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There it is Again!

Researchers at Syracuse University led by Daniel Acuna have published a paper on BioRxiv in which they report their development of an algorithm that can search hundreds of thousands of biomedical papers to search for duplicate images, Nature News reports.

Acuna is keeping the algorithm under wraps in order to hold down the risk of triggering false accusations of plagiarism, but he is making the tool available through licensing agreements to journals and university research integrity offices, Nature News says. The tool could make it easier for journals to check if images in papers have been published before, the article adds. The process now is laborious and not all journals take the time to check.

"At present, many journals check some images but relatively few have automated processes. For instance, Nature runs random spot checks on images in submitted manuscripts and also requires authors to submit unedited gel images for reference. It is currently reviewing its image-checking procedures," Nature News reports. 

But for the process to work, publishers would also have create a shared database of published images for all journals across the literature, the article adds. The precedent for this is the creation of Crossref in 2010, a non-profit collaboration of publishers that created the CrossCheck service to detect plagiarism. 

Elsevier says it would support a similar initiative for images. Two years ago, it set up a partnership with Humboldt University in Berlin to identify research misconduct, and the partners recently announced that they intend to create a database of images from retracted publications, Nature News says.