Schlagwort-Archive: forensics

Image modification in scientific publications: 10 rules for acceptable use

I am summarizing here some rules what consists of acceptable image use in scientific publications (Rossner 2004). Pioneers in the field have been the Journal of Cell Biology (J) but also Nature (N) and EMBO Press (E). Here are 10 rules:

  1. Digital images submitted with a manuscript for review should be minimally processed (N).
  2. Specific feature within an image may not be enhanced, obscured, moved, removed, or introduced (J, E). The use of touch-up tools, such as cloning and healing tools, or any feature that deliberately obscures manipulations, is unacceptable (N).
  3. Dividing lines may not be added between juxtaposed images taken from different parts of the same gel or from different gels, fields, or exposures (J, E). If juxtaposing images is essential, the surrounding gel shown at least at the size of the band, borders should be clearly demarcated and described in the legend (N).
  4. Images gathered at different times or from different locations should not be combined into a single image, unless it is stated that the resultant image is a product of time-averaged data or a time-lapse sequence.
  5. Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance that have been applied to the entire image may not enhance, erase, or misrepresent any information present in the original, including the background (J, E).
  6. Images from the same object may not be repeated within the manuscript. Any reuse of images, including control images from earlier papers, should be explicitly stated and justified in the legend (J).
  7. Nonlinear adjustments (e.g., changes to gamma settings) must be disclosed in the figure legend (J). Processing such as changing brightness and contrast is appropriate only when it is applied equally across the entire image and is applied equally to controls. Contrast should not be adjusted so that data disappear (N).
  8. Excessive manipulations, such as processing to emphasize one region in the image at the expense of others, is inappropriate (N).
  9. Deposition of all RAW image files is encouraged (N). An option is that is available since 2014.
  10. These are general rules only.  Specific rules exist for electrophoretic blots and microscopy (N).

Further discussion points (work in progress)

  1. There should be a better distinction of object and  image, e.g. the re-use of the same object in multiple photographs should be explicitly prohibited.
  2. There should be a reference to any work outside of the current paper, if the object and/or image has been used elsewhere.
  3. There is a need for better captions that specify always experimental conditions, object, direction and resolution. Unzoomed controls and reason for the selection of certain object areas along with repeated experiments would be often helpful. What constitutes a representative image?
  4. There is a need of professional integrity officers at universities and research centers.
  5. More attention by publishers is required. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines include a flowchart on suspected image manipulation.
  6. Accepted standards and current practices need to be continuously revised.

As a further reference see also the Word Press Photo rules.

Image, text and data forensics

Here are some simple some tools for examining papers.


There is no single button solution. To extract the pictures I use unar (“brew install unar” or “”) which preserves more detail than a screenshot. As web-based solution Forensically is useful (alternatives are Fotoforensics, Reveal and the beta version of ImageTwin). I have written an own OpenCV script while I think Sherloq is the most useful toolbox. Maybe there are also situations where individual color adjustments are needed: I have a local version of Affinity here but there is also super nice web-based tool called Minipaint.

source Affinity analysis of mouse eyes


For text plagiarism check, it probably needs some paid service: docoloc, Plagscan or Turnitin (services compared here) if don’t want to copy/paste text blocks into Google Search. For translation, I recommend Deepl. For text comparison I used BBEdit while also the Atom/split-diff plugin is suitable (as an online solution also simtext). For PDF comparison I suggest Copyleaks.


Current software developments to scan manuscripts for statistical issues are Barzooka (Nico Riedel), SciScore (Michèle Nuijten), Grim Test (Nicholas Brown) among others.



A short history of detecting image forgery can be found at the Zwelling blog and an introduction into the theory in a paper by Hany Farid or his book “Fake Photos“. A recent interview with Elisabeth Bik gives further details, an introduction into picture forensics is at scienceintegritydigest including details of the nomenclature.

PubPeer is the place where the results should be deposited.

“There is currently worldwide concern over corruption…. This concern touches all Member States and all levels of education” according to the European Counsil.