(Based on two Twitter threads from yesterday).
All too often, blots that appear to have duplicated lanes or cells (suggestive of photo manipulation) are corrected by the author with an “Oops, here is a new figure”.
Bewilderingly, journals find this acceptable. This has to change.
Here is a tweet by @ThatsRegretTab1 about a (what appears to be) manipulated blot in a paper published in Blood, for which the authors claim on PubPeer that the journal accepted a new, not visibly manipulated version.
In this case, the authors sort of admitted that something was not right, because they offered a “correction”. Please, @BloodJournal, think critically about accepting a correction to “correct” photo manipulation.
Here is an analogy: If a sports professional had won a race but their blood/urine sample taken just before the race had doping in it, would you accept a clean sample from two weeks later? Would that make it ok? No, it would not.
Unfortunately, many journal editors don’t have the courage to keep science clean. There are dozens of examples where journals rather accept a clean (better photoshopped?) figure redo than asking the authors for a thorough explanation and considering a retraction.
Science has a huge problem: 100s (1000s?) of science papers with obvious photoshops that have been reported, but that are all swept under the proverbial rug, with no action or only an author-friendly correction.
This really has to change. Yes, it is extra work for the journals to adhere to COPE guidelines and contact authors and to show some courage and retract the paper. But dozens of other scientists might try to reproduce these manipulated papers and fail, wasting money, time, sweat, and tears.
Let’s give an “award” to journals that fail to address scientific papers with photoshopped/other obvious problems. Here is my favorite example from the past weeks:
Here is another “weak” decision by the editors of a journal, who accepted a correction to fix several obvious figure manipulations: see my blog post Mega-corrections and weak editors.
The marked images below were spotted by readers and posted on @PubPeer at https://pubpeer.com/publications/05C0E31B381D9E195058AA4CD4FA83 .
Authors reply: “Oops sorry, here is a correction, no results were affected.”
Please, editors @MaterialsToday, show some spine, and retract.
Let me formulate this very clearly:
If a published scientific paper has evidence for significant manipulation in photos or data (duplicated gel lanes, duplicated cells, duplicated parts of flow cytometry plots, etc), a journal should always retract. No correction can ever fix the concerns about the rest of the data.
There, I said it.
I hope @C0PE will agree.
Propose a name for the award
Who can come up with a good name for an award to recognize weak editorial decisions in cases of (what appears to be) significant image or data manipulations? Please reply to this tweet with your suggestions.
@bernardo647: “The CRISPRer”
@Thatsregrettab1: “Yellow duck award”: Yellow signifies lack of courage, Duck signifies shirking responsibility – to which @puddleg replied: And it quacks.
@Nirali01: “Science Fumigation Award”
@BoyceWP: The ‘Inert Invertebrate’ award.
@bradpatrick: Weak T?
@deevybee: The Bik-Brandolini Award – see: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=brandolini%27s+law
@MadS100tist: Cold Tea Award
@Leandra2848: The “Ostrich Award”, for hiding from the obvious problems the duplications reflect?
@tarlbot: You may have to own your fame (or infamy) and name the award the “Bik”. I’m sorry you might have to name a bad award for yourself, but if you are the one tipping at those windmills….
@oliphaunt: Weathervane Award?
@ciencia4medica: Pilate prize
@Rikvvz: A. Sayan award, after this glorious incident: https://twitter.com/MicrobiomDigest/status/1194049331638108160
@CC___Raider: Professor X has been awarded “The Floppy” for weakest response to academic misconduct in 2019.