Publishers Tackle Doctoring of Research Images

Publishers Tackle Doctoring of Research Images

A working group appointed by the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) has published a new set of guidelines to tackle the issue of doctored images in scientific research papers. 

The recommendations of the Standards and Technology Committee (STEC) include a three-tier classification system that editors can use to flag suspicious content, and detailed step-by-step instructions on how to deal with manipulated images.

STM said the guidelines provide "a structured approach that supports editors and others applying image integrity screening as part of pre-publication quality control checks or post-publication investigation of image and data integrity issues at scholarly journals, books, preprint servers, or data repositories."

Images that fall under tier one of the classification system include pictures that have been "beautified" or altered in a way that does not change the conclusion of the research. Images that have been significantly manipulated in a way that clashes with accepted scholarly practice and change the scientific conclusions for key data are designated tier two. 

Tier three, reserved for the most serious aberrations, includes “severe image manipulation, with unequivocal evidence of obfuscation or fabrication and an intent to mislead,” such as the selective cropping or

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