Government publishes names of 50 members of experts’ group but list is incomplete
Downing Street is facing fresh calls for transparency about the expert advice it receives after it published the names of 50 experts who sit on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which discusses how to handle the coronavirus epidemic.
The list of names, which is not complete, was released after critics raised questions about the secrecy of Sage and the Guardian revealed that Boris Johnson’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, had played an active role in Sage meetings.
The group’s membership and the nature of its advice have come under scrutiny, with critics arguing that Britain has botched key aspects of its pandemic response even as ministers claimed they were following “the best science”.
The list contains the bulk of the Sage membership as well as the names of experts who sit on subgroups that specialise in issues such as outbreak modelling, behavioural science and the spread of infection in schools and hospitals.
The list includes 24 instances of people asking for their names not to be made public, though some may be duplicates, as experts can sit on more than one group. Two members of Sage asked not to be named.
Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser, has warned that the purity of the scientific advice reaching the prime minister is being put at risk by the presence of political appointees such as Cummings. He said publication of the names was “a good first step” but not enough to reassure people.