Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies

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The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is a UK governmental advisory body that advises central government in emergencies. It is usually chaired by the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser.[1][2] Specialists from academia and industry, along with experts from within government make up the membership, which will vary depending on the emergency.[3]

Outbreaks and pandemics[edit]

SAGE has advised the government on a number of events, including:[1]


During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, SAGE was criticised for a lack of transparency.[4] For their security and safety, and on advice from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, the list of current members is not disclosed, although members may, and many do, reveal their own membership.[5] Chris Whitty, speaking to the Health and Social Care Select Committee regarding the COVID19 meetings of SAGE and the anonymity of its members, said that SAGE was "given quite clear advice from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, basically based on the fact that SAGE is a sub-committee of COBRA".[6] Patrick Vallance argued in a letter to Parliament that scientists were protected by the anonymity from "lobbying and other forms of unwanted influence".[4] Not all members of the group necessarily attend all meetings.

Although not prohibited, until the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, it is believed that political advisors had never attended SAGE meetings in any capacity nor is there evidence for 10 Downing Street officials attending these meetings too.[5] It was reported that Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner had attended these meetings. Their attendance and participation was widely criticised[7] in particular by other attendees "shocked, concerned and worried for the impartiality of advice".[8]

A report in The Guardian stated that attendees at an April 2020 meeting of the group included:[9]

Senior advisers:

Medical and scientific experts:

Political advisers:

Vallance has written that SAGE includes scientists and experts from more than twenty separate institutions. SAGE also contains four expert groups which may each have as low as five and as many as over forty members.[4]

Dominic Cummings was confirmed by 10 Downing Street to have attended a 23 March meeting, but the government said Cummings was not a member of SAGE.[11] The attendance and participation by Prime Ministerial advisors caused much criticism. It was reported that one participant considered that Cummings' interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process; another expressed shock when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, viewing this as unwanted political influence on what should be "unadulterated scientific data".[8]

May 2020[edit]

A list of SAGE participants was published by the UK Government on 4 May 2020.[12] However, it notes that: "Permission to publish names was requested from all participants. Those who did not give permission have not been named." In addition: "These meetings are also regularly attended by officials from Her Majesty’s Government. These attendees have not been named." No reason for the secrecy is provided. Two attendees did not give permission to be named. Attendees as of May 2020 included:[9]

  • Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser
  • Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Health and Social Care
  • Professor John Aston, Chief Scientific Adviser, Home Office
  • Professor Wendy Barclay, Imperial College London
  • Professor Phil Blythe, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Transport
  • Professor Ian Boyd, University of St Andrews
  • Professor Andrew Curran, Chief Scientific Adviser, Health and Safety Executive
  • Dr Gavin Debrera, Public Health England
  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, Office for National Statistics
  • Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England
  • Professor John Edmunds, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust
  • Dr Aidan Fowler, National Health Service England
  • Professor Julia Gog, University of Cambridge
  • Dr David Halpern, Behavioural Insights Team, Cabinet Office
  • Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer
  • Dr Demis Hassabis, Personal capacity as a data scientist
  • Professor Peter Horby, University of Oxford
  • Dr Indra Joshi, NHSX
  • Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Dame Angela McLean, Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Defence
  • Professor Graham Medley, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Professor Andrew Morris, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Carole Mundell, Chief Scientific Adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Professor Catherine Noakes, University of Leeds
  • Dr Rob Orford, Welsh Government
  • Professor Michael Parker, University of Oxford
  • Professor Sharon Peacock, Public Health England
  • Professor Alan Penn, Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
  • Professor Stephen Powis, National Health Service England
  • Dr Mike Prentice, National Health Service England
  • Mr Osama Rahman, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Education
  • Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, ex-officio as Chair of DELVE, convened by the Royal Society
  • Professor Andrew Rambaut, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Tom Rodden, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Professor Brooke Rogers, Kings College London
  • Dr James Rubin, Kings College London
  • Professor Calum Semple, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Mike Short, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Trade
  • Dr Gregor Smith, Scottish Government, Chief Medical Officer
  • Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer
  • Professor Russell Viner, University College London
  • Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Development
  • Professor Mark Walport, UK Research and Innovation
  • Professor Mark Woolhouse, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Lucy Yardley, University of Bristol
  • Professor Ian Young, Northern Ireland Executive
  • Professor Maria Zambon, Public Health England

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  2. ^ "The UK Response to Fukushima and Anglo-Japanese Relations". Science & Diplomacy. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Landler, Mark; Castle, Stephen (23 April 2020). "The Secretive Group Guiding the U.K. on Coronavirus". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b David Pegg; Paul Lewis (26 April 2020). "No evidence No 10 advisers attended Sage during previous crises". The Observer.
  6. ^ Sharman, Jon (23 April 2020). "Publishing Sage membership would 'increase public confidence' in government, agrees Whitty". The Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Dominic Cummings attended meetings of scientific advisory group, No10 admits". ITV News. 25 April 2020. Mr Cummings' attendance has been criticised, with many suggesting it could have politicised decision making.
  8. ^ a b Felicity Lawrence; Severin Carrell; David Pegg (26 April 2020). "Attendees of Sage meetings worried by presence of Cummings". The Observer.
  9. ^ a b Sample, Ian (24 April 2020). "Who's who on secret scientific group advising UK government?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Revealed: Cummings is on secret scientific advisory group for Covid-19". The Guardian. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Coronavirus: Dominic Cummings attended meetings of key scientific group". BBC News. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Corporate report: List of participants of SAGE and related sub-groups". UK: UK Government. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.

External links[edit]