Fake images in biology research papers

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The uncertainty of peer review: A new study has found that since 1995 as many as 5.5% of all biomedical research papers per year contain duplicate or faked images.

Bik, who is at Stanford University in California, spent two years looking at articles published from 1995 to 2014 in 40 different journals, hunting for instances in which identical images were used to represent different experiments within the same paper. She cross-checked the duplications that she found with her two co-authors, both microbiologists.

Overall, 4% of the inspected papers contained such images, the researchers found. But rates ranged from over 12% in the International Journal of Oncology, to 0.3% in the Journal of Cell Biology, which has since 2002 systematically scanned images in its accepted papers before publication. Journals with higher impact factors generally had lower rates of duplicated images.

…Many of the problems were probably sloppy mistakes where people selected the wrong photograph, says Bik. But half or more look deliberate — because images are flipped or rotated or the same features occur twice in the same photograph. [emphasis mine]

Essentially, a significant number of scientists in medical research are purposely faking data.


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