Avoiding Twisted Pixels: Ethical Guidelines for the Appropriate Use and Manipulation of Scientific Digital Images
- 3.4k Downloads
Digital imaging has provided scientists with new opportunities to acquire and manipulate data using techniques that were difficult or impossible to employ in the past. Because digital images are easier to manipulate than film images, new problems have emerged. One growing concern in the scientific community is that digital images are not being handled with sufficient care. The problem is twofold: (1) the very small, yet troubling, number of intentional falsifications that have been identified, and (2) the more common unintentional, inappropriate manipulation of images for publication. Journals and professional societies have begun to address the issue with specific digital imaging guidelines. Unfortunately, the guidelines provided often do not come with instructions to explain their importance. Thus they deal with what should or should not be done, but not the associated ‘why’ that is required for understanding the rules. This article proposes 12 guidelines for scientific digital image manipulation and discusses the technical reasons behind these guidelines. These guidelines can be incorporated into lab meetings and graduate student training in order to provoke discussion and begin to bring an end to the culture of “data beautification”.
KeywordsDigital image Ethics Manipulation Image processing Microscopy
This essay began as a brief two-page newsletter article in February of 2001 that was intended primarily for graduate students and staff. As the guidelines have been refined and revised over the last several years, I have benefited greatly from the insight and feedback of colleagues at the University of Arizona, with specific thanks to: Carl Boswell, David Elliott, Patty Jansma, R. Clark Lantz, Claire Payne, Dana Wise, and Jeb Zirato. Additional feedback from John Krueger of the Office of Research Integrity, and Sara Vollmer of the University of Alabama—Birmingham, is appreciated. The author would like to specifically thank Michael W. Davidson and his colleagues at the Molecular Expressions website (Florida State University) for developing the online resources that carefully explain some of the technical concepts referred to in this article. Adobe and Photoshop are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated, San Jose, CA. Microsoft, Powerpoint, and Windows are registered trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA. Apple and Macintosh are registered trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc., Cupertino, CA. Corel and Photo-Paint are registered trademarks of the Corel Corporation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. This work was supported in part by the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC), a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) funded center (ES006694). The views, opinions, and conclusions of this essay are not necessarily those of the SWEHSC, the NIEHS, or the University of Arizona.
- Adobe Systems. (2002). Adobe Photoshop 7.0, lesson 17-setting up your monitor for color management. San Jose, CA: Adobe Systems Inc.Google Scholar
- Adobe Systems. (2005). Adobe Photoshop CS2 user guide for windows. San Jose, CA: Adobe Systems Inc.Google Scholar
- American Academy of Dermatology. (1997). Position statement on photographic enhancement. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://www.aad.org/Forms/Policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Photographic%20Enhancement.pdf.
- Archives of the Confocal Listserver. (1995). Subject: Image enhancement. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://lists.umn.edu/cgi-bin/wa?S2=CONFOCALMICROSCOPY&q=enhancement&s=&f=&a=95%2F1%2F1&b=95%2F3%2F1.
- Archives of the Microscopy Listserver. (1998). Subject: Image manipulation. Retrieved 11/21/2009, from http://www.microscopy.com/MicroscopyListserver/SearchMLArchive.html
- Bagley, K. (2009). Immunologist faked data (Blog). The Scientist (Dec 1, 2009). Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/56192/.
- Baird, D., & Cohen, M. S. (1999). Why trade? Perspectives on Science, 7.2, 231–254. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/perspectives_on_science/v007/7.2baird02.html.
- Benham, G. S. (2002). Practical aspects of objective lens selection for confocal and multiphoton digital imaging techniques. In B. Matsumoto (Ed.), Methods in cell biology: Cell biological applications of confocal microscopy (2nd ed., Vol. 70, pp. 245–299). San Diego: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Benos, D. (2006). Ethics: Detecting misconduct (Blog). Nature.com Peer-to-Peer (June 20, 2006). Retrieved 12/04/2009, http://blogs.nature.com/peer-to-peer/2006/06/ethics_detecting_misconduct.html.
