Nobel laureate retracts Nature paper

Nobel laureate and olfactory researcher Linda Buck has retracted a paper published in Nature in 2001, after her team failed to reproduce the results.

By | March 5, 2008

Nobel laureate and olfactory researcher Linda Buck has retracted a paper published in Nature in 2001, after her team failed to reproduce the results. In the retraction, published in the March 6 issue of Nature, the authors report "inconsistencies between some of the figures and data published in the paper and the original data."

In the retracted paper, which has been cited 138 times according to ISI, Buck, then at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and her team describe tracking neuronal activity in mice from individual scent receptors in the nose through to the olfactory cortex in the brain. Now at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Buck's team tried to replicate and extend the work, but was unable to reproduce the original findings, a news story in this week's Nature reports.

According to a list of author contributions for the original paper that accompanies the retraction, co-lead-author Zhihua Zou, now at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, was solely responsible for analyzing the mice, generating the data, and providing the figures. Harvard Medical School has formed a committee to investigate the retraction, and Buck has asked the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to examine two subsequent publications with Zou as first author.

Update: Read Zou's response and the reactions of olfactory researchers.


Avatar of: Barry Shell

Barry Shell

Posts: 1

March 6, 2008

I've been following this for decades and I'm not surprised. At Simon Fraser University we have something called the Wright Prize ( Of course Linda Buck has won it. A perverse but often baffling process of selecting each new winner requires the previous 3 winners to be the sole judges. Hence every year intellectual descendants of Buck et al are always awarded the prize. These people support and believe in one particular olfactory dogma that has a lot of unanswered questions. One person who has been posing these questions is Luca Turin. ( I have nominated him twice for the Wright Prize but of course it's impossible for him to win because he questions the fundamental receptor shape theory of Buck and her followers. I must say this news story gives me great satisfaction. Now if only we can get buck and her ilk to look at other theories of olfaction, we might be able to solve one of Nature's biggest mysteries, the one that sits literally right under your nose.
Avatar of: Fukai Bao

Fukai Bao

Posts: 15

March 6, 2008

Now I am eager to know that Buck's work which help her get Nobel Prize is true?
Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

March 6, 2008

Dr. Buck is a hero of science. Far too many have become aware of the same kinds of issues and refused to deal with them in any way. I know of two who went ahead and published papers after they KNEW they contained false data or conclusions. \n\nThis is a rare day indeed! But it sure shouldn't be rare. \n\nBravo! Bravo! Dr. Buck deserves an award for this bigger than the Nobel. Getting a Nobel doesn't take courage, it takes intelligence, preparation, and luck. Retracting a paper in today's science?! THAT is courage!
Avatar of: tian xia

tian xia

Posts: 34

March 6, 2008

There are two authors contributed equally in this case. One was bad, another did not do anything wrong. Then why the good one contributed equally with the bad one if she did not gave any data. Should I be surprised at all?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 85

March 7, 2008

I guess one could call it brave of Dr. Buck to retract a flawed paper seven years after it was published. \n\nBut who was supervising the person who was generating and analyzing the data back then? \n\nInadequate supervision of young scientists / trainees, overeagerness of lab heads and trainees to make big splashes, and inadequate supervision of young scientists / trainees have always been a dangerous combination. And did I mention inadequate supervision?\n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

March 8, 2008

I believe that UTMB is a haven for data fabrication (and fabricators) as long as the professor/s concerned keep bringing in the grants. I was blatently asked to fabricate a UTMB patent while working at this institution and the relevant patent form was E-mailed to me by my supervisor (I still have this form, the inputs and requests for fabricating the technical portions). This was apparently with the collusion of the Chairman of the concerned Division. When I camplained in writing against this practice and refused to comply, I was warned of very severe consequences in the future and was finally dismissed from my job for working with radioactivity (S-35 methionine) in a non-designated area. It is relevant to mention that the radioactivity was found 10 days after I had finished my experiments and submitted the results to my supervisor. My supervisor was the only one who found the radioactivity out-of-the blue, one day and knew exactly where to look for it. I believe that he deliberately planted it. Such individuals with a criminal disposition seem to be thriving at UTMB. The integrity committee at this institution never got back to me about my complaints.
Avatar of: Linc Bacon

Linc Bacon

Posts: 3

April 4, 2008

First of all, I really appreciate Linda Buck?s courage to retract her own paper. However, I also want to ask whether she was as clean as she claimed?\n\nImagine if Dr. Zou was not caught like many others! Years later, he probably will be one of the authorities in the field. At that time, he would have power to put his name in the paper without taking any responsibility.\n\nI don't believe that Dr. Zou and Dr. Buck's other papers are clean. I don't believe that there is no misconduct. I don't believe that Dr. Zou was innocent. I don't believe other authors were innocent. Usually in this kind of case, the PI likely was the head of the conspiracy. Likely Dr. Zou was just a genuflector to the fallacious ecosystem of bioscience. Due to his bending, he got the reward from the bosses.\n\nThe Harvard Investigation Committee very very likely will cover all things up for Dr. Buck. To the ecosystem, Zou is dispensable, but not Buck. Let us watch!\n\nI am working in one of the most prestigious institutes in Boston and the world as Dr. Buck did. In the work, I could not be able to recapitulate and develop a major story in the field. I then found out that some of the important data which were published and used by the laboratory to apply for NIH grants were falsified and fabricated. I presented the evidences and made complaints to the principle investigator of the laboratory and the officials in the institute. However, I was retaliated against for my whistle blowing and was asked to leave my position. I have made research misconduct allegation and retaliation allegation in Office of Research Integrity in US Department of Health and Human Services.\n\nORIatDHHS asked the institute set up self-investigation panels for both allegations. After my complaining, the institute egregiously engaged in the retaliation and threatening, attempting to intimidate me. Before any real investigation and any conclusion to my allegations, the institute dismissed me from my position. \n\nIf the research misconduct is covered up, millions dollars of taxpayers' money could be in danger of being wasted, the public health could be in danger of unprotected, and the truth might be buried by the lies. And my career is ruined.\n\nTherefore, I am seeking for urgent assistance from anyone who will be able to give me a hand on this matter.\n\nYour kind assistance and/or information will be highly appreciated by all honest and hard-working scientists.\n\\n

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