Former chief scientific adviser sets up rival to Sage

Former chief scientific adviser sets up rival to Sage in wake of secrecy row to offer alternative advice that Britons can follow on YouTube

  • Sir David King was chief scientific adviser under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown 
  • Concerns have been raised about a lack of transparency within Sage 
  • Sir David was scathing about Dominic Cumming’s attendance at Sage meeting 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

A former chief scientific adviser has assembled a rival team of experts to the government’s Sage panel after the group became engulfed in a secrecy row. 

Sir David King’s group will run parallel to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies which has been guiding Boris Johnson’s coronavirus crisis response.  

It will broadcast its ‘robust, unbiased’ advice on YouTube which will likely underscore splits among the country’s top scientific minds.

Sir David’s transparency mission comes amid mounting concerns over the secrecy of Sage, whose membership is classified and advice is not immediately published.

A simmering row over the group’s covertness reached fever pitch last month when it emerged top Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings had attended its meetings. 

Sir David King’s group will run parallel to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies which has been guiding Boris Johnson’s coronavirus crisis response

Last week, the current chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the list of around 100 experts would be issued ‘shortly’

Sir Patrick Vallance, who chairs the group and is a podium regular at the daily Number 10 briefings, moved to calm the storm by agreeing to reveal Sage’s membership list ‘shortly’.

But Sir David’s new team could prove a fresh blow to the government panel if its advice seems to run contrary to the Prime Minister’s current battle plan. 

Sir David told the Sunday Times: ‘I am not at all critical of the scientists who are putting advice before the government… but because there is no transparency the government can say they are following scientific advice but we don’t know that they are.’

On Mr Cummings’ attendance at the meetings, he said: ‘Cummings is an adviser to the prime minister, and the chief scientific adviser is an adviser to the prime minister.

‘So there are two voices from the scientific advisory group and I think that’s very dangerous because only one of the two understands the science.’

Dominic Cummings was revealed to have attended some Sage meetings, triggering a row

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