Nature published a retraction today of a paper from the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner Linda Buck. The study used a trans-synaptic tracing method to determine ascending axonal projection patterns in olfactory cortex. Here is the substance of the retraction:
During efforts to replicate and extend this work, we have been unable to reproduce the reported findings. Moreover, we have found inconsistencies between some of the figures and data published in the paper and the original data. We have therefore lost confidence in the reported conclusions.
Let's interpret the significance of the retraction, as well as an interesting comment made by someone in the field:
One thing that is very interesting about this retraction is that it includes a detailed "Author Contributions" section that never appeared in the original article:
Author Contributions L.B.B. and L.F.H. conceived the project, L.F.H. and J.-P.M. prepared gene-targeting constructs to generate the mice, S.S. trained Z.Z. in gene-targeting techniques, Z.Z. prepared and analysed the mice and provided all figures and data for the paper, and L.B.B. and Z.Z. wrote the paper. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to L.B.B. (Email: email@example.com)
Most Nature retractions I have looked at do not contain and "Author Contributions" section, and it's inclusion is very significant. It is also worth noting that, because there is no statement that any of the authors has refused to sign the retraction, all of the authors have agreed to the full content of the retraction. Can you see who's falling on their sword?
Now here's something that made me laugh. In a news piece on the retraction, another researcher in the field had this to say:
Neuroscientist Gilles Laurent of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, whose work on insect olfactory networks has occasionally conflicted with the results reported by Buck's lab, says that this [retraction] has not hindered his research. "These questions are sufficiently complex and require such large amounts of data at high resolution that I have never considered them convincingly resolved in any system," he says.
In other words, Laurent always thought the results were bullshit, and never relied on them in his own work.