Friday, 29 May 2020

The Dangers of “politicised science”

Letter submitted to The Guardian, 29 May 2020:

Your brilliant sketch writer, John Crace was in sparkling form as he coruscatingly demolished the diminished integrity of the Government’s chief medical officer, Prof. Chris Whitty and chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance (“A little censoring here, psycho failed state there, and the demeaning of our scientific experts, “ 29 May).

Crace suggests they should have walked out of the media briefing room when the prime minister censored them live on national tv. I agree.

It reminded me of the US equivalent top medical advisor staying put on her chair (albeit squirming) and not intervening when President Trump proposed In a similar media injecting or drinking disinfectant to combat Coronavirus threats.

Two months ago I wrote in my blog that the only way to explain the perverse decisions announced by ministers being endorsed, in their words, “by the science,” was that advisors were meekly backing “politicised science”, under pressure from Dom Cummings.

Events of the past two months have served to re-inforce my evaluation.

The CMO and CSA need to grow a collective back bone, and stand up to serious science from Sage being cherry -picked and distorted for political purposes.

Unless they do, they will start to deserve the cruel moniker now created for them on social media: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dummer.
And here is all the latest SAGE evidence, published late afternoon on 29 May 2020
Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE): Coronavirus (COVID-19) response
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies.


SAGE is responsible for ensuring that timely and coordinated scientific advice is made available to decision makers to support UK cross-government decisions in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR). The advice provided by SAGE does not represent official government policy.
Find out more about SAGE (PDF, 101KB, 4 pages).


The group is chaired by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance and co-chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and includes experts from within government and leading specialists from the fields of healthcare and academia.
View the full list of participants of SAGE and related sub-groups.

Expert groups

SAGE relies on external science advice and on advice from expert groups. During COVID-19 this includes the:
These groups consider the scientific evidence and feed in their consensus conclusions to SAGE.

Scientific evidence supporting the government response to COVID-19

The national and global response to the spread of COVID-19 continues to develop quickly and our knowledge of the virus is growing. These statements and accompanying evidence demonstrate how our understanding of COVID-19 has evolved as new data has emerged.
The evidence was often complied very rapidly during a fast-moving response and should be viewed in this context. The papers presented here are the best assessment of the evidence at the time of writing, and their conclusions were formed on this basis. As new evidence or data emerges, SAGE updates its advice accordingly. Therefore, some of the information in these papers may have been superseded at a later date.
Dynamic reports from the COVID-19 Clinical Information Network (CO-CIN) have been provided to SAGE to highlight ongoing information and evidence about COVID-19 for a large sample of hospitalised UK patients. As the reports are dynamic, the data included and analyses change over time and in each report. Particularly for early reports, there may be a risk of misinterpretation – it is important that any potential signals have been confirmed as robust and not taken out of context. A peer reviewed publication is forthcoming which reports summary results between 6 February and 19 April 2020. A preprint is currently available at:
The minutes of SAGE meetings and supporting documentation (scientific data and analysis used to inform SAGE discussions) are typically published at the conclusion of the relevant emergency. This reflects the need to balance building the public’s understanding of the advice provided by the Group, with the need to protect any national security or operational considerations, and ensure there is a safe space in which Group can provide – and Ministers can consider - free and frank advice.
We have revisited this approach in the light of the current exceptional circumstances, recognising the high level of public interest in the nature and content of SAGE advice, the likely need for the provision of advice over an extended period, and the very wide-ranging impact across UK society.
Specifically in respect of its work on coronavirus, SAGE will publish:
  • all past minutes and supporting documents. Papers will be published chronologically and thematically in the coming weeks.
  • future minutes and supporting documentation will be published within 1 month of the meeting having taken place, and earlier where possible.


Redactions will be limited and will be applied to protect the personal data of individuals, in particular junior officials and those participants in scientific advisory groups who have asked not to be named, or to protect the national security. A very small number of papers have been prepared for use in Cabinet Meetings and will not form part of this publication scheme, and in line with wider practice.
This page will be updated on a regular basis with the latest available evidence provided to SAGE.

Introduction to the evidence

R number

SAGE meeting papers

View the full list of meeting papers (CSV, 10.3KB).

Meeting 4, 4 February 2020

Meeting 6, 11 February 2020

Meeting 8, 18 February 2020

Meeting 9, 20 February 2020

Meeting 10, 25 February 2020

Meeting 11, 27 February 2020

Meeting 12, 3 March 2020

Meeting 13, 5 March 2020

Meeting 14, 10 March 2020

Meeting 15, 13 March 2020

Meeting 16, 16 March 2020

Meeting 17, 18 March 2020

Meeting 18, 23 March 2020

Meeting 19, 26 March 2020

Meeting 21, 31 March 2020

Meeting 22, 2 April 2020

Material was redacted from the first document in accordance with the standard principles governing Freedom of Information when it was first published. However Sir Patrick Vallance and No10 agree that such SAGE documents relating to COVID-19 should be published in full, in the interests of maximum transparency, with exceptions only for matters relating to national security.

Meeting 23, 7 April 2020

Meeting 24, 9 April 2020

Meeting 25, 14 April 2020

Meeting 26, 16 April 2020

Meeting 27, 21 April 2020

Meeting 28, 23 April 2020

Meeting 29, 28 April 2020

Meeting 30, 30 April 2020

Meeting 31, 1 May

Meeting 33, 5 May 2020

Meeting 34, 7 May 2020

Meeting 35, 12 May 2020

Meeting 36, 14 May 2020

SPI-B background papers

These papers were produced by SPI-B participants to aid early discussions and understanding of the group.

Modelling inputs

Emerging evidence about COVID-19

Reports from Imperial College London

The models

Specific pieces of modelling on interventions provided to SAGE

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