Category Archives: News

News-related posts for the “Latest News” leaf on the front page.

Eastern European journals and image integrity

 An article in the January issue of Science & Engineering Ethics reports on journals’ policies and procedures about image manipulation. Mindaugas Broga and colleagues studied differences in publication ethics policies among journals in Eastern European countries in the European Union (EU) and in South-Eastern European countries, which were not in the EU.  (For convenience, these groups will be referred to…

PubPeer.com – an online conversation among peers

We have just learned about the website and blog PubPeer:  The Online Journal Club.  Founded in October 2012, the site’s goal is to “create an online community  that uses the publication of scientific results as an opening for fruitful discussion among scientists.”    Scientists may comment on almost any scientific articles published with a DOI or…

A Model For Microscopy Labs

On May 22, 2013, the Core Microscopy Facility at the University of Indiana at Bloomington held an all-day workshop on image processing and analysis.  Approximately 120 people from all levels of academic science at the university attended, surely one of the largest events at a university on these issues.  Further, the workshop has several lessons…

Research ethics: Thinking differently across cultures

In an April post to this website, we commented on ORI’s video on common concerns that arise in research labs with international postdocs.  That video illustrated ways that communication issues are often barriers in the international environment of scientific labs.  Along with language issues, cultural perspectives add complexity to conveying information, and the more sensitive…

Images and retractions: A rising trend

John Kruger of the federal Office of Research Integrity tackled tough and important questions about retractions—and especially retractions involving data images—in the December 2012 ORI newsletter article. He posed three questions: • What is the scope of the retraction problem? • What factors contribute to the rise in the retraction trend? • Based on the…

ORI’s new video about international postdocs

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has created video scenarios about common concerns that international postdocs and their U.S. colleagues face in working collaboratively in research laboratories.  Some of the videos deal with communications challenges while others deal with everyday problems with visas, finances, and  the details of studying and conducting research in a foreign…

A four-day conference in April, 2013 Reassessing Research Integrity, co-produced by the Office of Research Integrity and Johns Hopkins University focused on issues of responsible conduct of research (RCR).  Leaders in the field of research integrity examined  the state of and future direction  of RCR, including such questions as what should be measured in the evaluation…

How much should a retraction tell us?

Would the science record be better served if we were able to see falsified data images from retracted papers to better understand the errors?   In late November 2012, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) sanctioned University of Kentucky researcher Eric Smart, PhD, after determining that he had falsified or fabricated 45 figures in 10 published articles…

Entering the dialog

  We welcome you to our redesigned website.  We hope you will find these features useful: a moderated comment section articles presented in a shorter format that can be expanded by the reader. icons to distinguish between downloadable files, direct links, presentations, and other options

What does a retraction tell us?

Retraction Watch has been a powerful partner in the examination of falsification in the published record, doing the hard work of gathering retraction notices and categorizing them, generating data from these retractions, highlighting research about retractions, and collecting wide-ranging comments, all in one readily available blog.

ORI’s “The Lab” – Avoiding Research Misconduct

Each university that uses funds from the Public Health Services,  must provide training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).   The Lab is a new interactive movie developed by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI), that allows viewers to experience an ethical challenge involving research as one of four characters.  Set in an…

Students’ reliance on PI advisers in research ethics

This summer, the Council of Graduate Schools  published its report on research and scholarly integrity in graduate education.  According to an August 14 article ** by Beth Mole in the Chronicle of Higher Education, based on a report by The Project for Scholarly Integrity, graduate students felt that they understood research ethics but the report revealed that…

Data image misconduct in the lab

Once data-images were produced on film and processed in labs with protocol and certified staff.   Now lab directors each have their own non-standardized practices and policies, with only the potential for institutional oversight and editorial and peer review to help them identify opportunities for error and research misconduct.   Very few societies have adopted policies…

Stowers Institute: first research organization to give open access to data-images

The Stowers Institute, a biomedical research institute in Kansas City, Kansas, now requires members to deposit all original data-images in the Stowers Original Data Repository (ODR) or repositories maintained by third parties. The ODR was built on the OMERO platform by a team at the institute.

Identifying self-plagiarism; clarification is needed for data-images too

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a needs assessment of graduate students on research ethics and found that the students did not feel confident in recognizing self plagiarism.  The UAB students are not alone—senior researchers can have the same problem, as we described last…

Standards in Data Image Management: are we seeing growing consensus?

