is on topic. Otherwise, it bears little weight. – Prof. Santa Claus May 30 '17 at 1:28
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To add to the other answer that has been posted so far (from @mgbdog), I will add something from the perspective of a past editor in chief and frequent associate editor, in the field of computer science.

Generally (look at the various posts about journal workflows) the reviewers provide their feedback, an associate editor recommends, and then the editor in chief either accepts that recommendation or pushes back in some fashion. So the comment about the editor wanting to proceed is accurate in the aggregate but it really refers to multiple people as a rule.

But the key here is that when one reviewer recommends rejection, and other reviewers were more positive, I assume that the OP received a "major" revision that means it will be returned to the reviewers. Two already liked it so probably will be in favor of the revision. The one who didn't, if they were negative enough, may actually not be willing to review it again (after all, the editors didn't listen to them). I have encountered that several times as an associate editor. If they do review it again, hopefully they are professional about it and read it with an open mind, and you get your opportunity to improve the paper and respond to their criticism. So hopefully they are convinced to accept.

If they don't, there is indeed a chance the paper will be rejected after revision. Just because the editor said to give you a chance to fix it doesn't mean in the end it is fixable. I once did a journal article that got back extensive comments and a very specific warning from the associate editor that we should not assume that the major revision we were doing actually would result in acceptance. We must have worked on it for another year and with a second minor revision after that, but it got in.

But just because it may be rejected doesn't mean you shouldn't try. With 2/3 favorable, you seem well positioned, as long as you believe you can either fix what #3 complained about or make an argument in your response that they have it wrong.

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The editor will make the final decision, not the reviewers. Often you will receive a message (either via email or on the journal's submission site) from the editor that summarizes the reviewer comments and either outright rejects the paper or asks for a revised manuscript. Sometimes, it will specify "minor revision" or "major revision". As long as that message does not outright reject your paper, the editor wants to continue considering your manuscript for publication, and you should submit a revised manuscript.

Even if you choose to submit to a different journal, you will need to disclose whether the paper has previously been submitted elsewhere. As such, the second journal can contact the first journal for reviewer comments. Thus, the negative reviewer's comments will sort of "follow you" regardless of where you try to publish this paper.

Best bet is to stick with the first journal -- most journals that do not outright reject a paper after the first round of reviews will eventually accept the paper after reviewer comments are properly addressed.

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    The comment that previous submissions must be disclosed has to be a domain-specific issue -- in computer science, if you submit to a new publication from scratch, you get a clean slate. Sometimes I wish that past reviews were available ... and if you get a reviewer (for a journal or conference) who has seen it before, you'll have that effect anyway. But there is nothing that says you have to tell them where else it was sent, or the reviews they received. – Fred Douglis May 30 '17 at 3:22
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    Disclosure of previous submissions is also unknown to me. Which field does this apply to? – silvado May 30 '17 at 8:36
  • @silvado check author guidelines for IEEE Signal Processing Letters – Frank Moses Feb 6 '18 at 7:38

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