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 also looks at a standard classification of types and severity of image-related issues and proposes 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.

Click here for a webinar about the topic.

A report on a session on the recommendations can be read here.

To access articles on the recommendations, click here.

In June of 2022, the working group released a draft list of requirements and features for screening tools for image integrity issues, with a suggested prioritization in availability and/or development. The working group has invited providers of image screening tools to self-evaluate their solutions against this list.

In December of 2022, we compiled information from four providers: ImageTwin, Proofig, FigCheck and Imacheck. This sheet is intended as an informative source of information for publishers about available tools and services. Please note that STM did not validate the claims made in this overview. You can download the sheet here

Also in December, we launched the first in a series of instructional video modules intended to serve as a tool for scholarly journal editors screening for manipulated images in submitted manuscripts. This first module provides an overview of the most commonly found image aberrations in scientific publications and illustrates how they may be detected and verified. Watch the video here.

For more information, contact Joris van Rossum at

The members of the working group:

Past members:

  • Sabina Alam
  • Tony Alves
  • Sarah Robbie
  • Jon Slinn

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