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“Why We Sleep — a tale of institutional failure”

Table of contents

Chapter 1. The latest chapter in Why We Sleep, a Saga of Research Misconduct

Chapter 2. Why do we keep writing about this?

Chapter 1: The latest chapter in Why We Sleep, a Saga of Research Misconduct

In our previous installment of this podcast, we learned from independent researcher Alexey Guzey that famed sleep researcher Matthew Walker seems to have committed research misconduct in his bestselling book, Why We Sleep. Walker is a University of California professor, Google researcher, and Ted talk star, and his book received rave reviews in the press and was endorsed by Bill Gates, among others.

Sometime after that, software developer Yngve Hoiseth contacted the University of California to report Walker’s violation of their research misconduct policy. The university’s response was to dodge the complaint.

Here’s the key bit of the exchange between Hoiseth and the university. Hoiseth looked up the Berkeley research misconduct policy and wrote:

I.A.b [the relevant section of the policy] states:

Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record (emphasis mine [Hoiseth’s]).

As documented by Guzey, Walker clearly omitted data by removing a bar from a chart when reproducing it. The omission makes it seem like the research clearly supports his hypothesis when, in fact, it doesn’t. How did you conclude that this does not fit your definition of research misconduct at least well enough to warrant further investigation?

The university replied:

Thank you for your interest in this matter, which we have pursued in accordance with our policy. In conversation with Walker and with the professor who conducted the inquiry, the conclusion was that the bar omitted from the graph on the book did not alter the findings in an appreciable way, and more importantly, that the bar was not omitted in order to alter the research results. . . . It seems that there is a difference of opinion as to the significance of the errors and the omission of the bar from the graph, and difference of opinion is explicitly addressed in our policy here.

Hoiseth responded:

It’s clear that Walker omitted “data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.” I don’t see how the sentence about difference of opinion is relevant in this case.

Anyway, I feel like we’re getting a bit lost in the weeds here. The reason I’m unsatisfied with your response is that I think research integrity in general is very important for society, and in this specific case I personally spent quite a lot of time and resources on Walker’s book. I bought a pile of them which I gave away to friends and family, and I got gear to track and improve my sleep.

Guzey uncovered many errors by thoroughly reading a single chapter of a book Walker even cites in his own papers. And Gelman says that we’ve entered research misconduct territory. Now, I don’t know what to believe. I worry that science dies by a thousand such cuts.

The university replied:

We have completed the inquiry into Mr. Guzey’s allegations to our satisfaction. I don’t wish to go into the weeds either in order to contest any of your statements, especially given the current crisis situation we are all experiencing, so I will need to conclude our conversation here.

Give them full credit for being polite and non-aggressive, but I agree with Hoiseth that removing the bar from the above graph is an unambiguous case of “omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.” This has nothing to do with “significance of the errors” or “difference of opinion.”

Also, and now this is me speaking: the bit about the error not being significant, that really annoys me. We see this all the time. We saw it when Susan Fiske had to change her t statistics from 5.03 and 11.14 to 1.8 and 3.3, and then she declared that the fix “does not change the conclusion of the paper.” We saw it when Brian Wansink had something like a thousand papers retracted but he claimed that none of this mattered because his research claims were all still true. We saw it when Marc Hauser declared that all his findings were just fine, even though he wouldn’t let anyone see the tapes of his monkeys. We saw it when that gremlins dude had to make correction after correction after correction in his paper, but his conclusions never changed. And lots more examples of the years. This all bugs me because . . . these people always make a big deal about their data, science science data data experiment experiment statistical significance bla bla—until the moment the data are revealed to be wrong, and then it turns out the data didn’t matter.

If the data didn’t matter, then why did you include them in your damn book in the first place? If the removal of the bar from the graph didn’t matter, then why did you remove the damn bar?

I’m just sick of all this. I propose the following solution:

Instead of these researchers piling up a bunch of questionable evidence into a book which they can hype to high heaven, and then when the errors eventually get caught, they say that the data didn’t matter anyway, why not cut out the goddamn middleman and just start off your book with a statement such as, “None of the data in this book matters.” Whichever of our claims turn out to be fake, let us assure you that none of our claims will be affected by these errors. Just get it out in the open. Give these people official titles such as Tenured Professor of Scientific Claims That Don’t Have to Be Supported by Data.

OK. It was good to get this off my chest.

