Image fraud and confidentiality as vehicles for learning about ethical issues in medical science teaching, a pilot study

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paperpeer-review


Graduate attributes are widely used by Universities to identify the qualities and skills developed by their students. Though definitions vary between universities, ethics, professionalism and citizenship are included by the majority of UK institutions (Lipan et al. 2019). Biomedical imaging has been a growth area with advances in technology with computing power massively increasing the scope, speed and scale of what can be achieved. Alongside this arise ethical issues particularly in the areas of security, anonymity and fraud. Tackling these issues alongside methods of analysis provided an opportunity to directly address “Active Citizenship” graduate attributes alongside academic knowledge. The graduate attributes chosen ( were from the Active Citizenship area, specifically 1) an awareness and appreciation of ethical and moral issues and 2) an understanding of social and civic responsibilities, and of the rights of individuals and groups. These areas were specifically highlighted to the 20 students in an undergraduate anatomy course. The first topic covered was the risks and benefits of harnessing big data. Then, during a practical workshop, the controversial area of imaging fraud in research publications, focussing on published work (Bik, Casadevall and Fang, 2016) but also a related Twitter feed. This showed that whilst image fraud was straightforward (and tempting) to commit, it was easy to detect and had severe consequences, completely undermining the credibility of the research and researchers. The final area was that of data privacy. Examples were shown of the information hidden within image headers, including medical images (Dicom files), where personal information including a patient’s name, date of birth and hospital ID are easily accessible. This was followed by instructions for securely and automatically anonymising these files and a discussion about research study design and the importance of considering the risk of de-anonymization. Annual student feedback was used to audit whether student’s reflections of the course showed an increase in awareness of graduate attributes. The question “the course improved your graduate attributes employability” showed that this year 80% of the students agreed (score 3/5 and above) which was marginally (but not significantly) higher than the previous two years (67% and 75%). These results may not truly reflect the graduate attributes alone as the question compounded graduate attributes and employability. Identification of problems or controversial areas in the field can provide a good platform for discussion within a course and also help to build graduate attributes alongside academic knowledge. More work may however need to be done to highlight these areas to the students as they arise and in student feedback, it may be beneficial to separate graduate attributes from employment to identify the success of this approach.
Bik, EM., Casadevall, A and Fang, FC (2016) mBio, 7(3) e00809-16
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventPhysiology 2019 - Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 201910 Jul 2019


ConferencePhysiology 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • image
  • fraud
  • image fraud
  • confidentiality
  • medical science
  • anatomy
  • physiology
  • student
  • professionalism
  • ethics
  • big data
  • citizenship


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