The Fundamentals of Copyediting
Who Has the Last Word?
When you have a question or problem, your first line of defense is to consult your home sources: your fellow Copy Editors and Journal Supervisor. If it is a small question regarding what an abbreviation stands for or how to format something complex, then you can receive the benefit of their experience; barring that, it's easier for more than one person to figure something out! More often than not, if you all reach a consensus, then your answer is correct. And, of course, in matters of specific journal style (barring author involvement), the Journal Supervisor is the final word, and it helps to have someone to say "This is how it's going to be done."
If there is an important administrative/controversial matter, then it is best to skip consulting with the Journal Supervisor and move right to the Editorial Manager. Some of the things that the Editorial Manager should be informed of include figures that are too violent or too cute or those that contain people's faces without their permission, articles that use fetal stem cells where the source is unspecified or politically dicey, or if the author wants to use figures or data that requires permission from another journal.
Of course, there are outside sources. For minor matters, you can use the Internet to search through past issues of your journal for information. You can also use Google to look up drug companies or additional scientific articles, and PubMed is a wonderful database of previously published scientific material. In particular, try to find sources that are highly relevant: 1) an author's previous papers, 2) a widely recognized biopharmaceutical company (like Sigma-Aldrich), or 3) an established scientific database (one associated with NIH/NCBI). In regard to style, APS uses the Chicago Manual of Style as its default source; this is also available online, and there are many reference books freely available in the office. For more information, see the resources section.
Let us not forget, as well, that authors have important parts to play. You have several lines of communication with them: indirectly, through queries that can be inserted into the manuscript during its editing stage (using the AU function of the Toolkit); and directly, by e-mail, telephone, or even fax. Our preferred methods are through author queries and e-mail, because these result in an understandable, printed, and dated record. For minor questions, such as abbreviation definitions, whether a value needs units, or if a reference has been correctly cited, only require author queries within the manuscript; some questions that you may want direct author approval are those that involve large-scale restructuring of their manuscript, large additions or deletions, or global changes to abbreviations. Many authors are more than pleased to answer your questions; they appreciate your time and effort and want the paper to look and read as well as possible. On the flip side, many authors are less than pleased if their paper is published and then they notice a glaring error, particularly one that crept in after they had given their approval at proof stage.