Hoiseth describes this as “a tale of institutional failure,” and I agree. I don’t like that the university official talked about going “into the weeds either in order to contest any of your statements.” This bothers me for two reasons. First, there are no “weeds” here, it’s a simple pair of graphs. Second, why should the university official assume that their job is to “contest” a statement from an outsider? Why not evaluate the evidence? I get the impression that they don’t want to find anything negative so they go to some trouble to not look so hard.

I also found this quote from Bill Gates:

Now that I’ve read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, I realize that my all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll. . . . Walker, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem solving, decision-making, learning, memory, heart health, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system, and even your life span. . . .

I [Gates] don’t necessarily buy into all of Walker’s reporting, such as the strong link he claims between not getting enough sleep and developing Alzheimer’s. In an effort to wake us all up to the harm of sleeping too little, he sometimes reports as fact what science has not yet clearly demonstrated. But even if you apply a mild discount factor, Why We Sleep is an important and fascinating book. . . .

Does everyone really need seven or eight hours of sleep a night? The answer is that you almost certainly do, even if you’ve convinced yourself otherwise. In the words of Dr. Thomas Roth, of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, ‘The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.’ . . .

Some interesting things here:

1. The UC Berkeley affiliation may really make a difference here. It’s the usual exchange: Walker gets to share in the university’s reputation; the university gets some of his fame and some of his grant money. Also it’s hard to fire a tenured professor. And if you’re stuck with the guy, I guess there’s not much motivation to issue a finding that he committed research misconduct.

2. Gates recognizes that Walker exaggerates! But he doesn’t seem to recognize that Walker flat-out misrepresents data. As Guzey writes, it’s almost as if the expectation of mild dishonesty inoculates the book author from thoughts that he might actually be lying.

3. No evidence is given that you “almost certainly” need seven or eight hours of sleep. The closest thing to evidence is the statement of some doctor somewhere (there’s this weird thing in the U.S. where anyone who’s a medical doctor is considered an authority), but even that quote is just talking about the problem with “five hours of sleep or less.” There’s a big range between 5 and 7 hours! What about the people who can survive or even thrive on 5.5 hours, or 6 hours, or 6.5 hours? Maybe such people are very rare, but no evidence is offered in support of this claim.

Personally, I’m a 9-hours-a-night person, so I’m inclined to believe some of Walker’s claims. But I’m annoyed that he presents claims without evidence, and then distorts whatever weak evidence is available to make his points.

Chapter 2. Why do we keep writing about this?

There’s coronavirus, for chrissake. The world is burning around us, so why am I posting—not even with a 6-month delay—on this bit of trivia? Or, what’s my beef with that sleep researcher, anyway? Am I some sort of resentful Stasi terrorist?

First, no, there’s nothing wrong with Guzey and Hoiseth and me geeking out over this. Recall the Javert paradox. It’s completely reasonable to write about scientific misconduct, and yes sometimes we have to scream a bit to get heard over all the chatter of the scientist-as-hero press.

Now on to why this is important.

First, expertise matters in this world, and we’re learning this now when fighting the virus. But we need real expertise, not fake expertise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gresham, baby, Gresham. If we don’t contest the fake expertise, I’m seriously worried it will be crowding out the real stuff. As late as 28 Feb—less than a month ago!—we had a Harvard-credentialed expert telling us not to panic about coronavirus. OK, he wasn’t experts in epidemiology, he was an expert in . . . ummm, I dunno, expertise? Just an all-around public intellectual, a kind of Edmund Wilson of social science? I’m not sure. Anyway, I think we need to fight this kind of thing when we see it. I don’t mean that we all need to fight it, or that I need to spend most of my time fighting it, but I do mean that some of us have to spend some of our time fighting it, not letting empty claims of expertise slip by.

In some way, I feel that the Why We Sleep author and the University of California are worse than media entities such as David Brooks who fling around fake stats and don’t correct clear errors. Brooks is an opinion columnist. If you believe anything he writes, that’s on you. But the Why We Sleep author, he’s like Dr. Oz—he borrows authority from serious institutions of scholarship. This is bad.

So, yes, when the University of California hears about research misconduct by their faculty and sweeps it under the rug, this can keep their reputation afloat (after all, how many people read this blog? And even the people who read this can just say it’s me being cranky) and they can keep raking in that sweet, sweet indirect cost recovery from government grants. But they’re letting the side down. They’re not doing their part as a component of the scholarly enterprise.

And, to return to coronavirus . . . we need real expertise here, more than ever.

