Images produced using advanced scientific instruments are commonly used in research papers. However, there are no standardized guidelines for publishing these images, which creates a problem for reproducibility. Researchers who want to replicate a study’s results struggle without complete information about how the images were created. To address this issue, a group of experts formed an international consortium and developed guidelines for publishing images and image analyses. These guidelines, published in the journal Nature Methods, were created over a two-year project involving imaging scientists from around the world. The guidelines include checklists that scientists can follow to ensure their images are understandable and interpretable. The checklists have three levels – minimal, recommended, and ideal – that outline essential requirements, improve comprehensibility, and suggest best practices. Recommendations include using black and white images to enhance detail visibility and providing information about pixel size and exposure time. The guidelines also cover different types of image analysis workflows. This is particularly relevant because researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) now have to adhere to data management protocols. The guidelines will help researchers comply with these requirements. Additionally, scientific journals have an interest in transparently disclosing image production, so they were involved in the development of the guidelines. Overall, following these guidelines will increase accessibility and ease the reproducibility of scientific research.
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