It is the responsibility of researchers to be knowledgeable of previous work similar to or leading towards their work. It is accepted practice, and by some journals or research institutions explicitly required, to cite the work in new publications.

Many training programs require discussion of situations of questionable ethics which may include proper attribution. Here is one such opportunity for discussion with two parts to the question.

1. In the following scenario, did Barry et alia 2015 fail to cite earlier work, at least one such possible example provided?

Here is what happened. Do you think yes or no or something in between? Be prepared to explain.

In 1998 and 1999 two papers were published that included a novel image analysis method for fluorescent microscopy of cultured cells developed as a NIH-Image macro set (later converted to ImageJ). The software measured from the perimeter of a closed 2D shape towards the interior using thin bands referred to as the annulus method. chan1998.pdf and bailly1999.pdf In addition, many subsequent papers relied on this software, at least one with the added functionality of Pearson's correlation for quantification of colocalization.

The second paper, Bailly 1999 is about the arp2/3 complex and its role in f-actin protrusions and measurements relied on the annulus method. In making your assessment, it is important to look at both the biology being interrogated: f-actin remodeling relying on the arp2/3 complex and the annulus image analysis method.

Sixteen years later Barry et al publish a paper in which they describe a novel annulus method and use it to describe f-actin remodeling relying on the arp2/3 complex. A key addition: they added extremely useful functionality of measuring through time (although, possibly, at the expense of precision spatial resolution at the leading edge).

We asked Dr. Way, the senior author of Barry 2015, whether he knew about the annulus method and its application to f-actin and arp2/3 research. He said yes, he was aware of both, but also said, referring to Barry, "He says all the things that the paper is based on are cited in the paper." (Email, April 2015.) In person, in a face-to-face conversation in September 2017, Dr. Way repeated this and said that they could not find the annulus method.

It was common practice of the Analytical Imaging Facility at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to provide both the macro sets and training for proper use from the late 1990s through September 2008 (perhaps later; I took a new position elsewhere in September 2008). The macros resided on the public website for at least one more year. The macros also resided, and continue to reside, on a password protected web site and were made available to requestors through 2015. In 2015, following Barry 2015, the macros and explanation of development and testing were copied to a public website.

1. Looking at the contribution of the 1999 paper to both the actin-arp2/3 field and to the annulus method, did Barry 2015 fail to cite the earlier work or was omission from the bibliography justified? Discuss.

2. If the answer is YES, based on accepted practice and/or codified rules the earlier work should should have been cited, what is a proper remedy?

Journals may publish erratum or addendum to articles where they correct mistakes, add specific sections, or remove specific information. Would an addendum of Bailly 1999 to the bibliography of Barry 2015 solve the problem?

3. Additional questions for discussion: Did you download the software from Barry 2015 and try it yourself? How did it work for you? Should a requirement of reviewers of software package methods papers be that they try the method?



Barry DJ, Durkin CH, Abella JV, Way M. Open source software for quantification of cell migration, protrusions, and fluorescence intensities. J Cell Biol. 2015 Apr 13;209(1):163-80. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201501081. Epub 2015 Apr 6. PMID: 25847537

Bailly M, Macaluso F, Cammer M, Chan A, Segall JE, Condeelis JS. Relationship between Arp2/3 complex and the barbed ends of actin filaments at the leading edge of carcinoma cells after epidermal growth factor stimulation. J Cell Biol. 1999 Apr 19;145(2):331-45. PMID: 10209028

Chan AY, Raft S, Bailly M, Wyckoff JB, Segall JE, Condeelis JS. EGF stimulates an increase in actin nucleation and filament number at the leading edge of the lamellipod in mammary adenocarcinoma cells. J Cell Sci. 1998 Jan;111 ( Pt 2):199-211. PMID: 9405304


Personal note:
I must acknowledge the then contributors of the NIH-Image listserv and the author of NIH-Image, Wayne Rasband, for their invaluable help developing the methods and code. Wayne Rasband deserves further acknowledgement for including in ImageJ many of the functions we needed to rewrite and further develop the methods, thus making our task much faster and robust and extending to other researchers a larger library of excellent image analysis routines.

Website by Michael Cammer, Last updated 25 Sept 2017.