26 Comments

  1. Thanatos Savehn says:

    Well argued and I couldn’t agree more. If the credentialing and prestige-peddling institutions don’t start policing themselves the value of their product will erode until it’s worthless – or even worse, the sort of thing you try not to mention lest it undermine your credibility.

    P.S. I’m guessing that “Thank you for your interest in this matter” is the academic equivalent to the Southern “Well bless your heart” which is used when responding to an especially impertinent question.

  2. August says:

    ”In some way, I feel that the Why We Sleep author and the University of California are worse than media entities such as David Brooks who fling around fake stats and don’t correct clear errors. Brooks is an opinion columnist. If you believe anything he writes, that’s on you. But the Why We Sleep author, he’s like Dr. Oz—he borrows authority from serious institutions of scholarship. This is bad.”

    This is what I’ve always felt. Charlatans with nice academic titles at prestigious institutions are the most dangerous ones. They should never be tolerated. Ever. If they write lazy and dishonest analyses, p-hack and cherry-pick results (possibly supported by an army of PhD students and research assistants), they should simply not work as a researcher at a university. If this would mean that we’d have to fire 90% of all economists, sociologists, psychologists etc, then we should do so.

    If people really knew what some of their tax money is used for…

    • Paul Hayes says:

      I’ve always felt that whichever sources of misinformation one deems “most dangerous” none of them should be tolerated. We’re all morally responsible for our personal cognitive hygiene largely because of the effect we have on others.

      • August says:

        ”I’ve always felt that whichever sources of misinformation one deems “most dangerous” none of them should be tolerated. We’re all morally responsible for our personal cognitive hygiene largely because of the effect we have on others.” Maybe. Can this be a general rule? I agree that in science sources of misinformation should never be tolerated. But if you are, say, an actor, or a comedian, or a politician, or possibly even a nurse, I guess that some misinformation might sometimes be necessary to do your job. Or maybe I’m wrong here. I personally hate misinformation, but I am still not entirely sure that it is ALWAYS a bad thing in every context.

  3. jim says:

    I still think the missing bar is a minor infraction. Even if the correct graph had been used, the data are virtually meaningless. A single study with <100 children self reporting their sleep becomes the basis for a claim about what all people should be doing with their sleep? I'll save the expletives but that's a pretty tall tale.

    • Andrew says:

      Jim:

      Sure, but taking away that bar is still research misconduct. The University of California could’ve said, sure, it’s research misconduct, but it’s minor research misconduct. One could argue about that, but it’s a legitimate position. But they didn’t acknowledge that it was research misconduct at all. I suppose that in their mind, the kind of misrepresentation that was done for Why We Sleep was the equivalent of stealing a few pens from the office supply closet, which doesn’t really count as stealing at all.

      • jim says:

        “Sure, but taking away that bar is still research misconduct. “

        Absolutely. I agree.

        I guess my focus on the larger claims is because I feel like these are the most egregious and dangerous. And it’s not these claims in particular. It’s the general method of selecting data to fit the meme then duping people into thinking that the meme fits the data. And it’s not just that the public is being duped. If the researcher really believes this crap why do they have a job? And aside from their salary, is this person obtaining research funding? Does this person have patients? Is he also committing medical misconduct?

        I wonder if there could be an organization – an independent scientific professional organization – to generate some serious pressure to get universities to deal with this crap. It’s finally happening for sexual misconduct. Why not for research misconduct?

        SIISRs – Scientists for Integrity In Scientific Research

  4. D Kane says:

    > how many people read this blog?

    Actually, I am curious. How many do?

    My guess: A lot! 10,000 per day? 50,000? And a lot of those people are actually fairly important in this world.

    • Brent Hutto says:

      What matters is how many gatekeepers (editors and reviewers for high-impact journals, people sitting on federal funding study panels, tenure and promotion committee members, etc.) both read this blog and agree that the system is broken.

      One million people like myself reading this blog, even if we agreed 1,000% with everything said here, would have about as much effect on the practice of science as a butterfly flapping its wings in China.

    • jrkrideau says:

      No idea but Andrew’s name shows up in the damnedest places.

      I think he may be being too modest.

  5. Keith O’Rourke says:

    I do think it is important not to really on credentials such as academic appointments right now…

    Habits, such as exaggerating what one know’s and can do even in crisis can be very hard for many.

  6. Adam Sales says:

    Among other things, it’s a little hard to swallow that Bill Gates’ “all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll.”
    How many more billions would he have made had he slept enough?

