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Integrity Learning Center

explore our content on information & research integrity

What is Information Integrity?

Information integrity is fundamentally about what makes information true or false, both at the scholarly level (research integrity) and for public and policy discourse. There are reports about false information almost daily. A recent example involves the BBC, which has long been a model for the integrity of its reporting (Sweney, 2018). This column will focus mainly on the scholarly aspects of information integrity, but the effect of integrity problems on policy matters (public health issues, for example) will not be ignored. read more

Honest Error: A Look at the Literature

Problems with data are arguably the most serious issue for information integrity in the research world, because they undermine the ability of scholars to build on past results. These problems come in many variations, including people who make up fake data, people who manipulate data to get specific results, and people who leave out data or sources. Each of these represent some form of misconduct when done deliberately. Nonetheless not everyone is guilty of malicious intent.  read more

Data Falsification: Lessons from a Case

Data falsification cases generally take time to discover, and generally require someone who is motivated enough to look for problems. Falsification should theoretically be found in the course of peer review, and sometimes is, but journals do not routinely make public the detailed results of peer review. Data falsification can also be hard to prove with certainty. This column will look at a case from social psychology that arose in the wake of the Diederik Stapel retractions. Stapel admitted his guilt and his name is now routinely part of discussions about data falsification. read more

Is Exposure Enough? The Aftermath of Article Retraction

Justice is often slow. Articles with integrity problems can stay in print without any warning label for years. Chen (2013) wrote: “We found that it takes about 2 years, on average, to retract an article and another 2 years to see a substantial decrease of citations to the retracted article.”

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Guilt and Innocence in Plagiarism

Jochen Zenthöfer wrote an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on 18 April 2018 in which he expresses concern about the number of plagiarism cases under consideration at German universities. As he notes, the cases come largely from the VroniPlag Wiki. His article is the focus of this column. read more

Replication Testing

The ability to replicate results means that those doing the replication need exact information about how the original experiment was carried out. In physics and chemistry this means precise descriptions in lab books and in articles, and the same machines using the same calibration. In the social sciences, it can be much harder to reproduce the exact conditions, since they depend on human reactions and a variable environment. One well-known case comes from a study by Cornell social psychologist Daryl Bem, who did a word recognition test... read more

Replication in Qualitative Research

Replication is difficult to apply to qualitative studies in so far as it means recreating the exact conditions of the original study — a condition that is often impossible in the real world. The key question then becomes: “how close to the original must a replication be to validate an original experiment?” (Seadle, 2018)

This question is particularly important because of the widespread belief that only quantitative research is replicable. read more

Defining Predatory Journals

The Süddeutsche Zeitung published an article recently in which a fictitious author, “R. Funden” (equivalent in English to “I. Maginary”), wrote a fake study on “Die kombinierten Effekte von Essigsäureethylesterextrakten in Bienenharz auf das Absterben menschlicher Darmkrebsstellen” (English: “The combined effects of ethyl acetate extracts in bee resin on the death of human colon cancer sites”) (Bauer et al., 2018, p. 12).  read more

Scholarly Plagiarism - How Damaging?

I am on record as saying that I regard plagiarism as an ethical and copyright problem, but that other forms of integrity violations such as data manipulation, image manipulation, or data falsification are more serious because they undermine the reliability of data and our ability to build on the results. (Seadle, 2019) Plagiarism hunters often emphasize the ethical damage or the putative loss to copyright holders. read more

VroniPlag, Giffey and Numbers that Mislead

VroniPlag has posted an analysis of the dissertation of Franziska Giffey. The figures on VroniPlag are misleading, because they give the impression that 37.1% of the whole content had plagiarism, rather than that problems (according to their definition) occurred on 37.1% of individual pages, regardless of whether just a few lines were involved. read more

Corona, Fake News and Trustworthy Science

A virus puts the world in a state of emergency. Airplanes stay on the ground, toilet paper and breathing masks are in high demand, schools are closed, the stock markets are reminiscent of a nervous fever curve, and the media world knows only one topic: the virus, the pandemic – its causes, how to fight it, and all the hardly foreseeable consequences for people, businesses, the economy and the system. read more

Image Manipulation in Photo Competitions: How Serious is the Problem?

The credibility of images today is in crisis. Where images claim to document an event unadulterated, reliability plays a major role, as in journalistic or documentary practice, for example. But doubts about the reliability of images are growing. For years there have been cases of blatant photo manipulation at major photo competitions... read more

How to Detect Image Manipulations? IV - InspectJ and ImageJ

ImageJ is a public domain image-processing program developed under the auspices of the United States National Institutes of Health and especially popular among biologists. It was first published in 1997 and is designed to support a large range of image processing and analysis tasks and the detection of image manipulations in many different types of images... read more

How to Detect Image Manipulations? III - The Office of Research Integrity’s Forensic Tools

The US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the United States has been occupied with research integrity related issues for well over two decades. The office was established in 1992 by consolidating the „Office of Scientific Integrity“ and the „Office of Scientific Integrity Review.“ Today the Office of Research Integrity oversees many of the „Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.“ read more

How to Detect Image Manipulations? II - Clone Detection in Practice

Another tool available on the website “Forensically” helps with the detection of clones. Like the Error Analysis Tool, which was discussed earlier on this blog, the Clone Detection Tool includes a set of levels that enable the user to identify manipulated areas in images... read more

How to Detect Image Manipulations? I - Error Level Analysis in Practice

Over the last decade inappropriate image manipulations have become a serious concern in a variety of sectors of society, such as in the news, in politics or the entertainment sector. Digital image editing programs are nowadays very powerful and constantly change how we produce and understand images. In academia images play a very important role and due to a number of fraud incidents image manipulation gained more and more attention... read more

How ChatGPT changes the way we think about Plagiarism and Originality.The text-based dialog system ChatGPT is the talk of the town. Since the end of 2022, the chatbot has spread rapidly and seems to revolutionize human-machine interaction. However, the ability of the system, trained by self-supervised-learning, to simulate natural language and link meaningful content is seen by more than a few as a provocation and raises a number of questions about values, about originality and plagiarism. read more

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