In the case of a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the retraction happened within six weeks. Here’s the notice for “Voltage sensor ring in a native structure of a membrane-embedded potassium channel,” by Liang Shi, Hongjin Zheng, Hui Zheng, Brian A. Borkowski, Dan Shi, Tamir Gonen, and Qiu-Xing Jiang, which first appeared online on February 11:
The authors wish to note the following: “The contrast of our final projection map was inverted, so that we interpreted the background density rather than the actual protein density in terms of structural features of the potassium channel-Fv complex. In addition, we indexed the 2D crystals with unit cell parameters of a = b = 175 Å, while the correct indexing would be a = b = 124 Å. Given these analysis errors, the resulting density map and our interpretation of the structural features are not correct. Accordingly, we would like to retract this paper. We acknowledge Yoshinori Fujiyoshi, Rod MacKinnon, Kazutoshi Tani, and Tom Walz for identifying the errors and pointing them out to us.”
MacKinnon, of course, shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
The notice is signed by all of the authors. Kudos to them for swift action.