“SAGE began with too little transparency and has improved by publishing its membership, minutes and papers. Similar openness should apply to new bodies like the Joint Biosecurity Centre" Greg Clark MP, Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee
The Commons Science and Technology Committee has published its analysis of the way the Government has received, and applied, scientific evidence and advice during the first phase of the pandemic up to autumn 2020.
The report’s findings are drawn from evidence from leading experts and policy makers taken between March and November 2020.
The report, entitled The UK Response to COVID-19: use of scientific advice, notes that the pandemic has been the greatest test of the way the UK Government takes, and acts on, scientific advice in living memory.
The Committee’s Chair, Greg Clark MP, commented: “We believe that the Government has been serious in its intention to obtain and act on rigorous scientific advice, and that scientists – led by the Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer – have given outstanding service in providing analysis and explaining it to the public.”
But he noted that SAGE (The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) began with too little transparency.
However this has improved since it published its membership, minutes and papers.
Mr Clark urged that similar openness should apply to new bodies like the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
“There is nothing to fear from openness. The more transparent data, analysis and conclusions drawn are, the better it is for policy making and for public confidence”.
He called on the Government to disclose its assessment of the impact of measures it is considering on livelihoods, education and wellbeing, as it now does with epidemiological analysis.
This will be especially important when ministers eventually weigh choices of when it is appropriate to begin to lift the current restrictions.
“In the weeks ahead we will set out further considerations on specific areas including the test and trace system, and vaccine development and roll out,” he added.
“But at this stage we record our gratitude for the dedication of the UK scientists who have helped guide the country through the first stages of the pandemic, and those here and around the world who have provided the means – through vaccines – of giving mass protection from the virus more quickly than in any previous pandemic.”
The Science and Technology Committee will be carrying out further work on the scientific, public policy and administration contributions to the UK’s vaccine response, and to reporting more fully on the test, trace and isolate system and the mass testing programme.
A full copy of the report is available here