The Byline Times recently(28/11/23) published an article as part of its coronavirus series which discusses testimony by former UK Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance at the COVID inquiry. He criticized members of the behavioral science subgroup SPI-B for also participating in the independent SAGE group, seeing it as “odd” to challenge the official government committee.
The author, an Independent SAGE member, counters this reflects a misunderstanding – Independent SAGE aimed to communicate science transparently, not challenge SAGE advice which it largely agreed with. Transparency is vital for public trust in pandemic restrictions.
Sir Patrick suggested openness and SPI-B members’ involvement in Independent SAGE had a “chilling effect” on bringing issues to SAGE. However, increased transparency enhances accountability – the ability to scrutinize advice and decision-making.
Early in the pandemic, overlooked mistakes in UK pandemic doubling times led to pursuing mitigation too long at a likely cost of lives. Had SAGE advice been public sooner, outside scientists could have spotted and corrected this sooner.
he motto of the Royal Society is “take no one’s word for it” yet the public was asked to accept the government’s interpretation of scientific advice without scrutiny. This was not a model for good, accountable science.
In summary, transparency, openness to external critique, and public explanation are vital to ensure rigorous, trustworthy science informs monumental policy decisions like pandemic strategy. This was lacking but should be embraced.
You can read the full article here.