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Nobelist retracts two papers

10/08/2010
Suzanne E. Winter

Nobelist Linda Buck retracted two papers after an inability to reproduce data done by a former postdoc.

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Linda Buck, a 2004 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has retracted two papers after failing to replicate data contributed by a former postdoc in her lab. These retractions follow a 2008 retraction by Buck’s lab of a paper published in 2001 in the journal Nature. Zhihua Zou, a former postdoctoral researcher in her lab while Buck was at Harvard Medical School, contributed the irreproducible data in all three papers.

The PNAS retraction notice included a note signed by Fusheng Li and Buck (pictured). Source: PNAS and nobelprize.org.

The retraction notices, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Science, concerned papers published in 2005 and 2006, respectively, on the topics of olfaction and the nervous system. Although Buck shares the 2004 Nobel Prize with Richard Axel for research in this topic, the retracted papers are not connected her Nobel Prize winning work.

A statement released by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where Buck currently works, said that Buck admitted she was unable to reproduce the data. “Buck has therefore simultaneously retracted both the PNAS and Science paper. She regrets any confusion that has resulted from the publication of these papers and thanks the colleagues who painstakingly worked with her to duplicate these experiments and evaluate the data.”

While the retraction notice in PNAS was signed by Fusheng Li, another author on the paper, Zou has not made a public statement about either of the retracted papers, both for which he was first author. When the 2001 Nature paper was retracted in 2008, Zou released a statement through a spokesperson that stated he was “disappointed” with the retraction and admitted no wrongdoings. Attempts to contact Zou after the two recent retractions last week have been unsuccessful.

After leaving Buck’s lab, Zou joined the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston as an assistant professor, but was laid off in November 2008 following the facility’s destruction by Hurricane Ike. He has possibly returned to China, according to Kristen Hensley, a spokesperson for the university’s medical branch.