- Bernardo, V., Lourenco, S. Q., Cruz, R., Monteiro-Leal, L. H., Silva, L. E., Camisasca, D. R., et al. (2009). Reproducibility of immunostaining quantification and description of a new digital image processing procedure for quantitative evaluation of immunohistochemistry in pathology. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 15(4), 353–365. doi: 10.1017/S1431927609090710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Coburn, M. (2008). Farid founds ‘digital forensics’. The Dartmouth (March 27, 2008). Retrieved 12/04/2009 from http://thedartmouth.com/2008/03/27/news/farid.
- Committee on Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a Digital Age, National Academy of Sciences. (2009). Ensuring the integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of research data in the digital age. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
- Council of Science Editors. (2009). CSE’s white paper on promoting integrity in scientific journal publications, 2009 update. Retreived 12/04/2009 from http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/editorial_policies/whitepaper/entire_whitepaper.pdf.
- Cromey, D. W. (2001). Digital imaging: Ethics. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://swehsc.pharmacy.arizona.edu/exppath/micro/digimage_ethics.php.
- Foster, B. (2000). Adobe Photoshop—the surprise scientific image processing software of choice? Advanced Imaging, November 2000, 49–50.Google Scholar
- Frankel, F. (2002). Envisioning science: The design and craft of the science image. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Furness, P. N. (1997). The use of digital images in pathology. Journal of Pathology, 183(3), 253–263. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9896(199711)183:3<253:AID-PATH927>3.0.CO;2-P.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gravitz, L. (2006). Biology’s image problem. Rockefeller University Scientist, 2006(1), 10–12.Google Scholar
- Hayden, J. E. (2000). Digital manipulation in scientific images: Some ethical considerations. Journal of Biocommunication, 27(1), 11–19.Google Scholar
- Image Analysis Lab. (ca. 1995). Image editing ethics. Seattle, WA: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (no longer available online).Google Scholar
- Jameson, K. A., Highnote, S. M., & Wasserman, L. M. (2001). Richer color experience in observers with multiple photopigment opsin genes. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 8(2), 244–261.Google Scholar
- Joint Photographic Experts Group. (2007). Applications: Scientific and industrial. Retrieved 11/6/2009, from http://www.jpeg.org/apps/scientific.html.
- Journal of Cell Biology. (2009). Instructions for authors. Journal of Cell Biology. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://jcb.rupress.org/misc/ifora.shtml.
- Katsnelson, A. (2007). Former UPenn postdoc faked images. The Scientist (Aug 7, 2007). Retrieved 12/07/2009, from http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53469/.
- Krueger, J. (2005). Confronting manipulation of digital images in science. Office of Research Integrity Newsletter, 13, 8–9.Google Scholar
- Krueger, J. (2009). Incidences of ORI cases involving falsified images. Office of Research Integrity Newsletter, 17, 2–3.Google Scholar
- Long, J. (1999). Ethics in the age of digital photography. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/self-training_resources/eadp_report/.
- MacKenzie, J. M., Burke, M. G., Carvalho, T., & Eades, A. (2006). Ethics and digital imaging. Microscopy Today, 14, 40–41.Google Scholar
- McNamara, G. (2006). Crusade for publishing better light micrographs—light microscope publication guidelines. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://home.earthlink.net/~geomcnamara/CrusadeBetterMicrographs.htm.
- Microscopy Society of America. (2003). Position on ethical digital imaging. Microscopy Today, 11, 61.Google Scholar
- Microsoft Corporation. (1997). The Microsoft Press ® computer dictionary (3rd ed.). Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.Google Scholar
- Mullin, L. (1998). Truth in photography: Perception, myth and reality in the postmodern world. (Master’s thesis) Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://etd.fcla.edu/UF/amd0040/Leslie.pdf.
- National Press Photographers Association. (1990). Digital manipulation code of ethics. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/digitalethics.html.
- National Press Photographers Association. (2004). Mission & by laws: Code of ethics standards. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://www.nppa.org/about_us/governance/bylaws.html#ethics.
- Nature. (2009). Editorial policy: Image integrity and standards. Nature. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/image.html.
- NIH. (1994). Reminder and update: Requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research in national research service award institutional training grants. (NOT-94-200). Retrieved 12/04/2009 from http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not94-200.html.
- NIH. (2009). Update on the requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research (NOT-94-200). Retrieved 12/04/2009 from http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-019.html.
