In response to recent cases of image manipulation, the Nature family of journals is now ‘spot-checking’ images from randomly chosen papers. The March issue of Nature Immunology contains an editorial, “Spot checks”, about the problems, and about how the Nature journals are dealing with them. From the editorial:
“The advent of Photoshop and other imaging software has changed the landscape considerably, making it very easy, and perhaps tempting, to modify images. To a degree, this stems from a ‘generation gap’ between older scientists, who do not necessarily understand the possibilities of imaging software, and younger scientists, who acquire the original data and prepare the images for publication.
What constitutes unacceptable data manipulation? Moving, adding, removing, enhancing or obscuring features or sections of an image clearly count. ‘Cleaning up’ background or removing ‘nonspecific’ bands from a gel may seem innocent enough, but such changes may in fact alter useful information. To help ensure that all data figures are truly representative of the research, Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and other scientific publishers such as Rockefeller University Press and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have instituted new guidelines in an attempt to eliminate inappropriate image manipulations."
The full text of this editorial is available at the Nature Immunology website, and via the Author and Referees’ website’s “Image integrity” page. This web page explains the Nature journals’ policies and procedures, as well as providing links to all our journals’ editorials on the topic. We welcome comments and suggestions from our peer-reviewers and other scientists.