Detect Anomalies in Blot Images: Techniques Offered by STM Image Manipulation Working Group

The STM Working Group on Image Alteration and Duplication Detection has recently released a video tutorial detailing manual techniques for detecting and verifying common aberrations in blot images. Examples shown are Western blots or immunoblots, but the screening techniques can translate for Northern and Southern blots, as well as agarose (DNA/RNA) gels. This video is the second module in a series of instructional resources dedicated to supporting publishers and Editors in the screening of submitted images and manuscripts.

The manipulation/duplication of images and figures introduce substantial risks to the validity of published research claims, the reputation of the journal or associated Authors, the resources spent re-evaluating questionable reports, and to the communities and fields of study that depend on this research. To help reduce the expensive bottleneck of identifying and resolving instances of potential image alteration/duplication and improve research integrity, publishers are actively educating editorial staff for manual inspections and increasing adoptions of automated tools to streamline workflows. In response to the growing concerns and wave of new technologies emerging from this issue, the STM Standards and Technology Committee (STEC) established a working group in 2021 dedicated to investigating the extent of image alteration/duplication in publishing, measuring methodologies available to safeguard against it, and developing helpful resources and recommendations.

The working group is currently operating as part of the STM Integrity Hub initiative. Since its inception, the group has made many efforts towards their cause for research quality and validity. In addition to the two instructional videos in a series of modules, the STM working group has drafted a set of recommended best practices, designed for Editors, which designate principles and a three-tier classification for different types of image aberrations commonly detected in submitted manuscripts. The group also created a comprehensive comparison checklist focused on industry image screening tools and services, which includes input from the service providers and suggested prioritization of features based on availability or development. These assets can be found in the working groups’ online resource center.

Aries Systems is a proud member of this working group. We are pleased to collaborate alongside other organizations represented, including the American Physiological Society, American Chemical Society, Atypon, BMJ, Elsevier, EMBO Press, Rockefeller University Press, Springer Nature, and Taylor & Francis.