LONDON — The names of those attending meetings of the scientific committee advising the British government about the coronavirus pandemic will be published, provided attendees are happy to go public, chair of the group Patrick Vallance said Monday.
The announcement comes following the revelation in the Guardian on Friday that the prime minister’s chief political adviser Dominic Cummings attended a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in March.
Patrick Vallance, who chairs the committee and is also the government’s chief scientific adviser, said that there could be around 100 names on the list as membership changes with every meeting and includes subgroups that feed into SAGE.
Mark Walport, CEO of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and former government chief scientific adviser, told a press briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre that having policymakers or political advisers at the meetings was not unusual.
“There have always been officials in the rooms and in my experience they’ve never interfered and I can see no evidence of any interference at all now,” he said.
Vallance said that while scientists attending the meetings could contribute freely, others sitting in on the meetings needed to ask permission to ask a question or raise a policy point.
In past crises, the names of the scientists involved in SAGE have only ever been published after the event.
Vallance said the committee was previously “very strongly advised” that they should follow this protocol during coronavirus pandemic “for a number of reasons including the fact of this issue of independence and people being influenced but also for personal security reasons.”
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