Western blots

Many image problems (duplications, manipulations) in scientific papers are found within Western blots. Several readers have asked me to explain what Western blots are, so here is a blog post written with the amazing help of Jon Cousins to provide some insights.

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The Tadpole Paper Mill

Tadpoles. Modified image by MarjanNo from Pixabay.

Most posts on this website are about duplications within or between figures in the same paper, or about duplications found between papers by the same group of authors. But now, our small group of image forensics detectives has come across a large set of papers – over 400 as of today – from different authors and affiliations that all appear to have been generated by the same source. Based on the resemblance of the Western blot bands to tadpoles (the larval stage of an amphibian, such as a frog or a toad), we will call this the Tadpole Paper Mill.

Update: for those who cannot access the Google Sheets link above, here is a PDF version embedded in WordPress which I hope will work for all (generated March 3, 2020):

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No Manipulation Was Detected in This Image

This post is not an accusation of misconduct.

In a previous post, I wrote about the high percentage of image concerns in papers published in Oncotarget, an Open Access journal. PubPeer, the post-publication peer review website contains many posts about Oncotarget papers flagged by me and other image duplication detectives.

Instead of reflecting on these concerns and improving their peer review and quality control process, Oncotarget apparently has decided to try to prove that these concerns are not real.

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