Best practices in acquisition, post processing, and creation of metadata for data images in biomed are being developed by a variety of sources, including professional societies, research institutions, and individual labs.  As yet, however, there is no one recognized source for widely accepted practices.  Meaningful standards arise in the field when various guidelines, developed independently,…

Retractions caused by inaccurate data-images: more details needed

Data-images are increasingly a cause of retraction and correction of articles published in biomedical journals.  Although journals publish retraction and correction statements about problems with data-images, these statements often raise more questions than they answer.  Some retraction statements merely say that the article is retracted because of questions about figures; others are ambiguous. A striking…

The 1%: journal manuscripts with serious image falsification

How common a problem is data-image falsification in journal articles?  Rockefeller University Press and the Office of Research Integrity have separately collected data showing that falsification of data-images occurs in 1% of their cases. Journal of Cell Biology.  Liz Williams, PhD, executive editor of JCB, reported in March that, after screening of images in accepted articles, 1%…

What Is a Falsified Image?

We have noticed a few author’s responses to retractions of papers in which data-images have been categorized as falsified,  as assertions that they have done nothing wrong   This table presents a schema for understanding the different forms of data-image falsification.  The basic distinctions in the schema have to do with whose dataset is being used,…

Where to store the data?

Best practices for handling of data-images include retaining the original captured image, along with capture and post-processing steps in metadata.  Creating that storage space for a myriad of data-types is challenging for research institutions which can only archive some of their data.  At a recent conference on data management at the University of Virginia, librarians…

University research librarians and data management—including images

On April 10, 2012, the University of Virginia Libraries held its first conference on data management, successfully facilitating a powerful opportunity for local universities to collaborate.  In terms of data-images, what was most interesting was not what was included on the agenda but what wasn’t. Hosted by the University’s Scientific Data Consulting group (SciDaC) from the…

OMERO comes through

The new release of OMERO 4.4 includes just the kind of improvements to keep it current with the rising focus on metadata creation for data-images. Changes include greater functionality for users and  enhances the ability to capture,  annotate, and view metadata and provides readily found and clear instructions for doing so.  The OME consortium recognizes the importance of…

Keeping Guidelines Current

In 2003 the Microscopy Society of America (MSA) was almost alone among professional societies in developing policies about digital data-images.  The MSA recognized the need to provide basic ethical guidelines for digital data-image:

Readers are becoming science gatekeepers

In 2011, the Nature journals joined with Rockefeller University to offer a monthly online panel discussion, Science Online NYC (SONYC) on how the internet is changing science as we know it.   On March 20 the topic was, “Setting the Research Record Straight”  discussing research ethics and retractions, with a strong focus on data-image integrity.  The…

How many of ORI’s misconduct decisions involve data-images?

Each year the Office of Research Integrity posts summaries of closed cases where it found misconduct.  In 2011, the ORI reported on 13 closed cases: 38% involved digital data-images. All but one of them involved falsifying images after capture, and the other was a case of altering the gain settings on an instrument in order to obtain false…

Instructions to Authors—a Front-line Defense for image integrity

Journals’ Instructions to Authors give vital rules and guidelines, but unfortunately they seldom communicate expectations for ethical handling of data-images.  At the 2011 Council of Science Editors (CSE) annual conference, we presented a poster on identifying how many journals (in a sample of 446) gave specific instructions for handling data-images and how many treated images…

Retraction Watch: 25% of its retractions are for image manipulation

Retraction Watch allows readers to search its collection of retractions by the reason for the retraction.  As of February 14, 2012, retractions for image manipulation account for a quarter of all retractions in the database, tied with those retracted because they were not reproducible. The top five reasons given—accounting for 94%–for the 230 retractions were

Reaching consensus about best practices

In any field, it is difficult to reach consensus about best practices.  For issues involving digital data-images, consensus is even harder to reach because of the varied disciplines that use data-images and the many ways the images may be used.  Even within a single discipline, agreeing on best practices can be frustrating.  One of the…

Pitfalls of Western Blots

Western blots are one of a category of images that involve densitometry, or measurement of brightness and darkness ratios, a category that dominates the field in image-related article retractions and corrections.   In Scientific Imaging with Photoshop, author Jerry Sedgewick states that, “In general, images destined for OD/I measurements should not be altered in any way….

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…

Dr. Wang doesn’t think he did anything wrong

Dr. Zhigou Wang of the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) still does not feel he has done anything wrong.   In six now-retracted articles published in 2007 and 2008 in leading peer reviewed journals, Wang used western blot bands from other, previous studies as evidence in the articles about subsequent studies.  This is a clear violation of  research ethics, not…

Do the ends justify the means?

In a 2011 case submitted to the UK’s Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the editors of a journal were convinced that false bands had been included in an assay figure.  The author had not described any image manipulations when submitting the article.  When the editors contacted the author, he admitted that “some of the figures…

Image-data need special handling in DMPs

Requiring data-management plans (DMPs) in grant proposals is a new attempt to protect the integrity of the scientific record.   The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, now requires a data plan in every grant application, and various organizations are working to design materials and tools to help researchers create and document their DMPs.   

