Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Why has the UK Government made secret its science advice?

Unpublished letter submitted to The Guardian on 3 May:

There has been much debate in the past few weeks over the secrecy surrounding the reports, minutes and membership of Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Emergencies (SAGE)


A decade ago, in the autumn of 2009, the then Labour Government decided to consider and issue, by the end of December that year, a set of principles applying to the treatment of independent scientific advice provided to Government.


In House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report “The Government’s review of the principles applying to the treatment of independent scientific advice provided to government” Third Report of Session 2009–10 (HC158 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/158/158ii.pdf), it records on pager 27 the Labour Government statement:


“It is the longstanding view of Government that all independent advice it receives be made publicly available as a matter of routine. This view is clearly laid out in the Government's Guidelines on Scientific Analysis in Policy-making.”


Why has the current Conservative government changed this policy?
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 co-chaired by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance and 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.
This page will be updated on a regular basis with the latest available evidence provided to SAGE.

Introduction to the evidence

SAGE meeting papers

View the full list of meeting papers (CSV, 8.75KB).

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

Meeting 26, 14 April 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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