STM STEC Working Group on Image Alterations and Duplications

In scholarly publishing, we encounter image alterations as well as duplications. Whatever the reason is behind the submission of altered and/or duplicated images to a journal, they should be identified early in the article evaluation process, so journals can take appropriate action prior to publication and in a best-case scenario, before peer review. Opposite to text plagiarism, which usually results in the violation of the research process, image alteration and/or duplication can be much more damaging, as it corrupts actual research results, wastes research money on invalid leads, undermines society’s trust in research, and can even endanger the society in which those “results” are used. 

The STM Standards and Technology Committee (STEC) has appointed a working group to answer questions around automatic image alteration and/or duplication detection. It addresses topics like the minimal requirements for such tools, the current quality of them, how their quality can be measured, and how these tools can be widely, consistently, and effectively applied by scholarly publishers. It will also look at a standard classification of types and severity of image-related issues and propose guidelines on what types of image alteration is allowable under what conditions. The working group currently operates as part of the STM Integrity Hub initiative.

In December of 2021, the working group released recommendations for handling image integrity issues. Please click here to download.

Currently, the working group is developing a list of requirements that software screening for image integrity issues should comply with. These requirements are planned to be launched in June of 2022.

The members of the working group:

  • Sowmya Swaminathan, Springer Nature
  • Jon Slinn, Wiley
  • Atul Udgata, Taylor & Francis
  • Teodoro Pulvirenti, American Chemical Society
  • Bernd Pulverer, EMBO Press
  • Jacob Kendall-Taylor, JAMA
  • Catriona Fennell, Elsevier
  • S.J. MacRae, Aries System
  • Tim Spencer, Rockefeller University Press
  • Simone Ragavooloo, BMJ
  • Joris van Rossum, STM
  • IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg (chair), STM STEC and Elsevier

 Related reading:

  1. Bik, E.M., Fang, F.C., Kullas, A.L., Davis, R.J., Casadevall, A. (2018), Analysis and correction of inappropriate image duplication: The molecular and cellular biology experience, Molecular and Cellular Biology 38 (20), e00309
  2. Rossner, M. (2002), Figure manipulation: assessing what is acceptable, The Journal of Cell Biology 158 (7), 1151
  3. Williams, C.L., Casadevall, A., Jackson, S. (2019), Figure errors, sloppy science, and fraud: keeping eyes on your data, The Journal of Clinical Investigation 129 (5), 1805-1807