Finding the false

For Mike Rossner, the impetus to look for image manipulation came suddenly. In 2002, when Rossner was the managing editor at the Journal of Cell Biology, the journal switched to completely electronic submissions. One of the first submissions after the change contained unusable PowerPoint images. In the process of reformatting, Rossner, now executive director of Rockefeller Press, di

Rachel Tompa
May 31, 2008

For Mike Rossner, the impetus to look for image manipulation came suddenly. In 2002, when Rossner was the managing editor at the Journal of Cell Biology, the journal switched to completely electronic submissions. One of the first submissions after the change contained unusable PowerPoint images. In the process of reformatting, Rossner, now executive director of Rockefeller Press, discovered alterations in some of the images. "We decided right then that we were going to monitor all images of all of our accepted manuscripts for evidence of manipulation," he says.

Today, editors at JCB screen images from every accepted manuscript before publication by dialing contrast and brightness up and down in Photoshop, which can reveal tell-tale signs of cutting and pasting invisible under normal settings. But does the technique work? Other journals say that the scientific process naturally ferrets out fakes as scientists...