This is what Sage is and why a key government scientist has quit

Professor Neil Ferguson resigned after flouting social distancing rules (Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire)
Professor Neil Ferguson resigned after flouting social distancing rules (Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire)

A key scientist who has been aiding the government in its coronavirus response has resigned from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), after admitting an “error in judgement”.

Professor Neil Ferguson’s research aided Boris Johnson in his decision to impose the UK lockdown, but he said he regrets “undermining” the continued need for social distancing.

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    His admission came after it was claimed he broke the rules.

    What is Sage?

    Sage provides scientific and technical advice to support decision makers in the government during national emergencies.

    The group is responsible for ensuring timely scientific advice is made available to support government decisions in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR).

    Its membership is dependent on the nature of the emergency, but it typically includes leading experts from within the government, along with leading experts from the fields of academia and industry.

    Who is on the committee?

    Sage is usually chaired by the government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance.

    He is responsible for providing scientific advice to the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet, advising on aspects of policy on science and technology, and improving the quality and use of scientific evidence in government.

    These are the members of the Sage committee:

    Sir Patrick Vallance FMedSci FRS - Government Chief Scientific Adviser

    Professor Chris Whitty CB FMedSci - Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser,

    Department of Health and Social Care

    Professor John Aston - Chief Scientific Adviser, Home Office

    Professor Wendy Barclay FMedSci - Imperial College London

    Professor Phil Blythe - Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Transport

    Professor Dame Angela McLean FRS - Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of

    Defence Professor Graham Medley - London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

    Professor Andrew Morris FMedSci FRSE - University of Edinburgh

    Professor Carole Mundell - Chief Scientific Adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    Professor Cath Noakes - University of Leeds

    Dr Rob Orford - Welsh Government

    Professor Michael Parker - University of Oxford

    Professor Sharon Peacock FMedSci - Public Health England

    Professor Alan Penn - Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

    Professor Steve Powis FRCP - National Health Service England

    Dr Mike Prentice - National Health Service England

    Mr Osama Rahman - Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Education

    Professor Venki Ramakrishnan PRS - Ex Officio as Chair of DELVE, convened by the Royal Society

    Professor Andrew Rambaut FRSE - University of Edinburgh

    Professor Tom Rodden - Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

    Professor Brooke Rogers OBE - Kings College London

    Dr James Rubin - Kings College London

    Professor Calum Semple - University of Liverpool

    Dr Mike Short CBE - Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Trade

    Dr Gregor Smith - Scottish Government Chief Medical Officer

    Professor Sir David Spieglhalter FRS - University of CambridgeProfessor Jonathan Van Tam MBE - Deputy Chief Medical Officer

    Professor Russell Viner PRCPCH - University College London

    Professor Charlotte Watts CMG FMedSci - Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Development

    Professor Mark Walport FRCP FMedSci - FRS UK Research and Innovation

    Professor Mark Woolhouse FRSE - University of Edinburgh

    Professor Lucy Yardley - University of Bristol

    Professor Ian Young - Northern Ireland Executive

    Professor Maria Zambon FMedSci - Public Health England

    What rules did Professor Ferguson break?

    Professor Ferguson reportedly allowed a woman, said to be his “lover”, to visit him at home in London on at least two occasions during the lockdown, despite his research warning that 250,000 people could die in the UK before the Prime Minister imposed the restrictions.

    He said: “I accept I made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action. I have therefore stepped back from my involvement in Sage

    "I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus, and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms.

    "I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing to control this devastating epidemic.

    “The Government guidance is unequivocal, and is there to protect all of us."