Images and figures


Photographs, video or audio recordings which can reveal the identity of patients or study participants can only be included if they (or their next of kin if participants are deceased; parents or guardians if they are underage or considered to be vulnerable) have provided Consent to Publish (the form is provided by the Taylor & Francis group, of which Dove Medical Press is part of).

Authors should be aware of any cultural sensitivities or restrictions associated with any images included in their manuscripts. For example, images of human remains or deceased humans is restricted in some cultures, and appropriate ethical guidelines should be adhered to by considering the views and approval processes of the affiliated communities.

Experimental photographic images including microscopy, should accurately reflect the original image. Where images have been modified or enhanced in any way this must be stated with a full explanation within the manuscript as well as in the figure legend so as not to mislead readers about what the images show. Authors should be prepared to share the original, uncropped, unannotated and unprocessed images with the journal editorial office upon request.

Please note that any modifications are only acceptable if these are minor in nature and have been applied to the whole image. Authors are required to include details of image gathering methods and details of processes for any modifications made to images, including the name of the software (with version number) used. Any modifications which can alter the scientific interpretation of the image are not allowed.

Any images or figures which have been obtained from another published source, can only be re-used if the authors have obtained the appropriate permissions for re-use from the copyright owner. A statement to confirm this must be included within the figure legend. The original source of the image must be cited, even in cases where the image or figure is not under copyright, or if re-use is allowed under a licence which permits unrestricted re-use.

Image integrity and manipulation

Any alterations to experimental photographic images (e.g. microscopy, electrophoretic gels and immunoblots) which can mislead readers about the scientific interpretation is strictly prohibited. Any enhancements or changes in contrast settings must be applied to the whole image, and copies of the original image prior to any such modifications, must be made available to the journal editorial office upon request.

Regarding images of electrophoretic gels and immunoblots, where parts of the same gel are spliced together, this should be indicated on the figures with a dividing line, making it clear where the image has been joined. Areas from different gels should not be spliced together. Where loading controls are present, these should always be included in the image; if spliced together, any modifications to the loading control and area of interest must be identical.

Images of immunoblots must not be overexposed and must provide a true representation of the results without masking the presence of other bands which could lead to a different interpretation of the results. Where applying high contrast settings to the immunoblot is unavoidable, authors must be prepared to share images of the full, uncropped blots* showing the original image, and any other versions of the images at multiple exposures. Authors should be prepared to share the original, uncropped, unannotated and unprocessed images and images of the complete, uncropped blots* with the journal editorial office upon request.

Original data such as electrophoretic gels and immunoblots, should not be used as illustrations without an explanation. If original data are being used just to illustrate a point, this should be accompanied by a very clear statement in the figure legend to explain this including what is being demonstrated.

Dove Medical Press will deal with cases of suspected manipulation according to COPE guidelines.

Authors should consider the following guidelines when preparing figures and images for publication:

  • The original data image should always be retained and be available for review by the journal editors, if requested. If the original data images cannot be produced, the manuscript may be rejected.
  • Authors are advised that editing or enhancing any digital image should always be performed on a copy of the raw data image. Authors are reminded that enhancing an image for aesthetic reasons can obscure, eliminate or misrepresent the real data and can be perceived as an act of research misconduct. 
  • Making simple adjustments to the image such as the brightness and contrast are acceptable but must be applied to the whole image. The adjustments should be minor, and care must be taken to ensure they do not cause relevant features of the image to disappear completely. 
  • Cropping of images is acceptable as long as the intention is to remove irrelevant aspects of the image to help draw attention to a particular feature. Cropping must not be performed to change or influence how the data is to be interpreted.
  • Images that are intended to be compared to one another must always be acquired under the same conditions. Similarly, any post-acquisition image processing should also be performed on both images.
  • Authors should be aware that software filters used to improve image quality are not generally intended for use on biological or medical images. If software filters are used it is advised this is noted either in the figure legend or the methods section of the article.
  • Cloning or copying objects into a digital image from other parts of the same image or a different image is not advised. Copying a section of an image from one region to another is often done to clean up imperfections, however in some instances this can be considered a form of research misconduct. Similarly, cloning an object, for example, a band from a Western blot, and adding it to a region of an image it did not previously appear can also be considered a form of misconduct.
  • Intensity measurements, such as comparisons between different wavelengths or fluorescence levels, are often difficult to perform in a uniform and accurate manner. It is recommended intensity measurements are performed on raw data to help avoid artefacts and electronic noise.
  • Journals at Dove Medical Press often resize images to fit the page. For this reason, it is advised images have a scale bar which can be resized with the image. Stating the magnification of a microscope objective in the figure legend, for example, can sometimes become impractical if the image is resized prior to publication.
  • Authors must take care when resizing digital images as this can change the images aspect ratio and create unwanted artefacts, making important features of the image less distinct.

*Uncropped blots mean having the full blot images along with molecular marker bands.

The above guidelines have been used and adapted from information provided by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Updated 15 October 2020