With the use of computers for primary data capture, display, and analysis becoming more and more pervasive, it is common now for there to be no photographic negative or laboratory notebook backing up published images and data interpretations of gel electrophoresis experiments. The degree of enhancement exercised with a given image, then, becomes difficult to review for possible misrepresentation, whether intentional or accidental.

Scientists say that, while no incidents of deception through digital image alteration have been reported, steps may have to be taken to protect data integrity. The Food and Drug Administration, reliant on electrophoresis studies as an aspect of its pharmaceutical regulatory work, for instance, may be called upon to develop procedures to protect original data from over-enhancement. Software manufacturers, too, may be asked to provide tamper-proof original data files that can later be consulted by reviewers, colleagues, and even the courts. Already, some have begun to incorporate...

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