Nobel Prize-winning scientist Frances Arnold retracts paper

American scientist Frances Arnold, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry, has retracted her latest paper.

Ms Arnold shared the prestigious award in 2018 with George P Smith and Gregory Winter for their research on enzymes.

A subsequent paper on enzymatic synthesis of beta-lactams was published in the journal Science in May 2019.

It has been retracted because the results were not reproducible, and the authors found data missing from a lab notebook.

Reproduction is an essential part of validating scientific experiments. If an experiment is a success, one would expect to get the same results every time it was conducted.

Ms Arnold came forward with the news herself on Twitter on 2 January.

“For my first work-related tweet of 2020, I am totally bummed to announce that we have retracted last year’s paper on enzymatic synthesis of beta-lactams. The work has not been reproducible,” she tweeted.

“It is painful to admit, but important to do so. I apologize to all. I was a bit busy when this was submitted, and did not do my job well.”

That same day, Science published a note outlining why it would be retracting the paper, which Ms Arnold co-authored with Inha Cho and Zhi-Jun Jia.

“Efforts to reproduce the work showed that the enzymes do not catalyze the reactions with the activities and selectivities claimed. Careful examination of the first author’s lab notebook then revealed missing contemporaneous entries and raw data for key experiments. The authors are therefore retracting the paper.”

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