Every month we highlight a publication ethics case that has been brought to the COPE Forum, or a query posted to COPE council by one of our members.
A managing editor reported that within a 4 week period, they detected five manuscripts where photographs of either gels or plant materials were used twice or three times in the same manuscript. These manuscripts were immediately rejected. The journal was not convinced that these were cases of deliberate misleading but rather seemed that many laboratories consider photographs as illustrations that can be manipulated, and not as original data. The editor asked the Forum what can be done to ensure that all gels and all photographs originate from the experiment and that they should never be tampered with.