  7. Wonks Anonymous says:

    I don’t think it’s such a bad sign if someone issues a correction but says it doesn’t change their conclusion. Some corrections really are minor, but should still be made. The conclusion is based on a mass of data, and can be robust to small changes.

  8. Jonathan Harris says:

    I can’t see this as misconduct. Perhaps sloppiness. This is not a research paper, but a book for a popular audience. Walker indicated that the original author in correspondence said that the <5 data was too sparse for any robust inference. Andrew maintains that he should also have removed the "9 hour bar" then, but I think it is picking at hairs.

    I don't get the level of vitriol. It is not as if he were trying to jam Bitcoin into our pension funds or get people to stop smoking.

  9. Andrew says:

    Jonathan:

    1. You say “picking at hairs.” Walker (or his research assistant, or whoever) is the one who took an existing graph and removed the one part of it that didn’t cleanly fit his story. I do not think he should also have removed the 9 hour bar! I think, if he wanted to show the graph at all, he should’ve shown the whole thing. A claim was made that he removed the one bar because the sample was too small—but that claim is ridiculous, given that he did not remove the other bar that was based on a small sample. That’s just selective reporting.

    Yes, it’s only one graph in that book, but (a) science is made up of details, and (b) there are lots and lots of errors in Why We Sleep. That graph is just one particularly clear example.

    2. Regarding your statement, “This is not a research paper, but a book for a popular audience,” look at what Guzey wrote regarding this point:

    Why We Sleep is not just a popular science book. As I note in the introduction, Walker specifically writes that the book is intended to be scientifically accurate:

    [T]his book is intended to serve as a scientifically accurate intervention

    Consequently, Walker and other researchers are actively citing the book in academic papers, propagating the information contained in it into the academic literature.

    3. You say you don’t get the level of vitriol. I don’t see any vitriol at all here, but I guess vitriol is in the eye of the beholder. You might ask why Guzey (and, to a lesser extent, me) have spent so much time on this. Recall the Javert paradox.

    4. I agree that there are lots of things worse than research misconduct and misrepresentation of data. For example, tax evasion, assault, murder, trying to jam Bitcoin into our pension funds, vandalism, dangerous driving, voter fraud, breaking and entering, selling drugs to kids, selling weapons to terrorists, . . . . we could go on and on here. I’m with you 100% on this.

    It would’ve been easy enough for the University of California to have said: “Yes, Walker did research misconduct but it was not a big deal.” There’s nothing in their definition of research misconduct that says it’s a big deal, nor do I think are any minimum penalties for falsification or other research misconduct. The University of California also employs John Yoo, who’s famous for advocating torture. That’s a lot worse than falsifying data. Someone could falsify an entire book and it wouldn’t be as bad as what Yoo did! So, sure, I’d be fine if the university were to say that Walker did a bunch of research misconduct but they don’t want to do anything about it because, after all, Walker’s famous, he gets lots of good press and lots of grants, and the falsification wasn’t any big deal, and in any case John Yoo’s a lot worse and Yoo isn’t going anywhere. Yoo deserves a lot more vitriol than Walker, and he gets a lot more vitriol than Walker. Not so much from me, but then again this is a blog about statistical methods, causal inference, and social science, not a blog about military policy.

  10. Jonathan Harris says:

    You indicated you would show how much data was in the 5 hour bar and how you get the 6 students in the 9 hour bar. If you already have done this or seen how it was done, please save others the time. While I can quickly see that the 5 hour bar must have some multiple of 5 students and the 9 hour bar a multiple of 6 students–I can’t right away rule out 10 to 12 respectively, and on Alexey’s piece I just see the assertion that there were only 6 students as opposed to 12 or 18 in the 9 hour bar.

    • Andrew says:

      Jonathan:

      Alexey crunched the numbers. I was going to write up the whole thing on the blog and post in Oct. Not that it’s a secret, we just have a lag, and this isn’t so topical. I can send you the post by email if you’d like.

  11. Jonathan G. Harris says:

    Actually the sentence Alexey and you cite is that the INTERVENTION is scientifically accurate, not that this is intended as a detailed account for scientist. It is clear that he means that the message that social and personal measures to improve sleep have strong scientific background.

    Vitriol: Attacking someone’s integrity and publicly suggesting their funding should be cut suggests some degree of vitriol.

    I would rather the graph not have been included or included in whole with explanation, but I can understand rather benign reasons why someone would exclude that bar in this type of publication (as opposed to a research publication or court testimony).

