Charles Piller, for Science, highlights the work of Matthew Schrag, who uses image analysis to look for falsified data, recently scrutinizing a link between a protein and Alzheimer’s:
“So much in our field is not reproducible, so it’s a huge advantage to understand when data streams might not be reliable,” Schrag says. “Some of that’s going to happen reproducing data on the bench. But if it can happen in simpler, faster ways—such as image analysis—it should.” Eventually Schrag ran across the seminal Nature paper, the basis for many others. It, too, seemed to contain multiple doctored images.
Science asked two independent image analysts—Bik and Jana Christopher—to review Schrag’s findings about that paper and others by Lesné. They say some supposed manipulation might be digital artifacts that can occur inadvertently during image processing, a possibility Schrag concedes. But Bik found his conclusions compelling and sound. Christopher concurred about the many duplicated images and some markings suggesting cut-and-pasted Western blots flagged by Schrag. She also identified additional dubious blots and backgrounds he had missed.