#7. What is appropriate or inappropriate micrograph manipulation?
This post is part of a weekly series about image screening. All published posts can be found on this page.
At JCB and Rockefeller University Press, we still believe that the data presented in a published manuscript must accurately represent the original data acquired. If a reader does not see what you saw when first obtaining these results, it means that the data are not displayed in a reliable fashion. Reproducibility issues are too frequent, important, and costly not to try our best to accurately depict experimental findings in publications. JCB’s stance is therefore firm, and deliberate alterations that affect data interpretation are not permitted. This is why, during our routine figure screening, we pay close attention to potential misrepresentations or manipulations of the data. Some turn out to be harmless: it can be ok to rotate or crop a micrograph so as to align it with others, and although we prefer to have a false background stand out in a different color so as to make the image boundaries clearly visible, such alterations are minor acceptable changes that we can easily deal with without bothering you.
However, other manipulations are considered more serious and are not permitted:
- Misrepresentation of a microscope field (as shown here): we hope to see in a figure what you saw through the microscope (in one field). Copying/pasting, removing, or repositioning cells or other elements are not allowed.
- Selectively enhancing a specific element in an image using uneven brightness/contrast or coloring adjustments (as exemplified here): for instance, filling gold particles with black color so as to emphasize them is not allowed. Similarly, brightness adjustments must be made to the entire image and not be confined to a specific part to enhance or erase particular elements.
We are happy to discuss these issues and examples as needed, and, if a question arises, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In our next installment, we’ll tackle manipulations of the other main type of image data: gels.