SAGE minutes outline the scientific and health issues discussed and actions and advice agreed during each meeting of the group during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been meeting regularly since 22 January when it convened for the first time and typically meets twice a week.
SAGE is responsible for providing Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) meetings with coherent, coordinated advice and to interpret complex or uncertain scientific evidence in non-technical language. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) represent SAGE at COBR, and SAGE usually convenes in advance of COBR. Ministers receive advice from SAGE in the form of these minutes, as well as verbal contributions from the GCSA and CMO in COBR and other ministerial meetings.
Minutes for SAGE meetings, along with the evidence used to inform SAGE advice, has always been published at the end of any event or emergency that it has been convened for, like the near collapse of Toddbrook Resevoir in 2019 or the Zika outbreak in 2016.
Given the exceptional nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government, SAGE and its participants want to ensure there is as much available evidence and material as possible to the general public so there is full transparency on how science advice is being formulated.
The minutes published today cover those from its first meeting to the meetings that took place at the beginning of May. The minutes for meetings that have taken place after 7 May still contain sensitive information, with policy advice still under live consideration. These will be published in the coming weeks.
Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance said:
During one of the most serious pandemics in our recorded history, people are understandably concerned and worried about what the future holds and are looking to the science for answers.
Openness and transparency around this disease is a social imperative, which is why it’s important we don’t wait to publish minutes and evidence. The science advice we have given to the government will allow others to not only build our collective understanding, but also form new and important interpretations that will help us all.
Chief Medical Officer for England and UK government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Professor Chris Whitty said:
Science evolves, and benefits from outside review, and COVID-19 is a new disease where our knowledge has rapidly developed.
It is important that people understand the science relating to COVID-19 and the scientific advice that SAGE have provided, so I am very pleased that the SAGE minutes are being published.
The background papers and minutes will help make clear what scientific knowledge was able to tell us at particular points in time, and where there was and often still is uncertainty about what we know about this new disease.
GO-Science has also today published a number of additional pieces of evidence, including SPI-M papers and SPI-B papers. Over 100 evidence papers have been published, alongside the names of SAGE participants and exhaustive details of how SAGE works and how it makes decisions.
When it comes to COVID-19, SAGE has brought together expertise from across the scientific spectrum, including epidemiologists, clinical, therapeutics and vaccine expertise, public health experts, virologists, environmental scientists, mathematical modellers and statisticians, genomic experts, and behavioural scientists – all of whom feed their research and data into SAGE.
SAGE’s role is to provide consensus advice on all the key issues, based on the body of scientific evidence presented by its expert participants. This includes everything from latest knowledge of the virus to modelling the disease course, how a potential COVID-19 vaccine is progressing, the effect of school closures, face masks and compliance. This informed advice is then passed onto government ministers and decision makers to help inform the government response to COVID-19.
GO-Science will be publishing the minutes of the most recent SAGE meetings in the coming weeks.