Experts Agree: Preserve the original

There is no universal standard across scientific disciplines for manipulation of  digital-data images.  Experienced and respected colleagues, however, all voice two fundamental practices:   Save your original; and document all post-processing steps in a replicable fashion. As John Russ summarized about ethics in digital-data image handling: “The heart of the scientific method is replicability. If adequate information is provided on the processing steps applied, and the original image data are preserved, then the validity of the results can be independently verified.”  Dr. Russ on Ethics Jerry Sedgewick wrote about the crucial role of the original image: – “The sole means for determining the extent of the existence of alteration or additions lies in looking at the original.”  Scientific Imaging with Photoshop, Methods, Measurements, and Output(2008) Doug Cromey reminds researchers that: “Scientific digital images are data that can be compromised by inappropriate manipulations. …  Maintaining a copy of the unaltered original image is the user’s only protection against accusations of misconduct. This is also the only way that users can recover from a mistake in image processing.  Honesty is the best policy. If portions of an image for publication were selectively enhanced, the author should state it clearly in the figure legend.   Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center The Microscopy Society of America’s resolution on ethical digital image processing sets the standard for its members:  :   “Ethical digital imaging requires that the original uncompressed image file be stored on archival media (e.g., CD-R) without any image manipulation or processing operation. All parameters of the production and acquisition of this file, as well as any subsequent processing steps, must be documented and reported to ensure reproducibility.  (Microscopy Today Nov/Dec 2003, p61): These two essential practices are the foundation for proper archiving of all digital-data images.

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