    • Andrew says:

      Jonathan:

      Before going on, I want to thank you for discussing this with me. Disagreement is difficult, but I think it can be helpful to push things to the specifics, and you’re doing that. I appreciate it.

      Now, in reply to your comment:

      1. Regarding Why We Sleep being part of the scientific literature, here’s what Guzey writes:

      Walker and other researchers are actively citing the book in academic papers, propagating the information contained in it into the academic literature. Google Scholar indicates that in the 2 years since the book’s publication, it has been cited more than 100 times.

      Guzey follows up by quoting from three papers by others and two papers by Walker that cite Why We Sleep. All these clearly cite Why We Sleep as part of the scientific literature. As Walker says:

      The quoted statistics from Why We Sleep are unsourced and we have no way to see how or where Walker got these numbers. Via The Lancet and Neuron, they have have now entered the scientific literature, while lacking a primary source.

      So, you might not think that Why We Sleep is part of the scientific literature, but Walker and others do.

      2. I looked up vitriol; its definition is “cruel and bitter criticism.” I guess this is a judgment call. I’ve been critical of Why We Sleep and of the University of California administration, but I don’t think this criticism has been cruel or bitter. I did say that Walker in his book omitted data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record, but it’s not “cruel” or “bitter” to say that; it’s just descriptive. I did opine that Walker is “worse than media entities such as David Brooks . . . he’s like Dr. Oz—he borrows authority from serious institutions of scholarship. This is bad.” I agree that comparing Walker to David Brooks and Dr. Oz is negative, but I don’t think it’s cruel or bitter. But, again, I accept that we could have different views on what is cruel or bitter. Also I don’t see where Guzey or I or anyone else suggested that Walker’s funding be cut. Above I wrote that Walker gets government grants, and this might be one reason why his employer is supporting him on this, but I didn’t say anything about his funding getting cut.

      3. The only benign reason I can think of for that excluding that bar is that if Walker already believed that his story was true, then he felt it would be closer to the truth to exclude the aberrant bar. We see this a lot in data analyses, with researchers excluding data points or coding the data or performing an analysis that gives a big effect in the desired direction. The main difference here is that (a) this was a report of another paper rather than a new data analysis, and (b) the bias is particularly obvious here.

      As I said above, it’s unambiguously a case of falsification, in the sense “omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.”

      You can argue that it’s a minor bit of falsification, or that it’s a benign bit of falsification. I’d agree with you that this one particular falsification is minor. But, as I’ve said earlier, if you combine this with the many other errors in the book, along with all the attention the book has received, I agree with Guzey that the cumulative effect is major.

      Whether the falsification is “benign” . . . I guess that’s a matter of opinion. If Walker is right that sleeping 6 hours a night is really bad for you, then, arguably, sure, the falsification is benign; it falls into the category of “noble lie,” kind of like if a public health official were to exaggerate the dangers of smoking and, as a result, convince more people to quit. On the other hand, if Walker is wrong, if sleeping 6 hours a night is not so bad, then it’s not such a benign falsification because it’s allowing Walker to make an apparently stronger case with misleading evidence.

      I have no idea if Walker is right or wrong about the dangers of sleeping 6 hours a night. As I said, from my personal experience I’d tend to agree with him, but Guzey’s personal experience is different. And Guzey and I are just two people. Basically, I think Walker should just present the damn evidence as it comes in, and not distort it by removing a bar from a graph that conflicts with his story.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Andrew: Thanks for your comments. I would be interested in seeing how many really were in the “5 hours” bar. Please send me the email if possible. I won’t be following this issue in October (if I am sane!). I was an academic about 25 years ago, although when some colleagues get frustrated with me they accuse me of still being one :-)

    1) The fact that people cite this book does not make everything in it the “research record”. There is no way people can really use that graph for anything but trying to illustrate the original author’s conclusion.

    2) I would say bothering to file a complaint with the University implies some degree of animosity. It is hard to see how this graph can justify that. I’m sorry if I misinterpreted some statements about Walker’s funding–I often read things quickly.

    3) A reason for omitting the graph: I work with many people who are challenged by even the most basic statistical concepts. If I were explaining a result, some of them may even prefer to have that bar left out rather than suffer the explanation of why it doesn’t refute the finding. I think at times I would have been more effective giving an abbreviated less precise answer that delivered the required message.

