It began in the summer when a group of scientists decided to give the government a short, sharp lesson on how to use scientific advice in a transparent manner when tackling Covid-19. Once they had done that, the men and women of the Independent Sage organisation intended to disband.
But now the group, led by former government chief scientist Sir David King, is considering a move six months after its formation that would allow Independent Sage to fight on for years to come – but with an expanded agenda. This time it is considering a plan to hold ministers to account over a range of issues, including the UK’s attempts to tackle the climate crisis.
“I never envisaged Independent Sage lasting longer than three months,” said King. “We have all got other full-time jobs and this is a stressful business, but it is clear that we need to go for a lot longer. First with Covid, but in the longer term with other issues including climate change, which is the greatest threat to humanity, after all.”
In the middle of last spring and summer’s first wave of Covid cases, scientists like King were alarmed because the advice and membership of the government’s official Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) were not being published. “So when ministers said they were merely following the advice of scientists we had no way of judging whether or not they were,” said King.
This is no longer true – Sage advice and membership is now made public – though this has not stopped Independent Sage from continuing its own analyses and attacking government policies.…