Data Falsification and Fabrication
Data fabrication: This concerns the making up of research findings.
Data falsification: Manipulating research data with the intention of giving a false impression. This includes manipulating images (e.g. micrographs, gels, radiological images), removing outliers or “inconvenient” results, changing, adding or omitting data points, etc.
With regard to image manipulation it is allowed to technically improve images for readability. Proper technical manipulation refers to adjusting the contrast and/or brightness or color balance if it is applied to the complete digital image (and not parts of the image). Any technical manipulation by the author should be notified in the cover letter to the Journal Editor upon submission. Improper technical manipulation refers to obscuring, enhancing, deleting and/or introducing new elements into an image. Generally, if an author’s figures are questionable, it is suggested to request the original data from the authors.
Recommended action by COPE for Journal Editors:
- Suspected fabricated data in a submitted manuscript
- Suspected fabricated data in a published article