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January 28, 2024
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Tech-savvy investigators unravel deception lurking within scientific publications.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, has requested retractions and corrections of scientific papers after a British blogger flagged problems with published research. Sholto David, a scientist-sleuth, has been using special software and his eagle eyes to detect image manipulation in scientific papers. Other amateur sleuths, such as California microbiologist Elisabeth Bik, have also been uncovering fakery in published research. These sleuths use technology to find flipped, duplicated, and stretched images. Dana-Farber responded to the allegations of research fakery by stating that it had already been looking into some of the problems before the blog post and that it was in the process of requesting retractions and corrections. Retractions are serious as they indicate severe flaws in the research. Sleuths like Bik have been successful in finding doctored images of bacteria, cell cultures, and proteins. Technology has made it easier for these sleuths to detect image manipulation and plagiarism. The sleuths aim to improve scientific integrity and correct the record. They are frustrated by the lack of interest in academia and publishing in correcting research misconduct. The motivation for research misconduct could be career-building or pressure to get published. Scientific journals are investigating errors brought to their attention and are looking into the concerns raised by the blog post.

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