Annual Meeting Reports

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Pictures have many uses in communicating science. In this session, the speakers discussed three aspects of image use in science communication.

Fine art enhances science communication, said Poly M Potter, managing senior editor of Emerging Infectious Diseases (, a journal known for featuring fine art on its covers. Art works, Potter said, by illustrating ideas, raising consciousness, revealing truth, stimulating the intellect, and firing the emotions.

The color, style, and vitality in art, contrasted with the formality of black-andwhite text, create opportunities for a richer interpretation of the scientific content, an interpretation that takes into account the people who benefit from the content. Art “humanizes” technical subjects and reminds the audience that science exists to improve the quality of life for all people.

The link between art and science is more direct in some works used on the cover of Emerging Infectious Diseases than in others. For example, Amedeo Modigliani’s 1919 Self-Portrait, which was painted a year before he died of tuberculosis, described not his face alone but the face of the tuberculosis patient. The images on other covers may be more subtle. For example, Jackson Pollock’s 1950 Autumn Rhythm, an intricate modern painting, was used to draw an analogy between complexity in nature (seen in the painting) and in public health, as seen in the unexpected connection between the increased incidence of malaria and HIV infection. In that case, Potter said, “entangled trails led to unanticipated discoveries”.

More information about Emerging Infectious Diseases cover art can be found at

Linda J Miller, US executive editor of Nature and the Nature research journals, spoke about image integrity: Images in peerreviewed publications must portray data accurately. The responsibility for image integrity lies with laboratory chiefs, Miller said, but journals can evaluate the integrity of submitted images (using such resources as those from the National Institutes of Health Office of Research Integrity Web site), and their information for authors should provide guidelines regarding image manipulation.

Checking images does not guarantee that the submission of inappropriately manipulated images will decrease. According to Miller, the Journal of Cell Biology has checked images in all accepted papers for years without “deterrent effect”. Journals that check images need to devote in-house resources to do it or hire companies to do so. Intentionally deceptive images are well done, Miller warned. Many easily recognizable image manipulations are forms of “beautification”—such as attempts by authors to remove smudges. That common problem lacks ill intent, and Nature requests correction of the images without punishing authors. Journals can promote image integrity by understanding what manipulations are necessary and standard in different academic fields, Miller said, and by developing procedures to enforce the standards.

Publishers should give journals resources to train employees to recognize image manipulations, and journals should alert institutions if suspicious manipulations need investigation, Miller said. When manipulations are discovered, she said, image checkers should first rule out journal-induced artifacts and then follow standard procedures for requesting original data and consulting referees as necessary.

Moshe Pritsker, cofounder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Visualized Experiments (, spoke about using video online to communicate research methods. He encouraged journal editors to form partnerships with JoVE, an online journal that develops and uses a new type of science article, the video article. In typical text-based scientific articles, Pritsker said, the method is often difficult to discern. Reproducibility of experiments therefore suffers, and time and money are wasted. JoVE publishes methods articles that include video demonstration of experimental procedures and traditional text description.

A JoVE video article consists of an animated abstract, an introduction by the scientist, a filmed experiment (with overlaid text descriptions), and a discussion by the scientist. Chapter links let viewers skip to specific parts of procedures, and comment sections let readers ask authors questions. The 8-week publication procedure involves scriptwriting, filming, and animation development, all provided by JoVE. Authors (or editors interested in supplementing articles in their publications) need to submit only a description of the technique.

JoVE currently publishes 30 video articles per month, Pritsker said, covering all fields of life sciences. The journal has a network of videographers who can cover all universities in the United States and 11 other countries. Current partners of JoVE include Science, Annual Reviews, Current Protocols, and Springer Protocols.