Imaging in Developmental Biology: An Essential Tool with No Instructions

Guillermo Marques, Thomas Pengo, Mark A. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Imaging is a fundamental tool in biomedical disciplines. A critical aspect in the acquisition and evaluation of imaging data is a detailed and accurate description of the technology used in the literature. In our work at a major imaging core, we are often met with the situation in which the experiments our clients want to recreate are poorly described, making analysis and replication of the published literature difficult. In order to evaluate the extent and severity of this problem, we have analyzed Developmental Biology publications. Research articles in three leading journals were analyzed for the importance of imaging (fraction of figure panels that contained original images) and compared with the detail given to the experimental specifics of image acquisition (fraction of the materials and methods section devoted to image acquisition and analysis). Finally, the quality of the imaging information given was evaluated for its completeness with a simple pass/fail grade. Results indicate that imaging is an essential tool in Developmental Biology, with over 80% of the figures being images, largely microscopy. However, less than 5% of the text in the methods section of the analyzed articles is devoted to experimental details of image acquisition and analysis (on average 57 words). Furthermore, the overall quality of the information provided is dismal, with a large majority of publications obtaining a failing grade (83%), and many examples containing no usable information (10%). The lack of information on the imaging methodologies used in published articles makes it impossible to accurately replicate the reported data. This is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Imaging shared resources have a key role to play in ensuring accurate reporting of critical imaging parameters. This role includes providing off the shelf descriptions for the methods section of manuscripts and client education on the importance of reporting that information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S20
JournalJournal of biomolecular techniques : JBT
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


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