Getting it Right: Digital Data-Images and Journal Author instructions

Thoughts on Journal of Molecular Medicine’s 2008 statement on scientific misconduct and data-images We recently re-read editor Detlev Ganten and Gregg L. Semenza’s  thoughtful statement on research integrity and their journal’s new policies, and it made us think more about improving author instructions. The JMol editors  state clearly that their primary concern is that pressure…

Image fraud in papers by Sylvia Bulfone-Paus

In 2009, immunologist Sylvia Bulfone-Paus faced allegations of fraud involving both image and data manipulation. She was director of the immunology laboratory at Research Center Brostel in Germany and also a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester in the UK. The investigations came after a persistent (and sometimes unsavory) campaign by anonymous bloggers…

Tips for working correctly with digital images

Doug Cromey of the University of Arizona recently published an excellent one-page overview of the importance of teaching researchers appropriate manipulation of digital data-images. “… It is imperative that researchers be taught how to correctly work with digital images”

Learning to do the right thing – The CSE/COPE Joint Session

How does a journal or society create an ethics policy?  Christine Bennett, PhD, Publications Ethics Manager  of The American Physiological Society. (APS) shared the process the publications committee and editors in chief at APS used to develop their publications ethics guidelines,  and provided templates for communicating concerns with authors.   Digital data-images and figures topped the…

Research and Ethics in Publishing

Research and Ethics in Publishing has an active new watchdog in Retraction Watch,  an organization dedicated to encouraging a public discussion on ethics in science journal publications.  Say the authors, “We’re interested in whether journals are consistent. How long do they wait before printing a retraction?

Readers identify problems with published images

Nature recently added a “Comments” feature to its online articles, to promote post-publication review.  Soon after online publication of an article in April (Vol. 472 [April 21]:356-36), readers began to post comments about possible problems with the figures.   Within 8 hours, a senior editor posted a notice saying that the issues were being investigated.  A dialog such as this allow for…

CSE Short Course for Editors now covers image fraud

The well-known course, designed for newly appointed editors of science journals, now covers image fraud as part of its two-day curriculum.  The course description for the 2011 course, offered at the CSE Annual Meeting in Baltimore, included image fraud in the general description of the course.  Watch for this course in future conferences.

Demystifying Scientific Misconduct Issues through the Instructions to Authors

Mary Scheetz, PhD, Research Integrity, LLC,  Patty Baskin, MS,  Executive Director, Neurology Journals, Ken Kornfield, Senior Managing Editor,  American Society of  Clinical Oncology. What should good instructions to authors (IAs) include?   Five journal’s IAs were examined for completeness and effectiveness,  with discussion.  We are impressed that the journal stance on data-image manipulation was a line…

Twisted Pixels..

Douglas W. Cromey of University of Arizona College of Medicine published an article in the Science and Engineering Ethics special issue on responsible data management (SSE, 2010; 14[Dec 2010]:639-667).  “….  The problem is twofold: (1) the very small, yet troubling, number of intentional falsifications that have been identified, and (2) the more common unintentional, inappropriate manipulation of images for publication….

Changing standards for manipulation of images

“Standards for appropriate manipulation of digital data have developed more slowly than has the software for manipulating the images.  Half of all cases now investigated by the federal Office of Research Integrity involve questions about digital images. 

Nature Group adopts policies for manipulation of data-images

Veronique Kiermer, executive editor of Nature and the Nature journals, described their policies on manipulation of digital data-images and the enforcement practices.  She highlighted the importance of education about image manipulation and journals’ responsibilities in her presentation.  (panel presentation at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Council of Science Editors)

How journals can best respond to the issues of manipulation of digital data images

Kirsten Miles of P.I. Outcomes (Charlottesville, Virginia) presented questions and suggestions for journal editors at the latest CSE annual conference as they deal with authors instructions for submitting digital data images.  She emphasized the extended life-cycle of data in her presentation, showed examples of image screening, and suggested four “best practices” for journals in managing images. …

ORI’s view of image integrity in scientific publishing

John W. Krueger, scientist-investigator for the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, speaking on a panel at the CSE annual conference in 2011 on data-image integrity, discussed the factors that drive the incidence of inappropriate manipulation.  His presentation emphasized the ORI’s tools for examining images, gave suggestions for helping reviewers and authors, and raised questions of journals’ obligations.  (panel presentation at…

Omero: a solution and model for managing data-images

An innovative approach to creating an architecture for storing data-images has been developed by the  Open Microscopy Environment (OME), a collaborative  project between research laboratories at the Swedloe Lab at the University of Dundee (Scotland) and in the United States the National Institute on Aging, and the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI).  The OME…