We also do those ‘old school’ procedures the ‘old school’ way. We dont use Qiagen kits to extract our plasmids, we do cesium chloride gradients. We also make sure to use real film to visualize our radioactive pulse-chase experiments and our western blots. Oh we also do it the ‘new school’ way and take pictures electronically, but there are real benefits to keeping film in your lab notebook: You have a defense if someone accuses you of fraud.
“As we looked at it, we realized the person had cut and pasted the exact same bands” over and over again, says Ushma S. Neill, the journal’s executive editor. In some cases a copied part of the image had been flipped or reversed to make it look like a new finding. “The closer we took a look, the more we were convinced that the data had been fabricated or manipulated in order to support the conclusions.”
Experts say that many young researchers may not even realize that tampering with their images is inappropriate. After all, people now commonly alter digital snapshots to take red out of eyes, so why not clean up a protein image in Photoshop to make it clearer?
“This is one of the dirty little secrets–that everybody massages the data like this,” says Mr. Farid. Yet changing some pixels for the sake of “clarity” can actually change an image’s scientific meaning.
Our lab uses Photoshop to crop and resize images of our gels. The gels I run are 18×16 cm– you cant fit them in a journal. But I sure as hell dont ever airbrush them, or cut/paste ‘pretty’ bands over ugly ones. I dont touch shit except the sizes.
But why should anyone believe me? “Everybody massages the data like this”, right?
Luckily, if anyone ever calls BS on my data (or challenges me to a dual), Ive got my ‘old school’, unPhotoshoppable film sitting in my lab book. Im never whining at Bossman for being ‘old school’ ever again.