- Oliver, W. R. (1998). Image processing and scientific misconduct. Microscopy Today, 6, 12–13.Google Scholar
- Paalman, M. H. (2000). Scientific misconduct: The ultimate negative career move. Anatomical Record, 261(6), 219–220. doi: 10.1002/1097-0185(20001215)261:6<219:AID-AR1001>3.0.CO;2-Y[pii].CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Pawley, J. B. (2000). The 39 steps: A cautionary tale of quantitative 3-D fluorescence microscopy. Biotechniques, 28(5), 884–886, 888.Google Scholar
- Rasband, W. S. (1997–2009). ImageJ (Software). Retrieved from http://rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/.
- Revel, J.-P. (1993a). Finger painting or digital imaging. Microscopy Today, 1(5), 2.Google Scholar
- Revel, J.-P. (1993b). The truth in imaging. Microscopy Today, 1(4), 2.Google Scholar
- Richardson, M. L., Frank, M. S., & Stern, E. J. (1994). Digital image manipulation: What constitutes acceptable alteration of a radiologic image? [opinion]. American Journal of Roentgenology, 164, 228–229.Google Scholar
- Rolph, A., & McNerthney, C. (2007). UW: AIDS researcher falsified data, news. SeattlePI.com (November 28, 2007). Retrieved 12/07/2009 from http://www.seattlepi.com/local/341421_research28.html.
- Rossner, M. (2006). How to guard against image fraud. The Scientist, 20, 24.Google Scholar
- Rossner, M., Held, M. J., Bozuwa, G. P., & Kornacki, A. (1998). Managing editors and digital images: Shutter diplomacy. CBE Views, 21(6), 187–192.Google Scholar
- Russ, J. C. (1998). The image processing handbook (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
- Russ, J. C. (2004). Seeing the scientific image (parts 1–3). Proceedings Royal Microscopy Society, 39(2), 97–114; (3), 179–194; (4), 267–281.Google Scholar
- Schekman, R. (2008). Charting the course for PNAS. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(8), 2755–2756. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800528105.
- Scientific Working Group Imaging Technology. (2004). Best practices for documenting image enhancement, section 11 (Version 1.2 2004.03.04). Retrieved 12/04/2009 from http://www.theiai.org/guidelines/swgit/guidelines/section_11_v1-2.pdf.
- Spring, K. R., Fellers, T. J., & Davidson, M. W. (2006a). Resolution and contrast in confocal microscopy. Retrieved 11/6/2009, from http://www.olympusconfocal.com/theory/resolutionintro.html.
- Spring, K. R., Parry-Hill, M. J., Long, J. C., Fellers, T. J., & Davidson, M. W. (2006b). Spatial resolution in digital images. Retrieved 11/9/2009, from http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/digitalimaging/processing/spatialresolution/.
- Spring, K. R., Russ, J. C., Parry-Hill, M. J., Fellers, T. J., Zuckerman, L. D., & Davidson, M. W. (2006c). Digital image sampling frequency. Retrieved 11/6/2009, from http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/digitalimaging/processing/samplefrequency/index.html.
- Spring, K. R., Russ, J. C., Parry-Hill, M. J., Long, J. C., Fellers, T. J., & Davidson, M. J. (2007). Convolution kernel mask operation. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/digitalimaging/processing/kernelmaskoperation/index.html.
- Steneck, N. H. (2007). ORI introduction to the responsible conduct of research. Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://ori.dhhs.gov/publications/ori_intro_text.shtml.
- Suprock Technologies. (2009). Signal processing & data analysis: Rigour. Retrieved 11/21/2009, from http://www.suprocktech.com/solutions/signal-processing-data-analysis.aspx.
- Wheeler, T. (2002). Phototruth or photofiction?: Ethics and media imagery in the digital age. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Why Movie Wheels Turn Backward. (1918). An explanation of the illusion and a suggested method for correcting it. New York Times (Jul 21, 1918). Retrieved 12/07/2009, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A05E6DA143EE433A25752C2A9619C946996D6CF.
- Young, J. R. (2008). Journals find fakery in many images submitted to support research. The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 29, 2008). Retrieved 12/04/2009, from http://chronicle.com/article/Journals-Find-Fakery-in-Man/846/.