Bik 2016 mBio

From Bioblast
Publications in the MiPMap
Bik EM, Casadevall A, Fang FC (2016) The prevalence of inappropriate image duplication in biomedical research publications. mBio 7:e00809-16.

Β» PMID: 27273827 Open Access

Bik EM, Casadevall A, Fang FC (2016) mBio

Abstract: Inaccurate data in scientific papers can result from honest error or intentional falsification. This study attempted to determine the percentage of published papers that contain inappropriate image duplication, a specific type of inaccurate data. The images from a total of 20,621 papers published in 40 scientific journals from 1995 to 2014 were visually screened. Overall, 3.8% of published papers contained problematic figures, with at least half exhibiting features suggestive of deliberate manipulation. The prevalence of papers with problematic images has risen markedly during the past decade. Additional papers written by authors of papers with problematic images had an increased likelihood of containing problematic images as well. As this analysis focused only on one type of data, it is likely that the actual prevalence of inaccurate data in the published literature is higher. The marked variation in the frequency of problematic images among journals suggests that journal practices, such as prepublication image screening, influence the quality of the scientific literature.

β€’ Bioblast editor: Gnaiger E

Selected quotes

  • A total of 20 621 research papers containing the search term β€œWestern blot” from 40 different journals and 14 publishers were examined for inappropriate duplications of photographic images, with or without repositioning or evidence of alteration .. Overall, 782 (3.8%) of these papers were found to include at least one figure containing inappropriate duplications.
  • A negative correlation between image duplication and journal impact factor was observed (Pearson’s correlation, P = 0.019), with the lowest percentage of problematic images found in journals with high impact factors. The prevalence of image duplication in 12 open-access journals was not significantly different from that in 28 non-open-access journals (P = 0.38, chi-square test).
  • In nearly 40% of the instances in which a problematic paper was identified, screening of other papers from the same authors revealed additional problematic papers in the literature. This suggests that image duplication results from systematic problems in figure preparation by individual researchers, which tend to recur.
  • Only original research papers containing figures were included; retracted papers, review papers, and conference abstracts were excluded.
  • From a single journal (PLoS One), 8,138 papers published in 2013 and 2014 were included in the study, comprising 39.5% of the data set. .. The large number of PLoS One papers analyzed reflects both the journal format, which facilitates image analysis, and the fact that PLoS One is currently the world’s largest scientific journal, with approximately 30 000 new articles per year (
  • All papers were initially screened by one of the authors (E.M.B.). If a possible problematic image or set of images was detected, figures were further examined for evidence of image duplication or manipulation by using the Adjust Color tool in Preview software on an Apple iMac computer. No additional special imaging software was used.


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