    4) I don’t see the comparison to Dr. Oz. Dr. Oz has promoted blatantly quack therapies that actually go against science. He has enabled scammers. Has Walker promoted any anti-science therapies. Every recommendation I can recall from the book is very consistent with other materials I have read. I’m sure you could find some rather minor stated recommendations that are supported by intuition rather than controlled experiments or solid science (I suspect the recommendation about not being able to see the alarm clock may be one). I do also think there may be cases where correlation and causality are confused.

    5) Actually I think the overall impact of the book is positive. I struggle with sleep and daytime drowsiness and performance reviews that say “stop sleeping at meetings”. The book has made me much more willing to pull off the road and nap when I am drowsy.

    6) I think Alexey’s claims are overblown. For example, he complains about how many hours people may wastein extra sleep. I don’t think this is a valid complaint. My recollection is the book does not prescribe that everyone spend a certain specific number of hours in bed; I recall the guidance is that if you are falling asleep in the morning, then you did not get adequate sleep.

    Also, Alexey complains that a treatment for depression refutes Walker’s advocacy of sleep. This is ludicrous, especially since Walker actual says that one therapy for sleep issues is to force the patient to go to bed later.

    Finally, I do think Walker responds to many of the criticisms and links to Alexey’s page on the sleep diplomat site.

    • Andrew says:

      Jonathan:

      1. It’s not just that “people” cite this book; Walker himself cites it. In particular, Walker uses Why We Sleep to launder unsupported scientific claims. He uses the book to enter these claims into the research record.

      2. I can’t speak for Hoiseth, but my impression is that his contacting the University of California was not anything cruel or bitter or vitriolic. Sure, there was animosity: I think Hoiseth was annoyed at Walker for misrepresenting data in his book, and he (Hoiseth) was annoyed at the enablers of the deception—Walker’s employer and the publisher of Why We Sleep. The animosity does not come just from that one graph; it comes from many many errors and misrepresentations, as noted in Guzey’s post.

      3. Yes, a reason for omitting the bar on the graph is that if you omit the bar you get a clearer story. It’s “omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record,” with a particular goal in mind. According to the University of California and the National Institutes of Health, it’s research misconduct to omit data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. I agree with UC and NIH on this one. By cheating in this way, even for a noble purpose, Walker is making it harder for everyone to trust published books by tenured and celebrated scientists. He, his publishers, and his universities are taking advantage of the hard work and scholarly care of past researchers who have worked hard to explain their results without manipulating the data or making up claims.

      4. It may be that most or Walker’s claims about sleep are true, even if he cannot offer good evidence for these claims. That’s fine. He should just be open and honest about his evidence. For example, instead of saying, “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer,” I think he should say, “I believe that routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.” Or, “Although I have no direct evidence to support this position, I believe that . . .” Instead of saying, “the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span” (a claim for which he offers no evidence; see Guzey’s post), I think he should say, “the popular expectation that short sleep is correlated with short life span and long sleep with greater longevity is not supported by the existing literature.” Instead of saying, “The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout industrialized nations,” he could say, “Although the World Health Organization has not declared a sleep loss epidemic, I wish they would.” Etc. Or not, he doesn’t have to do this. He can misrepresent the data. But then he’s doing research misconduct.

      I agree with you that Dr. Oz is worse. I haven’t written so much about Dr. Oz because his misconduct is less statistical. But, sure, I’m bothered by what Dr. Oz does. It might be that Dr. Oz is saving lives—even if he promotes quack therapies, it could be that the net effect of his efforts are to make people more health-conscious and live healthier and happy lives—but I don’t have to like i5.

      5. It could be that the impact of Walker’s book is positive. It’s too bad that he had to misrepresent the research evidence in his book, but maybe that’s just his style: maybe a more sober and accurate portrayal of the evidence would not scare people as much and would not be as effective in helping people. The argument there is that, yes, Walker has done falsification in the sense of omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record, but this has been done for the purpose of good. If the University of California wanted to make that statement, I’d understand. Sometimes you can make a more persuasive point by going beyond the evidence. That said, there’s a risk when you go beyond the evidence that you convince people of something that’s false.

      6. I don’t see that any of Guzey’s claims regarding Why We Sleep are in error. That said, it could be that some of Guzey’s speculations and hypotheses about sleep are way off. Guzey seems pretty clear on where he is citing evidence and where he is speculating. This is recommended practice in science, to clarify what is evidence and what is speculation, and I think Walker should do the same.

      7. As Guzey has noted, it’s not clear who writes the material on the sleepdiplomat.wordpress.com website. It might be written by Walker, but nobody ever found any direct evidence of this. Walker does not link to it from his website. I just don’t know what’s going on with that.

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