UK government releases names of 50 scientific advisory members in transparency bid

The UK government has released the membership of the Scientific Advisory Group of Emergencies (SAGE), the main scientific body advising ministers on the coronavirus.

More than 45 members' names have been released with two participants declining to be named.

The minutes of the advisory group’s meetings are normally published after a crisis has passed, but this approach has been increasingly criticised and the opposition last week called for transparency.

The government had resisted calls to name the group’s members, saying some had faced death threats and it was necessary to protect their identities to guarantee the impartiality of their advice.However, there was speculation that Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner had attended meetings, which had caused concern amongst some.

Vallance attempted to downplay the significance of the pair’s presence saying that officials could listen in and ask questions, but weren’t part of the “general discussion”.

“Political advisers have attended SAGE meetings during past emergencies,” he said.

Greg Clark, the chair of the House of Commons science and technology committee,said he welcomed the publication of SAGE’s membership.

He said: “This was something my committee called for in order to provide public reassurance that government decisions are informed by a broad and substantial body of expert advice.”

SAGE, which is chaired by the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance, is yet to release minutes.